2012 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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Detroit Tigers

Last year, the Tigers returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. While they lost to the Rangers in the American League Championship Series, the makeup of the AL Central and Detroit's major league roster should mean it won't have to wait five years for its next postseason appearance.

The Twins and White Sox tumbled in 2011 and have bleak outlooks in 2012. The Indians improved, though they were still just an 80-win team with significant questions. Better days are ahead for the Royals and their enviable stash of high-upside youngsters, but they don't look ready to go toe-to-toe with Detroit.

Homegrown ace Justin Verlander was dominant for the Tigers in 2011, winning the AL pitching triple crown and MVP and Cy Young awards. Yet it was Detroit's offense, which ranked fourth in the majors in scoring, that carried the team.

Miguel Cabrera is on track to become the greatest Venezuelan-born hitter of all time. Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta produced in their first seasons under multiyear deals with the Tigers. Draft finds Alex Avila (fifth round, 2008) and Brennan Boesch (third round, 2006) have turned into pleasant offensive surprises, with Avila becoming an all-star last season.

Detroit's farm system is heavier on pitchers than position players, though getting those pitchers acclimated to the big leagues hasn't been easy. Jacob Turner and Andy Oliver both pitched in the majors in 2011, as did a handful of homegrown relievers, though none found much immediate success. Former top prospect Rick Porcello will be just 23 in 2012, but he's coming off two mediocre seasons and already is arbitration-eligible.

Turner, No. 1 on this list for the third straight year, could play a role at the back of the rotation at some point this year, though some scouts aren't sure he's ready quite yet. He's a prime example of the Tigers' willingness to invest in the draft, signing a $5.5 million big league contract as the ninth overall pick in 2009. So is the system's best position prospect, third baseman Nick Castellanos, who set a supplemental first-round record with a $3.45 million bonus in 2010.

Draft spending has paid off for Detroit in the past, especially in the first round. Verlander (2004) and Porcello (2007) received lucrative deals, as did Cameron Maybin (2005) and Andrew Miller (2006), the key pieces used to get Cabrera from the Marlins in a December 2007 trade.

The Tigers broke from that blueprint in the 2011 draft, however, ranking next-to-last by spending just $2.9 million. Detroit didn't have a first-round pick in its first draft under scouting director Scott Pleis. The team also has a new farm director. Mike Rojas held the position for less than a year before becoming the big league bullpen coach in July, and infield instructor Dave Owen was promoted to replace him two months later.

Detroit has benefited from its growing international presence, which has yielded several of the best prospects in its system, including Latin American righthanders Brenny Paulino, Bruce Rondon and Ramon Lebron and outfielder Avisail Garcia. The Tigers used a pair of Venezuelans, third baseman Francisco Martinez and righthander Lester Oliveros, in deadline deals to get playoff heroes Doug Fister from the Mariners and outfielder Delmon Young from the Twins.

1. Jacob Turner, rhp Born: May 21, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 210
Drafted: Westminster Christian Academy, St. Louis, 2009 (1st round).  Signed by: Marty Miller.
Jacob TurnerBackground: Turner was a dominant high school pitcher both for Westminster Christian Academy (St. Louis) and on the showcase circuit. At the 2008 Aflac All-American Game, he struck out five straight hitters. While at Westminster Christian, he benefited from the tutelage of pitching coach Todd Worrell, a former all-star closer, and also soaked up knowledge from ex-big leaguers Andy Benes and Mike Matheny, who each had sons on the team. Though Turner's signability worried some clubs at the time, the Tigers were undeterred and drafted him with the ninth overall pick in 2009. They were able to lure him away from a North Carolina commitment with a $5.5 million big league contract that included a $4.7 million bonus, a record at the time for a prep pitcher. He pitched well at two Class A stops during his first season in pro ball in 2010, then pitched in the Futures Game and made an emergency start for Detroit last July. The first high school pick from the 2009 draft to reach the majors, Turner returned to Detroit for two more starts in September.

Scouting Report: Turner is still just 20 and extremely polished for his age, showing remarkable feel for pitching and maturity. Big and athletic, he repeats his smooth delivery well and is a prolific strike-thrower, averaging just 2.2 walks per nine innings as a pro. He works from a three-quarters arm slot and gets good angle on his two- and four-seam fastballs. Turner sits at 90-94 mph and touches 95 with late, heavy life, which helps him keep the ball on the ground and in the ballpark. His fastball usually isn't a swing-and-miss pitch but his curveball and his changeup both can miss bats and grade from average to plus. Turner's curveball is a high-70s hammer at times though still inconsistent, and he leaned on it more than his changeup when he got to the big leagues. There are some scouts who think that his changeup could end up being just as good if not better than his curve. He sells his changeup with deceptive arm speed and, while in the minors, showed a willingness to throw it even when behind in the count. Turner has a tall, slender frame and will have to continue to strengthen his body to endure the grind of the long pro season. He has had minor elbow and shoulder stiffness early in 2011, but he recovered easily and never has had any major health concerns.

The Future: Detroit is looking for a fifth starter for 2012 and Turner could compete for that job during spring training. Turner wasn't quite ready when the Tigers called him up last year in July, but he cruised at Triple-A Toledo after they sent him back down to the Mud Hens. The most likely scenario is that Turner opens 2012 in Triple-A and arrives in the majors quickly if he is able to get off to a good start out of the gate. While he doesn't have the pure stuff of a true ace pitcher, he has the repertoire and command to be a No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues. While he didn't reach Detroit quite as fast as fellow high school first-rounder Rick Porcello, Turner has better stuff and a brighter future.

'10 West Michigan (LoA) 2 3 3.67 11 10 0 54 53 26 22 4 9 51 .247
'10 Lakeland (HiA) 4 2 2.93 13 13 0 61 53 22 20 3 14 51 .224
'11 Erie (AA) 3 5 3.48 17 17 0 114 102 47 44 9 32 90 .230
'11 Toledo (AAA) 1 0 3.12 3 3 0 17 15 6 6 1 3 20 .224
'11 Detroit (MAJ) 0 1 8.53 3 3 0 13 17 13 12 3 4 8 .309
Major League Totals 0 1 8.31 3 3 0 13 17 17 12 3 4 8 .304
Minor League Totals 10 10 3.37 44 43 0 246 223 223 92 17 58 212 .232

2. Nick Castellanos, 3b Born: March 4, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 195
Drafted: Archbishop McCarthy HS, Southwest Ranches, Fla., 2010 (1st round supplemental).  Signed by: Rolando Casanova.
Nick CastellanosBackground: The Tigers lost their 2010 first-round pick after signing Jose Valverde as a free agent prior to the season but still landed one of the top players on their board with their first selection (44th overall). Castellanos slid due to his bonus demands, then signed at the Aug. 16 deadline for a supplemental first-round record $3.45 million. After a slow start in April, Castellanos led the low Class A Midwest League with 158 hits in 2011.

Scouting Report: Castellanos has a good swing and hitting instincts, gets great extension and uses the opposite field well. Though he hit .312 last year, he also struck out 130 times, in part because he tends to chase pitches  He showed more plate discipline and a better approach as the season went on, making in-game adjustments and staying inside the ball better. Castellanos isn't a major home run threat yet but barrels the ball well and tied for second in the MWL with 36 doubles. Once he gets stronger, pulls more pitches and adds more backspin, he should have at least average power and perhaps more. A high school shortstop, he's learning to play third base. He has solid speed, moves well and while there's length to his arm stroke, his throws have good carry.

The Future: Castellanos has all-star potential but needs at least two more years before he's ready for Detroit. He'll head to high Class A Lakeland in 2012.

'10 Tigers (R) 24 5 8 2 0 0 3 4 5 0 1 .333 .414 .417
'11 West Michigan (LoA) 507 65 158 36 3 7 76 45 130 3 2 .312 .367 .436
Minor League Totals 531 70 166 38 3 7 79 49 135 3 3 .313 .369 .435

3. Drew Smyly, lhp Born: June 13, 1989 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Arkansas, 2010 (2nd round).  Signed by: Chris Wimmer.
Drew SmylyBackground: Smyly parlayed his extra leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore into a $1.1 million bonus as a second-rounder in 2010. Making his pro debut in 2011, he reached Double-A Erie in July and allowed just six earned runs in eight outings. After the season, he threw 17 shutout innings for Team USA at the World Cup and Pan American Games.

Scouting Report: Smyly has an advanced understanding of how to attack hitters. He throws his fastball at 87-92 mph with slight tailing life, commanding it down in the zone to get grounders. He uses both a curveball and a slider, with scouts split on which is more effective. He also has a splitter-like changeup and a mid-80s cutter that helps him against righthanders. Smyly repeats his easy delivery and maintains a consistent high three-quarters arm slot, making it difficult for hitters to figure out what he's throwing. He redshirted in his first season at Arkansas with a stress fracture in his elbow and missed six weeks early last year with a sore arm, so he has to prove he can handle a starter's workload.

The Future: The Tigers aren't afraid to fast-track their pitching prospects, and Smyly's polish and performance merit a swift rise. A future No. 3 or 4 starter, he could open 2012 in Triple-A and finish it in the big league rotation.

'11 Lakeland (HiA) 7 3 2.58 14 14 0 80 71 32 23 1 21 77 .228
'11 Erie (AA) 4 3 1.18 8 7 0 46 32 10 6 1 15 53 .189
Minor League Totals 11 6 2.07 22 21 0 126 103 103 29 2 36 130 .214

4. Casey Crosby, lhp Born: Sept. 17, 1988 B-T: R-L Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Kaneland HS, Maple Park, Ill., 2007 (5th round).  Signed by: Marty Miller.
Casey CrosbyBackground: Crosby signed for $748,500 as a fifth-round pick in 2007, then hurt his elbow during instructional league that fall. Tommy John surgery sidelined him for most of 2008 and swelling in his elbow cost him most of 2010, though he didn't require a second operation. His 132 innings in Double-A last year exceeded his previous total of 122 in three pro seasons.

Scouting Report: Crosby throws two- and four-seam fastballs, working at 92-94 mph with the ability to hit 96. His size helps him get good downhill plane, which leads to swings and misses and groundouts. His curveball flashes plus potential with sharp bite and depth, though at times it can get slurvy. He throws his changeup with good arm speed and sink. Crosby still needs to make significant strides with throwing strikes. He tried to be too fine with his pitches against Double-A hitters. He needs to repeat his mechanics better, and his athleticism should help him make adjustments with his lower half in his delivery.

The Future: Staying healthy for a full season was a significant step for Crosby, though his health and control issues still may land him in the bullpen. The Tigers will continue to develop him as a starter, though it's possible he could reach the majors in 2012 if used as a reliever. Protected on the 40-man roster in November, he'll advance to Triple-A.

'08 Tigers (R) 0 0 0.00 3 3 0 5 4 1 0 0 3 2 .222
'09 West Michigan (LoA) 10 4 2.41 24 24 0 105 70 36 28 3 48 117 .182
'10 Tigers (R) 0 1 8.76 3 3 0 12 21 15 12 1 4 10 .362
'11 Erie (AA) 9 7 4.10 25 25 0 132 122 68 60 11 77 121 .236
Minor League Totals 19 12 3.54 55 55 0 254 217 217 100 15 132 250 .222

5. Andy Oliver, lhp Born: Dec. 3, 1987 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210
Drafted: Oklahoma State, 2009 (2nd round).  Signed by: Chris Wimmer.
Andy OliverBackground: Oliver sued the NCAA in 2008 after it suspended him for having an adviser while negotiating with the Twins when they drafted him out of high school. Reinstated after winning the lawsuit, he received a $750,000 settlement and signed for $1.495 million as a second-rounder in 2009. He has pitched in the majors in each of his two pro seasons, but hasn't had the control to survive there.

Scouting Report: Oliver's best pitch is his 92-96 mph fastball, though his inability to command his heater is one of his biggest obstacles. He couldn't overpower big league hitters, who pounded him when he couldn't locate his heater. He once had a plus curveball in college, but he now has a below-average slider. His changeup is inconsistent but flashes average. The Tigers haven't helped Oliver by rushing him to the big leagues before he was ready. He tinkered too much with his pitches after getting sent back down to Triple-A last June.

The Future: Like Casey Crosby, Oliver is a power lefty who needs to throw more strikes Scouts seem more optimistic about Crosby's chances to do so. Without a reliable breaking ball, Oliver's bullpen utility might be limited, so Detroit would like him to figure out how to command his fastball and become an effective starter.

'10 Erie (AA) 6 4 3.61 14 14 0 77 74 35 31 7 25 70 .242
'10 Detroit (MAJ) 0 4 7.36 5 5 0 22 26 22 18 3 13 18 .283
'10 Toledo (AAA) 3 4 3.23 9 9 0 53 43 23 19 6 25 49 .213
'11 Detroit (MAJ) 0 1 6.52 2 2 0 10 11 7 7 3 8 5 .275
'11 Toledo (AAA) 8 12 4.71 26 26 0 147 149 83 77 15 80 143 .253
Major League Totals 0 5 7.03 7 7 0 32 37 37 25 6 21 23 .278
Minor League Totals 17 20 4.13 49 49 0 277 266 266 127 28 130 262 .242

6. Brenny Paulino, rhp Born: Feb. 21, 1993 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 170
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009. Signed by: Carlos Santana/Ramon Perez/Miguel Garcia.
Brenny PaulinoBackground: As a Dominican amateur, Paulino had an 84-86 mph fastball and trouble finding the strike zone. The Tigers saw a tall, skinny righthander with an extremely loose arm and the chance to add considerable velocity, so they signed him for $100,000. He emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2011.

Scouting Report: Paulino has grown taller and gained weight since signing, helping him add roughly 10 mph. He sat at 92-95 mph last year and peaked at 97 while holding his velocity deep into outings. Because his frame has more room to add strength, some scouts believe he could throw even harder in the future. His four-seamer has good life, generating swings and misses when he throws it in the strike zone. Paulino's curveball has made strides but is still inconsistent, and his changeup is still below average. His control improved markedly in 2011, though it still has a ways to go and he's prone to bouts of wildness. His long arms help him get angle and leverage.

The Future: Paulino has the frame and arm speed to become a starter with a power arsenal. He'll need to refine his secondary pitches and control to reach his ceiling. Years away from the majors, he'll make the jump to low Class A in 2012.

'10 Tigers (R) 1 6 3.88 16 15 0 46 34 31 20 0 45 55 .197
'11 Tigers (R) 4 3 2.36 11 8 0 46 34 19 12 1 18 45 .199
'11 Lakeland (HiA) 0 2 21.94 2 2 0 5 9 13 13 0 9 7 .360
Minor League Totals 5 11 4.18 29 25 0 97 77 77 45 1 72 107 .209

7. Rob Brantly, c Born: July 14, 1989 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 205
Drafted: UC Riverside, 2010 (3rd round).  Signed by: Steve Pack.
Rob BrantlyBackground: Brantly's performance has been up and down since he signed for $330,300 as a sophomore-eligible third-round pick in 2010. He was mediocre at low Class A West Michigan in his pro debut but much improved when he opened last season there. He struggled after a July promotion to Lakeland, then hit .388 in 15 Arizona Fall League games.

Scouting Report: Brantly is an offensive-oriented catcher with a short lefthanded swing. He has balanced approach and and makes consistent contact to all fields, though he lacks patience. His swing is geared more toward line drives than loft power, but he has enough strength to hit 10-15 homers per season. Though he's a well below-average runner, Brantly is athletic for a catcher. He has solid catch-and-throw skills and still is working on his game-calling, blocking and receiving. His quick release helps his average arm play up, and he threw out 36 percent of basestealers last season.

The Future: The Tigers project Brantly as an everyday catcher, though other teams see him as an bat-first backup in the big leagues. He still has to prove he can hit high Class A pitching, though the Tigers may push him to Double-A to begin 2012.

'10 West Michigan (LoA) 188 26 48 10 1 1 21 23 22 2 2 .255 .352 .335
'11 West Michigan (LoA) 284 42 86 16 1 7 44 24 39 2 2 .303 .366 .440
'11 Lakeland (HiA) 146 16 32 6 0 3 18 5 17 0 0 .219 .239 .322
Minor League Totals 618 84 166 32 2 11 83 52 78 4 4 .269 .333 .380

8. Alex Burgos, lhp Born: Dec. 1, 1990 B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 192
Drafted: State JC of Florida, 2010 (5th round).  Signed by: Rolando Casanova.
Alex BurgosBackground: Burgos pitched the JC of Florida to the 2010 Junior College World Series, earning juco all-America honors by going 13-2, 2.07 with 115 strikeouts in 100 innings. He has put up similar numbers in pro ball since signing for $152,100 as a fifth-round pick. He didn't realize the offseason preparation needed to be physically ready for pro ball, so the Tigers held him back in extended spring training last year until June, after which he was one of the Midwest League's best pitchers.

Scouting Report: Burgos has a small frame and fairly average stuff, but he mixes five pitches to keep hitters off balance. He has some deception, changes speeds well and attacks hitters from different angles. He throws an 87-93 mph fastball with two-seam action and commands it well. He has nice feel for his changeup, a plus pitch at times. Burgos also has a pair of fringy breaking balls in his curveball and slider, and he also owns a cutter. He eventually may go to just one breaking pitch to focus on its development. He held lefties to a .152/.211/.205 line in 2011.

The Future: While Burgos has a tiny frame, he's lefthanded and has enough stuff to remain a starter. If he refines his pitches, he has the upside of a No. 3 starter, but more realistically he'll be a No. 4. He'll open 2012 in high Class A.

'10 Tigers (R) 0 0 1.54 8 0 1 12 10 5 2 1 3 15 .222
'11 West Michigan (LoA) 6 5 2.19 16 16 0 95 63 28 23 4 33 89 .182
Minor League Totals 6 5 2.10 24 16 1 107 73 73 25 5 36 104 .185

9. James McCann, c Born: June 13, 1990 B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 210
Drafted: Arkansas, 2011 (2nd round).  Signed by: Chris Wimmer.
James McCannBackground: The Tigers gave up their 2011 first-round pick as compensation for free agent Victor Martinez, so their first choice didn't come until No. 76. They took McCann, a defensive-minded catcher who hit .306 with six homers as an Arkansas junior. He signed for $577,900, which was exactly $100,000 over MLB's slot recommendation.

Scouting Report: While he isn't as advanced offensively as Rob Brantly, McCann gets better reviews for his work behind the plate. He has a strong frame, a solid arm and leadership and game-calling skills. Some scouts who saw him as an amateur labeled him a fringy receiver, but the Tigers believe he's solid in that regard. McCann's bat is his biggest question. His swing can get long and he has trouble catching up to good velocity. He projects as a .260 hitter who can take advantage of mistakes and produce some gap power. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: McCann doesn't have any standout tools, but he has the skills to become a big league regular if his bat develops. If not, his defense makes him an attractive option as a backup. Where Detroit sends Brantly will affect McCann's 2012 assignment, but he figures to spend his first full pro season in Class A.

'11 Tigers (R) 14 1 5 1 0 1 6 1 1 0 0 .357 .438 .643
'11 West Michigan (LoA) 34 0 2 1 0 0 1 2 12 0 0 .059 .132 .088
Minor League Totals 48 1 7 2 0 1 7 3 13 0 0 .146 .222 .250

10. Avisail Garcia, of Born: June 12, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 230
Signed: Venezuela, 2007. Signed by: Alejandro Rodriguez/Pedro Chavez.
Avisail GarciaBackground: Garcia was one of Detroit's top international signings in 2007, receiving a $200,000 bonus. He hit well in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League in his 2008 pro debut, but that was the last time he produced good offensive numbers. The Tigers have pushed him aggressively and he has batted .271/.298/.391 in three seasons in the United States.

Scouting Report: While scouts haven't come around on Garcia's hitting, he draws their interest with his big frame and his tools. The ball jumps off his bat in batting practice, where he shows above-average raw power, though he does it more with strength than pure bat speed. He showed more usable power in 2011 as he learned to get himself better pitches to hit, but he still has a long ways to go. Garcia struggles against breaking balls, which will limit his on-base percentage and result in a high strikeout rate. He has the physical ability to be a plus defender in right field, running well for his size and possessing an arm that earns 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale.

The Future: Garcia was born eight days before the Padres' Rymer Liriano, a toolsy outfielder who finally put his offensive game together in low Class A last year. The Tigers hope for a similar breakout for Garcia in 2012, when he would be best served returning to high Class A. They protected him on their 40-man roster in November.

'08 Tigers (R) 245 33 73 12 2 7 34 15 39 7 5 .298 .342 .449
'09 Lakeland (HiA) 8 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 .250 .250 .250
'09 West Michigan (LoA) 299 36 79 11 2 1 31 8 70 8 7 .264 .289 .324
'10 West Michigan (LoA) 494 58 139 17 4 4 63 20 113 20 4 .281 .313 .356
'11 Lakeland (HiA) 488 53 129 16 6 11 56 18 132 14 5 .264 .297 .389
Minor League Totals 1534 181 422 56 14 23 184 61 356 49 21 .275 .308 .375