2017 Detroit Tigers Top 10 Prospects

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1. Matt Manning, rhp
2. Christin Stewart, of
3. Beau Burrows, rhp
4. Tyler Alexander, lhp
5. Kyle Funkhouser, rhp
6. JaCoby Jones, of/3b
7. Mike Gerber, of
8. Adam Ravenelle, rhp
9. Steven Moya, of
10. Derek Hill, of

Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has never been shy about going all out to bring a title to Detroit. He authorized his general managers, first Dave Dombrowski and now Al Avila, to hand out nine-figure contracts to Prince Fielder, Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton in recent years, and he allowed Dombrowski to spin a passel of prospects, including Andrew Miller, to the Marlins for franchise cornerstone Miguel Cabrera back in December 2007.

The Tigers’ 2016 payroll checked in at a shade less than $195 million, behind only the Yankees and Dodgers as baseball’s most expensive roster. Detroit has ranked among the top five every year since 2013, but after four straight playoff appearances, including two berths in the American League Championship Series, the Tigers missed the postseason for the second straight season in 2016. They missed out on a wild-card berth after losing the final two games of the season at lowly Atlanta.

The Tigers appear headed toward a crossroads. Avila announced in October his intention to move the team toward a younger, less costly roster, telling reporters, “We want to run the organization without having to go over the means of the organization.”

The Tigers moved into the offseason with $176 million already committed for 2017, including $28 million each for Cabrera and ace Justin Verlander, who bounced back at age 33 with a Cy Young Award-caliber season. Those players performed, but the previous offseason’s big-ticket acquisitions, Upton (six years, $132.75 million) and Zimmermann (five years, $110 million), both proved streaky, and will have to perform better to live up to those deals.

If Avila is to expedite his team’s transformation, he and his front office lieutenants will have to get creative in the trade market to supplement a relatively barren farm system. As a blueprint, the team might look to its own deal of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 trade deadline. That trade netted the Tigers righthander Michael Fulmer from the Mets, who put in a strong rookie season in 2016. The team also flipped ace lefthander David Price to the Blue Jays for a pair of promising lefthanders in Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, who combined for 31 starts in 2016.

Boyd, Fulmer and Norris should join Verlander and Zimmernann to provide a strong rotation. Nick Castellanos broke out offensively as a 24-year-old, and provides balance behind lineup linchpins Ian Kinsler, Cabrera and Upton.
So the Tigers have a nucleus to retool around.

Help from the farm system, however, is a long way off. Righthander Matt Manning, the 2016 first-round pick, is far and away the top prospect but is years away from the big leagues. Avila will have to be aggressive to find complements to the Tigers’ current core.

After years of ruling the roost in the AL Central, the Tigers have seen the Royals and Indians surge ahead of them. They’ll have to act fast to return to consistent contention.

1. Matt Manning, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Jan. 28, 1998. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Sacramento, 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Scott Cerny.

Fastball: 70.
Curveball: 55.
Changeup: 50.
Control: 50.
Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.

Background: For the No. 9 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Manning is still relatively green when it comes to baseball. He was a two-sport star at Sheldon High in Sacramento and has basketball in his blood. His father Rich spent parts of two seasons in the NBA and his brother Ryan plays collegiately with Air Force. Matt averaged 19.4 points during his senior season and was committed to play two sports at Loyola Marymount. The Tigers, however, swayed him from that commitment by handing him a bonus of $3,505,800. That number ranks as the fourth-highest in franchise history behind Jacob Turner, Rick Porcello and Andrew Miller. He was hit a little bit in his first taste of pro ball, but also ranked second in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings; 46 of his 88 outs came via strikeouts. He ranked as the circuit’s No. 2 prospect, behind only Mickey Moniak, whom the Phillies chose as the No. 1 overall pick.

Scouting Report: As a basketball standout, Manning comes equipped with long levers and an athletic frame. Those traits help him on the mound, too, where he shows more coordination in his delivery than other pitchers with long arms and legs. His delivery can get a touch across his body at times, but he also creates deception and gets enough extension to the point that one evaluator said it looked like the 6-foot-6 righthander was shaking hands with his catcher. And although the Tigers believe Manning has plenty of projection left in his frame, there are evaluators outside the organization who think his body is nearly maxed out in its present state. Manning’s fastball sat at 96-97 mph during the summer but was clocked at 93-94 with hints of the upper 90s and life through the zone during instructional league. He’s backs up his fastball with a spike curveball and a changeup that both have potential but also need refinement. Tigers coaches have seen rotation and sharpness from Manning’s breaking ball as well as the ability to land it in the zone or bury it for a chase pitch. He will cast his curveball at times and needs to develop overall consistency with it. He had his changeup in high school but, as is the case with a lot of big-time high school arms, didn’t need to use it very often because his fastball and curveball were enough to overpower prep hitters. He throws his changeup with the same arm speed and slot as his fastball, but it can get too firm at times and lose effectiveness. The Tigers believe that once Manning learns to harness his changeup and impart consistent separation from his fastball, it has the potential to be an average to above-average pitch, and Tigers coaches were pleased with its progress toward the end of the instructional league. Team officials also have spoken highly about how teachable Manning is and how well he takes to coaching.

The Future: Like 2015 first-rounder Beau Burrows, another high-end prep righthander, Manning probably will begin his first full season at low Class A West Michigan. With the Whitecaps, Manning will continue to gain innings and work on overall refinement. He has a ceiling of a No. 2 starter.

GCL Tigers West (R) 0 2 3.99 10 10 0 29.1 27 2 7 46 .237

2. Christin Stewart, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Dec. 10, 1993. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Tennessee, 2015 (1st round). Signed by: Harold Zonder.

Background: Stewart is tied with Micah Owings for the Georgia high school home run record with 69 over his four years. He continued to show big-time power at Tennessee, swatting 23 in three years and 15 in his draft year. The Tigers gave signed him for $1,795,000 in 2015 as the No. 34 overall pick, which they acquired when Max Scherzer signed with the Nationals. His 30 homers in 2016 ranked fifth in the minor leagues.

Scouting Report: Stewart’s calling card is still his above-average power, which plays to all fields in any ballpark. He has shortened his swing a bit as a pro, allowing him to backspin the ball more to his pull side, helping boost his home run power. He runs deep counts consistently, leading to strikeouts but also a system-best 86 walks, sixth-best in the minors. His defense, however, is a greater concern. He gets poor jumps and breaks on balls, his below-average arm limits him to left field and his below-average speed contributes to a lack of range.

The Future: After a bid in this year’s Futures Game and a turn in the Arizona Fall League to continue working on shortening his swing and improving his defense, Stewart likely will return to Double-A Erie to begin 2017.

Lakeland (Hi A) .264 .403 .534 356 60 94 22 1 24 68 74 105 3
Erie (AA) .218 .310 .448 87 17 19 2 0 6 19 12 26 0

3. Beau Burrows, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 18, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—Weatherford, Texas, 2015. (1st round). Signed by: Chris Wimmer.

Background: Drafted out of the same high school as Orioles all-star closer Zach Britton, Burrows was the 22nd overall pick in 2015. The Tigers signed him for $2,154,200. He got his feet wet in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2015 and ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the league. He spent all year at low Class A West Michigan in 2016, skipping starts to control his workload.

Scouting Report: Burrows starts his arsenal with a fastball in the 90-93 mph range that peaks at 94. His heater hit 98 mph as an amateur in short bursts. The pitch has good riding life through the zone, but the Tigers would like Burrows to continue to refine his command. Specifically, they’d like him to focus on getting the ball down more often. His primary offspeed pitch is a 12-to-6 curveball with tight spin that could be a consistently above-average pitch with repetition. He’s developing his changeup and already shows conviction and the ability throw it from the same arm slot as the rest of his arsenal. He has a slider as well and used his time at instructional league to refine the pitch to the point that it doesn’t blend in with his curveball.

The Future: Burrows will likely spend 2017 at high Class A Lakeland as a 20-year-old. Improved fastball command would help him fulfill his ceiling as a top-end starter.

West Michigan (Lo A) 6 4 3.15 21 20 0 97 87 2 30 67 .240

4. Tyler Alexander, lhp

Born: July 14, 1994. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Texas Christian, 2015 (2nd round). Signed by: Matt Lea.

Background: The Tigers drafted Alexander in the 23rd round in 2013, and then again in 2015 after he spent two seasons at Texas Christian. A draft-eligible sophomore, Alexander signed for $1 million in the second round to forgo his junior year. He dominated the short-season New York-Penn League in his pro debut and finished 2016 at Double-A Erie with six scoreless innings in his final start.

Scouting Report: Alexander won’t wow anybody with his stuff, but he uses command and guile to carve up hitters just the same. He parks his fastball in the 89-91 mph range but can reach back to hit 94 when necessary. He is advanced enough to manipulate the break on his slider depending on the situation. He’ll throw a looser version early in counts and tighten the pitch for chases late. Both the slider and his changeup earn average grades. His repertoire is enhanced by above-average command and exceptional control that have allowed him to walk just 24 hitters in 168.2 career innings—a rate of 1.3 per nine innings. He also earns praise for his unflappability and maturity on the mound.

The Future: Alexander will start back at Double-A and could move quickly enough to get a taste of the big leagues at the end of 2017. He has a future as a back-end starter.

Lakeland (Hi A) 6 7 2.21 19 18 0 102 87 7 16 82 .226
Erie (AA) 2 1 3.15 6 6 0 34 36 4 4 23 .273

5. Kyle Funkhouser, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: March 16, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Louisville, 2016 (4th round). Signed by: Harold Zonder.

Background: The Dodgers made Funkhouser the No. 35 overall pick in the 2015 draft, at the time the highest ever for a Louisville player. He had been projected as a possible top-10 pick earlier that year, so he returned to school for his senior season. And while Louisville had the best record in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the second straight year, Funkhouser started poorly and fell to the fourth round in 2016. The Tigers were pleased to find Funkhouser available for their second pick.

Scouting Report: The Tigers limited Funkhouser’s workload at short-season Connecticut after he threw 93.1 innings in the spring, but he still showed an impressive arsenal and much-improved control after signing for $750,000. He pitched at 90-95 mph as a pro but peaked at 97 during instructional league. He coupled his fastball with an 82-86 mph slider that scouts project to be an average pitch. His changeup lacks movement but has good separation from his fastball and has average potential. His early-count curveball ranks as a fourth pitch. After walking 4.3 per nine innings in four college seasons, Funkhouser pounded the zone (1.9 BB/9) in his pro debut.

The Future: If Funkhouser keeps throwing strikes, he has the physicality and fastball to be a mid-rotation innings-eater. He could move quickly, starting 2017 at high Class A Lakeland.

Connecticut (SS) 0 2 2.65 13 13 0 37 34 0 8 34 .246

6. JaCoby Jones, of/3b

Born: May 10, 1992. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Louisiana State, 2013 (3rd round). Signed by: Jerome Cochran (Pirates).

Background: Jones was part of the same Mississippi prep class that produced Padres outfielder Hunter Renfroe. The Astros drafted Jones out of high school, but he elected to attend Louisiana State. The Pirates called Jones’ name three years later and signed the third-rounder for $612,000. The Tigers acquired Jones at midseason 2015 for closer Joakim Soria, though he served a 50-game suspension at the beginning of 2016.

Scouting Report: Jones was primarily a second baseman at LSU and played shortstop during his time with the Pirates. He moved to third base early with the Tigers but played mostly center field. He’s a plus defender in center with a plus arm, and is a well above-average runner as well. Jones has the above-average power to profile as a regular but has a long swing-and-miss track record, owing to length in his swing, lack of plate discipline and below-average pitch recognition skills.

The Future: Jones received six extra weeks of reps at the plate and in center field in the Arizona Fall League. He’ll have a chance to earn a spot with the Tigers in 2017 if he hits enough, and his versatility will be an asset.

Erie (AA) .312 .393 .597 77 11 24 6 2 4 20 10 23 2
Toledo (AAA) .243 .309 .356 292 33 71 14 5 3 23 25 97 11
Detroit (MLB) .214 .214 .321 28 3 6 3 0 0 2 0 12 0

7. Mike Gerber, of

Born: July 8, 1992. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Creighton, 2014 (15th round). Signed by: Marty Miller.

Background: Gerber was a 40th-round pick out of high school (Yankees) but wasn’t drafted after his junior year at Creighton, because he missed part of the season with an appendectomy. He played with his brother David (a righthander) as a senior with the Bluejays before the Tigers drafted him, and he has moved aggressively, playing in the Arizona Fall League last year and finishing 2016 at Double-A Erie.

Scouting Report: Gerber starts with a swing geared more for line drives than over-the-fence power, but he’s got more juice than might be expected. He worked to shorten his swing a bit in 2016 and made strides in his recognition of offspeed pitches as well. He’s not afraid to take a walk, but the deep counts contribute to his strikeout rate, which spiked to 27 percent in 2016, up from 16 percent in 2015. However, he walked and homered more often, and has some feel for hitting. He plays all three outfield spots, and his above-average arm strength and average speed fit him best in right field.

The Future: Gerber is likely ticketed for a return to Double-A to begin 2017. Maintaining improved home run power while making a bit more contact could make him a future regular, though his versatility may allow him to stick in Detroit eventually as a fourth outfielder.

Lakeland (Hi A) .282 .343 .481 351 52 99 22 3 14 60 32 111 2
Erie (AA) .261 .349 .431 153 17 40 8 3 4 20 20 41 6

8. Adam Ravenelle, rhp

Born: Oct. 15, 1992. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2014 (4th round). Signed by: Harold Zonder.

Background: The Yankees chose Ravenelle out of high school in Sudbury, Mass., in 2011, but he chose to spend the next three seasons at Vanderbilt instead. He got the final six outs of the Commodores’ 2014 College World Series championship, punctuated with a whiff of Virginia shortstop Daniel Pinero, now his teammate in the Tigers system.

Scouting Report: Ravenelle’s hallmarks are his premium pitcher’s body and top-end fastball. The pitch took a jump this year, moving from a 93-97 mph offering into one that surges into triple digits with regularity. His fastball also gets excellent sink when his mechanics are in sync and is capable of getting swings and misses. His main secondary offering is a slider that tops out in the low 90s and breaks more vertically than horizontally. And though his fastball can get as high 101 mph, the Tigers have tried to remind Ravenelle that he doesn’t necessarily need to throw that hard to get out. His coaches have worked to make his delivery smoother and less rotational in the hopes of harnessing his knockout stuff.

The Future: After a second straight assignment to the Arizona Fall League, Ravenelle will likely return to Double-A Erie to start 2017. He should work in high-leverage relief situations if he develops the way the Tigers believe.

Lakeland (Hi A) 2 1 2.86 23 0 3 28 17 3 17 34 .168
Erie (AA) 1 1 4.85 27 0 1 30 30 4 16 23 .265

9. Steven Moya, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Aug. 9, 1991. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 260. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008. Signed by: Miguel Rodriguez/Ramon Perez/Miguel Garcia.

Background: Since his signing eight years ago, Moya has had one of the system’s more intriguing skill sets. He’s tall, strong and strapped with power. Because he’s so tall, however, his ascent through the organization has been slowed by high strikeout totals. He made his big league debut in 2016, where those flaws were writ large with 38 strikeouts in 94 at-bats.

Scouting Report: Moya owns the best power in the system, but evaluators still question how often he’ll get to it. Tigers coaches worked hard with Moya to shorten his swing and hone his pitch recognition, and he cut his strikeout rate to a career-low 22.5 percent at Triple-A Toledo in 2016. His struggles at the major league level suggest there is more work to be done, and his long-levered frame works against him in that regard. He’s an adequate defender in right field with an above-average arm. He’s a below-average runner, but not so much that he’s considered a base-clogger.
The Future: Moya is out of options, so it’s now or never for him to stick in the major leagues. His competition as an extra outfielder, Tyler Collins, also is out of options, so Moya must turn his big-time raw power into a usable skill if he wants to stick in Detroit.

Toledo (AAA) .281 .308 .504 395 59 111 22 3 20 63 15 91 3
Detroit (MLB) .255 .290 .500 94 9 24 4 2 5 11 5 38 0

10. Derek Hill, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Dec. 30, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Elk Grove, Calif., 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Scott Cerny.

Background: The Tigers selected Hill out of the same Elk Grove (Calif.) High program that produced 2016 first-rounder Dylan Carlson (Cardinals). The Tigers signed Hill for $2 million, swaying him from his commitment to Oregon. His father Orsino played for 12 pro seasons and is now a scout with the Diamondbacks. The younger Hill, who missed most of 2015 with a quadriceps injury, was healthy for most of 2016 before a ligament tear in his right elbow in August necessitated Tommy John surgery.

Scouting Report: When on the field, Hill showed the same tantalizing set of skills and got more results in a return to low Class A West Michigan. His best trait is his 70-grade speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, which helps him on the basepaths (he ranked second in the Midwest League with 35 steals) and in center field. He’s the system’s best defensive outfielder and turned in multiple highlight-reel plays. He also showed above-average arm strength. Before the injury the Tigers were working with Hill to better define what type of hitter he can be in the future. His lack of physicality combined with his speed means he’s ideally suited to be a contact hitter who causes havoc on the basepaths.

The Future: Position players usually come back from Tommy John surgery in about nine months, so Hill could be back by midseason 2017. He should report to high Class A Lakeland when he’s ready to hit. His speed and defense should help buy his bat time to develop.

West Michigan (Lo A) .266 .312 .349 384 66 102 17 6 1 31 24 105 35

Last Year’s Tigers Top 10 Prospects

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