Detroit Tigers Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports




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Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.

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After their 2009 season ended in heartbreaking fashion—with a 12th-inning loss to the Twins in a one-game playoff for the American League Central title—the Tigers switched gears as they headed into 2010. At the Winter Meetings, general manager Dave Dombrowski sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks in a three-way trade that brought back outfield prospect Austin Jackson and lefthander Phil Coke from New York and righthander Max Scherzer and lefthander Daniel Schlereth from Arizona.

Granderson was beloved in Detroit, but all four players the Tigers received in the trade performed well their first year in Motown. Jackson had big shoes to fill in center field, but hit .293 with 27 steals and played excellent defense. Scherzer went 12-11, 3.50 and ranked sixth in the AL with 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Coke was solid out of the bullpen and Schlereth showed the potential to be Detroit's closer of the future.

Though the trade accomplished two goals for the Tigers, making them both younger and cheaper, it couldn't put them over the top in the American League Central. They went 48-38 and stood just a half-game out of first place in the first half, but lost their first six games after the all-star break and never recovered. Detroit finished 81-81 and in third place, 13 games behind the Twins.

The Tigers now face another offseason of decisions. They quickly re-signed free agents Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta, but could still have plenty of money to play with after a combined $64 million in salaries for Jeremy Bonderman, Johnny Damon, Gerald Laird, Magglio Ordonez, Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis came off the books.

Detroit is in good shape on the mound with a rotation led by Justin Verlander and Scherzer and a strong bullpen fronted by Jose Valverde, but the team needs to find some help for Miguel Cabrera in its lineup. Though Brennan Boesch and Will Rhymes had their moments as rookies in 2010, both are complementary players. The farm system will offer no immediate help, so the Tigers may have to find position players via free agency.

Their best hope for an impact bat is third baseman Nick Castellanos, who signed for a supplemental first-round record $3.45 million in August. He was the Tigers' first pick in the 2010 draft after they gave their first-rounder to the Astros as compensation for signing Valverde.

Detroit also exceeded MLB's bonus recommendations and gave seven-figure bonuses to college pitchers Chance Ruffin and Drew Smyly. The club's aggressive spending in the draft has landed them talents such as Verlander, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller (the key pieces of the trade that brought back Cabrera), Rick Porcello and No. 1 prospect Jacob Turner. All seven draftees on this Top 10 Prospects list were signed for over-slot bonuses.

The Tigers' front office has gone through as much turnover as their roster. The team fired farm director Glenn Ezell in June and replaced him with field coordinator Mike Rojas. Detroit also promoted scouting director David Chadd to vice president for amateur scouting and special assistant to Dombrowski, giving him additional responsibilities with major and minor league evaluation. Chadd will continue to help make the decision on the team's early draft picks, along with new scouting director Scott Pleis, who  moved up from national crosschecker. The Tigers also added two former scouting directors after the season ended, hiring Tim Hallgren (Dodgers) to fill Pleis' old role and Eddie Bane (Angels) as a pro scout.

1.  Jacob Turner, rhp   Born: May 21, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—St. Louis, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Marty Miller
Jacob TurnerBackground: Turner rated as the top righthander in a standout class of high school arms in the 2009 draft. He dominated on the showcase circuit the previous summer, highlighted by five straight strikeouts at the Aflac All-America Game, then added some polish as a senior at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis. His pitching coach was former all-star closer Todd Worrell, and ex-big leaguers Andy Benes and Mike Matheny also had sons on the team. To their credit, the Tigers never let a lecture from Bud Selig scare them away from getting the top player on their draft board, so they took Turner with the No. 9 overall pick and signed him away from a commitment to North Carolina with a $5.5 million big league contract. The deal included a $4.7 million bonus, setting a since-broken record for a high school pitcher. Turner signed too late to pitch in the minors in 2009, and he made just one appearance in instructional league before developing shoulder stiffness and getting shut down as a precaution. Turner made his pro debut in April but made just two starts at low Class A West Michigan before getting sidelined again with minor elbow stiffness. He returned three weeks later and made 21 more starts without incident, earning a promotion to high Class A Lakeland in June.

Scouting Report: Turner has the ideal frame for a power pitcher. He throws both two- and four-seam fastballs, sitting at 92-94 mph and peaking at 96. In addition to its easily above-average velocity, Turner's fastball also has heavy sink. While Turner was polished for a prep pitcher, he was able to carve up high school lineups by simply blowing his heater by hitters, so entered pro ball with secondary pitches that needed refinement. He made strides with both his curveball and changeup in 2010. He throws a 12-6 curve that can get a little short but also shows glimpses of being an upper-70s hammer. His changeup should become at least a solid third pitch, with a chance to be better. Turner throws strikes but will need to sharpen his command within the strike zone as he climbs the ladder. Doing so shouldn't be a problem because he's a good athlete with a strong work ethic and relatively clean mechanics, though his delivery could use a little more fluidity. Turner shows terrific savvy and mound presence for his age, mixing his pitches well and rarely gets rattled. He has the swagger scouts want to see in a pitcher projected for the front of a major league rotation. He still has to add the strength to take the ball every fifth day and work deeper into games. He averaged fewer than five innings per start in 2010 and has never pitched in the 7th inning.

The Future: Turner likely will start 2011 where he finished 2010, in Lakeland. But the Tigers are not shy about promoting their prospects, so he could make the jump to Double-A Erie by the beginning of June. If he continues to progress like he did last season, he could make it to Detroit before the end of 2012. Turner won't reach the big leagues as quickly as Rick Porcello, who went from a high school first-rounder to the big leagues in 22 months, but he has a higher ceiling.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Michigan (Lo A) 2 3 3.67 11 10 0 0 54 53 4 9 51 .245
Lakeland (Hi A) 4 2 2.93 13 13 0 0 61 53 3 14 51 .231
 
2.  Nick Castellanos, 3b   Born: March 4, 1992B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Southwest Ranches, Fla., 2010 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Rolando Casonova
Nick CastellanosBackground: Castellanos put himself on the map by winning the 2009 Under Armour All-American Game home run derby and then going 4-for-4 with four doubles in the showcase. He rose near the top of the Tigers' 2010 draft board, and they were thrilled to land him with their first pick, No. 44 overall. He signed two minutes before the Aug. 16 deadline for a supplemental first-round record $3.45 million bonus.

Scouting Report: Castellanos generates exciting loft and leverage, and he has the power to hit the ball out to any part of the park. He could hit 20-25 homers annually as he learns to turn on more pitches. Detroit also likes his swing and envisions him as a potential .300 hitter. Others don't think he'll make enough contact to hit for that high of an average. As with many tall, young hitters, his long arms leave him exposed against hard stuff on the inner half of the plate. A shortstop in high school, Castellanos immediately moved to third base as a pro. He made the transition seamlessly and projects as an average defender with an arm a tick above average. He's a solid runner.

The Future: Castellanos got a brief taste of pro ball after signing and likely will begin 2011 in low Class A. He's probably at least three years away from Detroit.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Tigers (R) .333 .414 .417 24 5 8 2 0 0 3 4 5 0
 
3.  Andy Oliver, lhp   Born: Dec. 3, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Drafted: Oklahoma State, 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Chris Wimmer
Andy OliverBackground: The NCAA sued Oliver in 2008 for having an adviser during 2006 negotiations with the Twins, when they drafted him out of high school. Reinstated after receiving a $750,000 settlement, he went in the second round of the 2009 draft and signed for $1.495 million. Oliver made his major league debut 10 months after signing, but returned to the minors after five starts.

Scouting Report: Oliver has a loose arm that produces an electric 93-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96. While he threw mostly fastballs during his junior year at Oklahoma State, he worked hard to regain confidence in his secondary offerings. His changeup ranks ahead of his slider at this point, though both still need more consistency. His 81-85 mph slider has more vertical break than tilt. Oliver needs to sharpen his command and focus on keeping balls in the lower half of the strike zone. He cleaned up his delivery this year, keeping his hips closed longer and no longer landing on his heel.

The Future: Oliver still needs more time in the minors. The Tigers want him to begin in Triple-A Toledo's rotation in 2011 and project him as an impact starter.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Erie (AA) 6 4 3.61 14 14 0 0 77 74 7 25 70 .253
Detroit 0 4 7.36 5 5 0 0 22 26 3 13 18 .310
Toledo (AAA) 3 4 3.23 9 9 0 0 53 43 6 25 49 .226
 
4.  Francisco Martinez, 3b   Born: Sept. 1, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 180
 Signed: Venezuela, 2007Signed by: Alejandro Rodriguez/Pedro Chavez
Francisco MartinezBackground: Though he previously hadn't played higher than the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Martinez spent the last week of 2009 in high Class A and returned there last May at age 19. He has played against older competition since he was a child, so the Tigers figured he could handle the assignment. He survived and Detroit continued to challenge him by sending him to the Arizona Fall League.

Scouting Report: Martinez has a good frame with present strength and projection remaining. He has all the raw tools of a prototypical third baseman, with the added bonus of above-average speed. With a quick bat and a flat swing path, he produces a lot of hard groundballs and line drives. While he hit just three homers in 2010, he should have solid over-the-fence power as he continues to physically mature and learns to deal with more experienced pitchers. Martinez has soft hands and a strong arm at third base, but he needs to clean up his footwork and cut down on mental mistakes. He made 17 errors in 86 games last season.

The Future: Martinez should get his first taste of Double-A in 2011 and could be ready to take over third base for the Tigers when Brandon Inge's contract expires after the 2012 season. If Nick Castellanos is as good as advertised, Martinez may have to move to the outfield.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lakeland (Hi A) .271 .330 .353 340 47 92 17 1 3 29 28 71 12
 
5.  Daniel Fields, of   Born: Jan. 23, 1991B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Detroit, 2009 (6th round)Signed by: Tom Osowski
Daniel FieldsBackground: His father Bruce won three minor league batting titles and played briefly in the majors, allowing Daniel to grow up around the game. He homered in batting practice at Comerica Park as a 12-year-old in 2003, when Bruce was the Tigers' batting coach. Detroit signed Fields away from a Michigan commitment with a $1.625 million bonus as a sixth-round pick in 2009, then made him the youngest regular in the high Class A Florida State League in his 2010 pro debut.

Scouting Report: The system's best athlete, Fields has above-average speed and power potential. He showed maturity while jumping from Michigan high school baseball to high Class A, remaining patient at the plate and holding his own. He's still learning how to recognize pitches and deal with quality lefthanders. The Tigers would like to see him put his speed to better use on the basepaths. Drafted as a shortstop, Fields moved to center field and adjusted well, though he's still learning to throw from a higher arm slot to give his throws more carry.

The Future: Despite holding his own there this year, Fields will almost certainly repeat in Lakeland. That shouldn't be taken as a slight, but the Tigers are in a tough spot with Fields—they can't send him down after he held his own this year, but he's definitely not ready for Double-A yet.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lakeland (Hi A) .240 .343 .371 375 33 90 13 6 8 47 55 119 8
 
6.  Casey Crosby, lhp   Born: Sept. 17, 1988B-T: R-LHt: 6-5Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Maple Park, Ill., 2007 (5th round)Signed by: Marty Miller
Casey CrosbyBackground: After signing for $748,500 as a fifth-round pick in 2007, Crosby hurt his elbow in the instructional league that fall and required Tommy John surgery. He spent 2008 rehabbing and came back strong the following year, but 2010 was a lost season. A talented wide receiver in high school, Crosby has a football mentality and may have pushed too hard to make a quick recovery, which cost him most of the 2010 season. He made just three starts because he wasn't able to pitch without pain, though doctors didn't find any structural damage in his elbow and he did not require surgery.

Scouting Report: When Crosby is right, his stuff is undeniable. He has well above-average velocity for a lefthander, sitting at 92-95 mph and getting as high as 98 with late life on his fastball while using his height to get good plane on the pitch. He mixes in a true curveball that shows potential to be an above-average pitch with tight rotation and late break. He also shows some feel for a changeup. He needs to work on the consistency and command of all of his pitches—no surprise, considering he has just 122 innings of pro experience.

The Future: If healthy, Crosby will start the 2011 season in high Class A., but the Tigers still have to see how he feels and looks during spring training. As talented as he is, there are serious questions about whether he'll be able to handle a starter's workload.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Tigers (R) 0 1 8.76 3 3 0 0 12 21 1 4 10 .382
 
7.  Chance Ruffin, rhp   Born: Sept. 9, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 185
 Drafted: Texas, 2010 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Tim Grieve
Chance RuffinBackground: The son of lefthander Bruce Ruffin, who pitched 12 seasons in the majors, Chance followed in his father's footsteps by attending Texas. He moved to the Longhorns bullpen as a junior last spring and led NCAA Division I in strikeouts per nine innings (13.5) while ranking second in ERA (1.11) and third in saves (14). He signed at the deadline for $1.15 million as a sandwich pick.

Scouting Report: Because of his size, stuff, makeup and alma mater, Ruffin draws comparisons to former Longhorns closer Huston Street. Ruffin's fastball sat at 89-91 mph when he was a starter, and it has jumped to 90-93 mph and gotten as high as 95 since he became a reliever. His fastball also has tremendous life, but his 78-82 mph wipeout slider is easily his best pitch—and the best slider in the Tigers system. He'll also mix in a curveball against lefthanders and an occasional changeup, though he'll likely scrap the latter pitch as a reliever.

The Future: While some scouts believed Ruffin could succeed as a starter, the Tigers intend to put him on the fast track as a reliever. As with Andy Oliver a year earlier, they sent him to the Arizona Fall League for his first exposure to pro ball. He'll start 2011 in Double-A, but his polished repertoire and no-nonsense mentality on the mound give him a chance to appear in Detroit later in the season.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
 
8.  Drew Smyly, lhp   Born: June 13, 1989B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Drafted: Arkansas, 2010 (2nd round)Signed by: Chris Wimmer
Drew SmylyBackground: Smyly had back problems as a high school senior and redshirted his first season at Arkansas with a stress fracture in his elbow. He struck out 12 while beating Oklahoma in a regional championship game in 2009, setting the stage for becoming the Razorbacks' ace last spring. A draft-eligible sophomore, he signed for $1.1 million as a second-rounder.

Scouting Report: Smyly throws a lot of strikes and has an exceptional feel for pitching. He knows what it's like to pitch in big situations and he did well under the Friday night lights in the Southeastern Conference. His best pitches are an 89-92 mph fastball with some sink and armside run, and a low- to mid-80s cutter. He still needs to refine his curveball, which occasionally shows good depth, and his changeup, which he throws too hard at 84-86 mph. He has a few things to clean up in his delivery—he has a little wrist wrap and his front side can be a little stiff—but the Tigers are impressed with how easily the ball comes out of his hand. He gets good downhill plane on his fastball.

The Future: Projecting as a mid-rotation starter, Smyly probably will make his pro debut in high Class A. Given his polish and Detroit's propensity to put pitchers on the fast track, he could reach the big leagues toward the end of 2012.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
 
9.  Avisail Garcia, of   Born: June 12, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 232
 Signed: Venezuela, 2007Signed by: Alejandro Rodriguez/Pedro Chavez
Avsail GarciaBackground: Garcia signed out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old for $200,000. He made his U.S. debut as the youngest regular in the low Class A Midwest League in 2009, and the Tigers decided to have Garcia return to West Michigan last season because of his youth. Still one of the youngest players in the MWL, he improved his numbers across the board and cemented his reputation as one of the toolsiest players in Detroit's system.

Scouting Report: Garcia passes the eye test at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, and he has the tools to match his impressive frame. He's an above-average runner with long, graceful strides and covers a lot of ground in right field. He has the bat speed and strength to be an average hitter with at least average power. Because he's so young, Garcia still has a lot of learning to do. He's a free swinger who needs to improve his pitch recognition and discipline. He has difficulty pulling his hands in on pitches on the inner half of the plate. He makes youthful mistakes with his solid arm and on the basepaths.

The Future: Garcia will move up to high Class A in 2011, starting the season as one of the Florida State League's few teenagers. He may require a year at each level, but that still would put him in Detroit at age 22.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
West Michigan (Lo A) .281 .313 .356 494 58 139 17 4 4 63 20 113 20
 
10.  Jose Ortega, rhp   Born: Oct. 11, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 187
 Signed: Venezuela, 2006Signed by: German Robles
Jose OrtegaBackground: Signed out of Venezuela in 2006, Ortega didn't reach full-season ball until his fourth year as a pro. Once he did, he pitched at three levels and vaulted all the way to Double-A in 2010.

Scouting Report: Ortega has a small frame but he's wiry strong and has a quick arm that generates blistering 94-95 mph fastballs that get as high as 98. He has a short arm action and a high three-quarters arm slot, so his fastball is fairly flat and straight. He tends to fall in love with his heater, and the Tigers would like him to mix his pitches more efficiently. His 81-85 mph slider can get slurvy, but it also shows flashes of being an above-average pitch. His changeup is below average and just for show. Ortega throws with some effort in his delivery. His front side can be a little stiff and he lands upright with a head whack, leading to command problems.

The Future: Ortega has the power fastball succeed as a late-inning reliever. He'll likely begin 2011 back in Double-A, working to smooth out his delivery and mix up his sequencing. If he can do that, he could be in Detroit's high octane bullpen by the end of the season.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Michigan (Lo A) 0 3 4.56 18 0 0 1 26 28 1 17 22 .275
Lakeland (Hi A) 2 1 0.95 10 0 0 0 19 14 0 7 20 .212
Erie (AA) 1 0 3.04 15 1 0 0 24 22 2 7 19 .242

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2011 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team