2023 Detroit Tigers Top 10 Prospects Chat

Emily Waldon hosted a Tigers mailbag. You can read the transcript here.

James (NC):

     Was Dylan Smith considered for top 10? I worry that the k/9 will decrease as he progresses through the minors and that he will wind up a middle reliever.

Emily Waldon: For navigating his first season of professional ball, Smith made some very impressive strides, especially in facing the advanced hitting of the Midwest League. He kept his walk rate down, but there is a need to strengthen his overall mix, which should come with time.

Toy (New York):

     Detroit paid over slot money to sign Dylan Smith and he is a 22 yr. old in A ball.  How close is he to the top 10, do you see this year as a potential breakout year for him to rocket up the organization?  If not, who is a potential breakout for Detroit this year that could come out of nowhere?

Emily Waldon: I’m hesitant to use the term “rocket,” because each player develops at such a unique pace. I think 2023 will be a very tell-tale year for him. He’s set to turn 23 in May and on track to move steadily during the regular season. I expect him to start the year with West Michigan, but he could get a look with Erie, depending on how his spring campaign plays out.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Two former Tiger minor league fellows have been signed by the Orioles recently – John Lester and Daz Cameron. As Baseball America’s Tiger expert, any regrets on their exit from the organization? Do either have any strengths worth noting?

Emily Waldon: One fact that doesn’t often get discussed is that not all players reach their most robust with the organization they’ve spent extended time with. Lester took major offensive strides but became overshadowed defensively by his defensive counterparts. With his rich bloodlines, Cameron could need something as simple as a change of scenery. Where one organization can pull out strengths in a handful of players, sometimes it takes a fresh perspective for a player to truly grow into their own, ie: Spenser Watkins’ success with the Baltimore pitching staff.

Nick Bruce (Castro Valley):

     How close was Parker Meadows to making the top 10? Can you give hit and power grades?

Emily Waldon: Great question. Scouts have long praised Parker for his natural defensive capabilities, but he really came alive in 2022 from an offensive perspective. I think one more season as he had in 2022 will see him make a noticeable jump in the rankings. I’m really happy to see his hard work paying off.

Buddy (Sacramento, CA):

     Just wanted to drop by and say congrats on beating cancer!

Emily Waldon: Much appreciated! Looking forward to being back at the fields in 2023.

Scott (Boston):

     Where does Manuel Sequera rank amongst the Tigers top 30? And what are scouts saying about him?

Emily Waldon: Keep an eye on the remainder of my rankings coming soon and you’ll get those questions answered. Thanks for reading!

Warren (New London):

     Cristian Santana is really intriguing. How worried should I be about the strikeouts? Is there any chance he could give the Tigers back what they lost when they traded Willy Adames?

Emily Waldon: I wouldn’t read too deep into it just yet. He saw state-side ball for the first time in 2022, booked nearly 30 more games, and did all this at 18 years old. I think the Tigers staff have a good deal of tools, albeit raw to continue to cultivate.

Warren (New London):

     Andre Lipcius had a nice season. How close was he to the top 10? He seems rather similar to Jace Jung. Is he any better at 2B? Could he play 3B?

Emily Waldon: Lipcius has definitely progressed, but still has some strides to push his name up the board. Defensively, he nearly split 2022 between second and third base, adding some desirable defensive versatility. Set to turn 25 in May, he’ll need to lock in really well for hopes of debut consideration.

Bob (DC):

     Is Spencer Torkleson as bad as the projections say he is, or will he become the 30 hr 100 rbi guy we thought he was when he was drafted?

Emily Waldon: I think health is going to be a big factor. He has the tools to post those numbers, but his body has to cooperate, in order for that to become a reality.

Roger (Los Angeles):

     What do the Tigers have in relief pitchers Jack Anderson and Tyler Mattison

Emily Waldon: Keep an eye out for the remainder of my rankings for my thoughts. Appreciate you taking the time to read!

Warren (New London):

     This is probably an unfair question so soon, but do you have any sense of where Justyn-Henry Malloy might fit in the Tigers prospect list? He could be cited as another example of their increased emphasis on strike zone judgment.

Emily Waldon: I’m very excited to see him get to work within the organization. There is an urgency regarding his offensive development, as his remaining tools don’t really jump off the page. To be considered for advancement, he’ll really need to set himself apart offensively.

Roger (Los Angeles):

     Given his age and success in AA and assuming continued success in AAA, do you forsee Chance Kirby as one of the first arms to make his big league debut in 2023? Does he project as a back end starter, multi inning reliever or high leverage arm?

Emily Waldon: I’ve been watching Chance at the field for a long time throughout his career and he remains a very curious case for me. Personally, I don’t view his mix as that of a future starter. If he can establish a consistent trend against opposing hitters, the chance is there, but it could prove to be a bit of an uphill battle.

Rob (Alaska):

     What can you tell me about the season Cristian Santana had? It’s hard to see progress in the numbers but I know better than to scout the stat line. What’s next for him?

Emily Waldon: The think more exposure to state-side ball, the more you’re going to see him begin to find himself as a young hitter. He’ll navigate the entirety of the 2023 season as a 19-year-old and could see some time with West Michigan before the end of the year if he’s able to stay locked in. He’s a very intriguing profile for me.

Danny (Texas):

     Olsen ranked #10. Wentz not in the top 10. Does this mean he is a better prospect now than Wentz, or does he project to be better down the road? I don’t think Wentz lost his prospect status yet.

Emily Waldon: I would not say Wentz has lost his status, as you’ll see in my coming rankings, but his health challenges have created an uphill battle. He’s 18 innings away from losing his rookie eligibility and I’m hoping for more promising signs, health-wise for him in 2023.

JD (AZ):

     Emily, I don’t recall seeing a 30 hitting rating for a top 10 prospect. Seems like Dingler has some work to do, or is this an Austin Hedges comp (groan)?

Emily Waldon: From the beginning, Dingler has been a defense-first profile, but the bat is obviously a plus. I don’t think we’ll see him reach much higher than a below-average bat, but we could see more polish become visible as he gets more reps with Toledo.

Bob (Florida):

     Josh Jung is ranked #41, while his brother Jace is #90. Has BA ever had 2 brothers ranked at the same time in its top 100 and do you think Jace has the upside to equal or surpass Josh’s ranking?

Emily Waldon: I think there is upside to surpass. Tigers’ fans have had to have a lot of patience with the young offensive draftees and Jung is no exception. 30 games isn’t much, so I think we will all have a much better sample to weigh midway through the 2023 season.

Roger (Los Angeles, CA):

     Hi Emily, hope you are strong and well! How does Peyton Graham compare to Gage Workman? Both seem to be tall super athletic infielders who may have trouble with swing and miss. Thank you!

Emily Waldon: There are similarities there. One of Graham’s biggest selling points is his quickness. He rates higher in most categories, although not blindingly so. Workman’s profile tends to fly more below the radar, but some scouts still believe he could surpass expectations.

Trent (Springfield):

     It is interesting that you characterized Jace Jung’s Hi A performance as successful. With the caveats that it was a very small sample size and that perhaps he was fatigued late in the year I found it a little troubling. The results weren’t great, and this is at a level that a top college hitter should be able to dominate. Were there things you saw that would lead you to interpret that differently? Perhaps I am overreacting because there seemed to be a lot of underperformance in the organization generally in 2022, so I am primed to see it.

Emily Waldon: I appreciate the question, Trent. One thing so many people forget is how challenging it can be to transition from collegiate ball to professional ball. Spencer Torkelson, a celebrated collegiate bat began his career with West Michigan by going 1-for-16 and going 14 games before his first home run. With only games to weigh, I tend to look at instincts, maturity, character, movement, and so on, not just how the line looks. It gives a good preview of the grassroots tools, while the offensive tools continue to create their identity in a professional setting.

Jason (Austin, TX):

     Cristian Santana had a 123 wRC+ as an 18-year old in Low-A. What is the perception of him within the organization? And can he stay at SS?

Emily Waldon: Does he have the tools to remain a shortstop, yes, however, there is still a lot of physical development to come. The challenge with signing so many young shortstops is that their bodies will develop differently and with that, a positional reassignment is generally required to complement their new physical resume. We should know more about how the Tigers plan to approach this in the next two years or so.

Frederick (Boston):

     Hi Emily, thank you for the chat! What do you see as the absolute ceiling for Flores and what does he have to do to reach it?

Emily Waldon: After a year as dominant as Flores produced in 2022, I think he has easily established himself in future Major League rotation discussions. With his success at the Double-A level, I think it really comes down to his ability to continuously adapt and find ways to stay one step ahead of the opposition. Flores has no trouble attacking the zone, but perfecting his polish and deception will only make him that much more valuable going forward. Right now, I see him as a middle-of-the-rotation piece.

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