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Moya was born in Puerto Rico, but he grew up in the Dominican Republic and signed as an international free agent in 2008. Through his first three years in the system, he was a tall, lanky teenager with intriguing tools who was still learning to gain better body control and coordination of his long-levered frame, which showed in his underwhelming early performance. He struggled in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2010 and at low Class A West Michigan in 2011, but things started to click for him when he repeated the Midwest League in 2012'that is until Tommy John surgery cut his season short. A separated left shoulder in 2013 cut into his playing time again, but in 2014 Moya remained healthy, played more than 100 games for the first time in his career and had a breakthrough season at Double-A Erie. He led the Eastern League with 35 homers, which ranked fourth in the minors overall, and a .555 slugging average, then made his major league debut as a September callup, though he played sparingly in the big leagues. Moya can make any ballpark feel small with his well above-average raw power. He has plenty of lift in his swing, hitting balls over the fence to all fields in games and tying for third in the minors with 71 extra-base hits in 2014. He has good bat speed, generates tremendous leverage and has developed a better feel for his swing. Strike-zone discipline is Moya's biggest obstacle. His long arms lead to a long swing and too much swinging and missing. He led the EL with 161 strikeouts, whiffing in 29 percent of his plate appearances. With a large strike zone to cover, he doesn't do himself any favors by frequently chasing pitches off the plate, which contributes to his high strikeout rate and hampers his on-base percentage because he walked in just 4 percent of his trips to the plate. With all the time he's missed with injuries, Moya doesn't have as much game experience as most players his age, so his believers think he can make the necessary adjustments. He is surprisingly athletic for his size, with average speed and a plus arm. He earned praise from scouts for his routes in right field, something that wasn't the case entering 2014. The attributes are all there for Moya to be an average defensive right fielder. Moya is a divisive prospect. Some scouts project him as a middle-of-the-order force, while others question whether he will make enough contact. With Torii Hunter gone, the Tigers have a hole in right field, but Moya should open 2015 at Triple-A Toledo. If he dominates the International League, he might be a candidate to bring up by midseason, but his hitting approach is still raw enough that a full season of Triple-A at-bats could help him make a smoother transition to the big leagues.
Farmer spent four seasons at Georgia Tech, then signed for $225,000 as a fifth-round pick in 2013. At 23, he started the year relatively old for the low Class A Midwest League, but after carving through the circuit he jumped to Double-A Erie for a pair of starts in August, made his major league debut on Aug. 13, then split the rest of the season between Detroit and Triple-A Toledo. Farmer is a solid strike-thrower who works downhill with a lively 90-95 mph fastball that generates sink and run and has peaked at 97. His slider was his best secondary pitch in college, but his changeup improved tremendously over the course of the season . His changeup was below-average early in the year, but it now flashes above-average with late drop . His average slider can be a swing-and-miss pitch . That may stem from his arm action, which along with his funky delivery provides deception but leads some scouts to project him as a reliever. Farmer has the stuff to be a back-end starter . Given the Tigers' bullpen woes, though, it may be tempting to move him there.
The Tigers used their first-round pick in 2014 on Hill, who signed for $2 million then got off to a hot start in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. After sitting out three weeks with lower back pain, he didn't play well when he returned and his numbers dipped further when he moved up to shortseason Connecticut in August, though his tool set remains exciting. Hill is an explosive, quick-twitch athlete with double-plus speed. He's already a terrific defensive center fielder'the best among 2014 draft picks--who covers ample ground with good reads off the bat, direct routes and an average, accurate arm. Hill, the son of a minor league hitting coach, has a quick stroke, good balance and a contact-oriented swing. He is a line-drive hitter who doesn't loft the ball much, so with his below-average power, he may be more of a doubles and triples hitter than a home run threat. Hill showed a sound hitting approach in high school and early in the GCL season . Despite Hill's struggles in his pro debut, he still excited evaluators with his potential as a two-way threat who could hit near the top of a lineup. The next stop for him should be low Class A West Michigan.
Ziomek passed on signing with the Diamondbacks as a 13th-round pick out of high school in 2010. Instead he went to Vanderbilt, followed in the footsteps of Commodores lefties David Price and Mike Minor, then signed with the Tigers for $956,600 as a second-rounder in 2013. In his first full season, Ziomek led the low Class A Midwest League in ERA (2.27) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.1), though it's unusual that an organization that normally promotes its prospects aggressively left the fairly polished 22-year-old at West Michigan all season. Ziomek doesn't overpower with his arsenal, relying instead on mixing his pitches and hitting his spots. He throws strikes, works quickly and moves his 87-92 mph fastball around the strike zone with average life and good downhill angle. His low-80s slider is an average pitch, though it can get sweepy on him. His changeup is another average pitch. He adds and subtracts from his fringy curveball, throwing it with more velocity later in the count. His delivery isn't smooth, but his funkiness creates deception. Ziomek earns comparisons with former Tiger Drew Smyly, himself a second-round college lefty, though Smyly had made it to Double-A at the same age. Ziomek figures to advance to high Class A Lakeland in 2015 and could develop into a back-end starter.
After signing out of Venezuela at age 16 for $237,000, Perez didn't do anything to distinguish himself in his first four years with the organization. He built upon a 2013 breakout season at Double-A Erie with a solid 2014 at Triple-A Toledo. Perez's tools are nondescript, but he stands out for his smart, heady play in all areas of the game. He drags the bat at times, but he's a line-drive hitter who uses the whole field and makes consistent contact, albeit without much power. Perez would benefit from a more patient hitting approach, for he's susceptible to chasing off the plate. He's an average runner who's a 20-steal threat because of his acumen on the basepaths. Perez played a lot of second base coming up because he was teammates with the more defensively gifted Eugenio Suarez and Dixon Machado, but he showed that he's playable at shortstop, even if his range is a better fit at second base. He's a smooth defender with clean footwork and hands, along with an average, accurate arm. Perez is is blocked by Ian Kinsler, who is signed through 2017, at second base, and by Jose Iglesias (if healthy) at shortstop. Perez's best role is likely as a utility infielder.
McCann always has earned praise for his defensive chops, but 2014 was the best offensive season of his career. He posted career highs in batting average (.295), on-base percentage (.343) and slugging (.427) while in Triple-A Toledo before his big league debut as a September callup. McCann is a quality receiver and a quiet defender. He has minimal foot speed but moves well behind the plate, rarely allowing a ball to get by him. He does the little things well, framing pitches and earning praise for his game-calling. His plus arm helped him throw out 42 percent of Triple-A basestealers, which ranked second in the International League. As McCann learned to leverage the ball better and tweaked his setup, his offense improved. He's a good fastball hitter with quick hands, though his barrel angle leaves length to his swing without ideal bat path. He's an aggressive hitter who has trouble with the soft stuff, though he doesn't swing and miss excessively. He should max out at around 8-12 home runs per year. McCann fits what teams look for in a backup catcher, which could help him carve out a long career. Given the offensive improvement he showed in 2014 and the struggles of Alex Avila, McCann could play a larger role with the Tigers in 2015.
Collins raked in his first full season in the high Class A Florida State League in 2012, but his strikeout rate soared upon reaching Double-A Erie. His performance rebounded in 2014, as he spent the first two weeks in Detroit for his big league debut before spending the rest of the minor league season at Triple-A Toledo. Strong and stocky, Collins can put a charge into the ball with average power, making him a potential 20-homer threat. Praised for his pure hitting ability earlier in his career, he got big with his swing and had trouble recognizing pitches last year when he got to Double-A. There's still some swing-and-miss to his game, but he has solid patience and in 2014 he did a better job of understanding his swing and anticipating how pitchers were attacking him, which helped boost his batting average and on-base percentage. Collins is a fringy runner with an average arm who split time between left and right field, even getting spot time in center, though he's much better suited for the corners. Collins gets the fourth-outfielder label thrown on him, though he could have value as a platoon outfielder. With Torii Hunter hitting the free agent market, the Tigers have an opening, though the club is much more likely to use Collins as a backup in 2015.
A three-year starter at Rice, Kubitza ranked seventh in NCAA Division I with 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings his junior year in 2013, when the Tigers drafted him in the fourth round and signed him for $401,200. In his first full season, he ranked second in the low Class A Midwest League in ERA (2.34) and strikeouts (140) at West Michigan. Kubitza's fastball sits 87-90 mph and touches 92 but the ridiculous movement on the pitch stands out far more than its velocity. It dances all over the place with wicked sink and cutting action that makes it a nightmare for hitters to square up. The pitch makes him the most prolific groundball machine in the minors, with a 3.7 groundout/airout ratio that placed well ahead of Brewers lefthander Jed Bradley, who ranked No. 2 at 2.72. Kubitza also racks up plenty of strikeouts, though he doesn't have a true out pitch among his secondary weapons. He throws a slider that lower-level hitters will bite on, but scouts consider it a fringe-average offering. He has tried to work a changeup into the mix, but it's not a factor at this point. He has a crossfire delivery but is a solid strike thrower. Kubitza's unique skill set makes him tricky for scouts to project, with some believing he would fit best in the bullpen, though others believe his approach will continue to work as a starter at the higher levels because he gives hitters such an uncomfortable look. He should move on to high Class A Lakeland in 2015.
The Tigers have a stacked lineup, a rotation filled with frontline starters and won the American League Central four straight years. Yet the bullpen continues to be an annual source of frustration for the team. Rondon was expected to help solve the Tigers' relief woes in 2014, but instead he missed the entire season after having Tommy John surgery in March. With 30 major league relief appearances and 29 innings, Rondon barely meets our threshold to still qualify as a prospect. When healthy, he showed the stuff to pitch high-leverage innings. He has a monster frame to match his fastball, which sits at 97-100 mph and touched as high as 103. Beyond the topof- the-scale velocity, his fastball also had good life, running in on righties to help him blow it by hitters and get grounders at an above-average clip. Rondon throws his hard slider up in the high 80s and it can be an average pitch, but it's not consistent yet. He improved his changeup in 2013, but it's not a pitch he throws much. He got away with below-average command prior to his surgery because his fastball was so tough for hitters to square up. The Tigers expect Rondon to be ready for spring training after his rehab process, though it remains to be seen whether he will still have the high-octane stuff he once possessed. If he does, he should be pitching late in games for the Tigers with a chance to be a closer eventually. Did not play
Machado had just three extra-base hits in 124 games at low Class A West Michigan in 2012, but he got stronger for the 2013 season. Regardless, he struggled on the field and was often sidelined with leg injuries, prompting the Tigers to remove him from the 40-man roster after adding him the year before. Machado switched up his offseason routine, focusing more on flexibility and agility, and his ability to stay on the field helped fuel a breakout season in 2014. Machado worked with high Class A Lakeland hitting coach Larry Herndon to tweak his setup and his load, both with his hands and his lower half. Machado has always used his hands well in his swing and has a steady, disciplined hitting approach to make frequent contact and draw walks. His power is mostly to the gaps with a focus on hitting line drives and getting on base. Defense is where Machado has always shined. He's smooth and sure-handed, with slightly above-average speed but plus range thanks to his quickness and instincts, making flashy plays with a plus arm. Machado could be a defensive-oriented backup, but the offensive outburst got him back on the 40-man after the 2014 season and gives him an outside shot to be an everyday player.
Detroit's top two international signings in 2012 were a pair of Dominican shortstops, Willy Adames and Domingo Leyba, and their third-largest bonus went to Shepherd, who signed for $325,000 as a shortstop out of Australia. He is a balanced hitter with a mature plan at the plate and a good blend of hitting, on-base ability and power. As he moves up the ladder, some scouts expect his profile to lean more heavily toward power, which is average now with the ability to leave the yard from his pull side over to the middle of the field, and should increase as he gets stronger. He didn't face much premium velocity in Australia, so he's still adjusting to quality fastballs. After he signed, Shepherd immediately moved to third base, where he has the tools to be a quality defender. He's a below-average runner but he's athletic and moves around well, with good hands and a strong, accurate arm. With third baseman Steven Fuentes one level ahead of him, Shepherd could spend 2015 at short-season Connecticut.
Shortly after the 2011 season ended, the Tigers scooped up Perez for just $16,000 out of Venezuela. After a couple of seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, he impressed scouts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2014 and continued to play well upon an aggressive push to low Class A West Michigan for the final month of the season. Perez has skills on both sides of the ball, but he stands out immediately on defense. Perez has a plus arm and makes accurate throws, which enabled him to throw out 43 percent of basestealers in 2014. His blocking and receiving skills are advanced for his age, and he has a chance to be a plus defender once he learns more about the nuances of catching, such as game-calling and how to handle a pitching staff. Perez is an extremely aggressive hitter who goes up swinging at the first pitch, which is why he walked just twice in 135 plate appearances in 2014. His bat control is so good that he's a career .304 hitter despite being a bad-ball hitter, though he will have to show more plate discipline against better pitchers. While he does chase, he doesn't overswing to try to hit the ball out of the park, instead staying within his line-drive approach and gap power. He's ready for his first full-season test at West Michigan in 2015.
When the Rays left Lobstein off their 40-man roster following the 2012 season, the Mets picked him in the Rule 5 draft. They turned around and sold him to the Tigers, who traded Curt Casali to Tampa Bay before the 2013 season to be keep Lobstein without Rule 5 restriction. The Tigers brought him up from Triple-A Toledo in to be their fifth starter in September 2014, and he held his own in that role for the rest of the season. Lobstein doesn't have a plus pitch, so he relies on keeping hitters off balance by mixing his stuff and moving the ball around the strike zone. His fastball sits 86-90 mph, and he usually tries to keep the pitch down and on the outer third of the plate. He throws a tight cutter at 83-86 mph that was effective against major league hitters and a good weapon against both righties and lefties. His 78-82 mph changeup is an average pitch he mainly uses when he's facing righthanded hitters. Lobstein also flips an occasional 74-78 mph curveball in when he's facing a lefty to give them another look. Lobstein has a chance to be a No. 5 starter, though he could end up shuttling between Detroit and Toledo.
Jimenez signed with the Tigers as a nondrafted free agent out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 2013 and has quickly looked like a steal. After throwing in the low 90s in high school, Jimenez spiked his velocity up to 95-98 mph. Even though Jimenez has a long arm action and effort in his delivery, he's able to repeat his mechanics surprisingly well and throw plenty of strikes. His fastball is a swing-and-miss pitch, but he also made strides tightening up the break on his slider over the course of the season. He can manipulate the shape and speed of the pitch, throwing it softer for an early-count strike then ramping it up for a harder-breaking chase pitch when he's ahead in the count. With one plus pitch in his fastball and a second in his slider, Jimenez has the weapons to profile in a big league bullpen and the control to move quickly through the system if the Tigers want to push him, with low Class A West Michigan his next stop.
One of the Tigers' top international signings in 2011, Fuentes signed for $210,000 as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela. He has good bat speed and had a solid season at the plate in 2014. He's still ironing some things out with his swing, working at his pitch recognition and trying to maintain a consistent hitting approach, though he doesn't swing and miss excessively. Most of the switch-hitter's struggles at shortseason Connecticut came batting righthanded, where he struck out 20 times in 44 plate appearances. Fuentes uses the whole field and shows occasional pull power that should improve as he gets stronger. Signed as a shortstop, he's become big enough that he fits better at third base, slowing down from a plus runner to an average one. He's athletic and moves around well at the hot corner, where he has a quick first step, good range and a plus arm, though like many young infielders he's still learning to slow the game down. He's ready to move on to low Class A West Michigan in 2015.
VerHagen, who had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior, made his major league debut with a spot start on July 19, 2014, but he went on the disabled list with a back strain afterward and didn't pitch the rest of the season. A massive 6-foot-6, VerHagen drops his pitches downhill and with good extension. His fastball is tough for hitters to barrel because of the angle, 90-94 mph velocity (with a peak of 96) and hard, heavy sink and run that results in plenty of groundballs. He throws slightly across his body, which also adds deception. The trouble with VerHagen is his low strikeout rate, which stems from a lack of a reliable secondary pitch. His best offspeed offering is a changeup, a fringy pitch that flashes average with solid sink. VerHagen's curveball is a slurvy pitch that will likely always be below-average. He's improved his strike-throwing ability each year, though he's still more control than command. VerHagen should go back to Triple-A Toledo to begin 2015, but he has a chance to be back up as a No. 5 starter.
Valdez used steroids early in his career, which cost him a 50-game suspension when he was in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 after he tested positive for Boldenone, and he didn't make it to fullseason ball until he was 23 in 2012. Since then, Valdez has garnered attention for his high-octane stuff, though everything about his game is erratic. A pure reliever, Valdez throws 93-98 mph with good angle. He has two plus pitches when he has his slider working, for it's a hard, three-quarters breaking ball that can miss bats in the high 80s and even reach into the low 90s at times. He has a changeup as well, though it's below-average. Valdez is a high-energy pitcher with a long arm action, effort to his delivery and a tendency to overthrow, which causes bouts of wildness, though his control has improved the last two seasons. Even if Valdez develops fringe-average control, his stuff is good enough to beat major league hitters. He will advance to Triple-A Toledo with a chance to make his major league debut in 2015.
The Tigers used their second-round pick in 2014 on Turnbull, a righthander out of Alabama who signed for $900,000. Turnbull throws two quality fastballs, including a fourseamer that sits 90-95 mph and hits 97. He also throws a two-seamer with hard, heavy sink that helps him rack up a lot of ground balls. His slider was his most improved pitch at Alabama. Turnbull used to get caught in between with his breaking ball, giving it three-quarters action and inconsistent snap, but he's turned it into more of a true power slider that's average. He doesn't miss many bats, though, and his cutter and changeup are both below-average. Turnbull has smoothed out parts of his delivery over the years, but his delivery features plenty of effort and some scouts aren't a fan of his arm action. Turnbull has a strong, physical frame that suggests he should be durable, though his mechanics, arsenal and shaky command could land him in the bullpen. He will be ticketed for low Class A West Michigan rotation in 2015.
The Tigers may have found a late-round bargain in Gerber, a promising hitter who went in the 15th round as a senior sign out of Creighton in 2014. His strong wrists and forearms help him generate plus raw power. He's an aggressive hitter who gave some scouts concerns in college because they worried about his contact rate, but he squared up plenty of pitches in pro ball. Pro scouts liked his balance, pitch recognition and that his bat stayed in the zone a long time, though he can get long at times and his offensive profile will likely always be power over hitting. Gerber was a quality defensive center fielder in college but he's not a burner and fits better in right field, where he played after signing and showed a plus arm. He should go to low Class A West Michigan in 2015 with a chance to boost his stock significantly.
Betancourt is the nephew of former Mets third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo. Signed for $200,000 in 2011, Betancourt has good hand-eye coordination and makes frequent contact with a level, line-drive swing. He started to generate more loft in his swing in 2014 and can occasionally pull a ball over the fence, but he has gap power and his game will have to be about getting on base. He uses the whole field and has good pitch recognition, but his strong bat-to-ball skills get him in trouble because he's too aggressive, swinging at borderline pitches that result in weak contact. Betancourt mostly played second base, where he excelled and has a chance to be an above-average defender. He positions himself well, has good hands and feet and slows the game down. Despite fringy speed, he has good range to both sides, along with a fringe-average arm. Betancourt has a chance to develop into a player along the lines of Hernan Perez, though Betancourt is more advanced at the same age.
Nesbitt has slowly evolved into an intriguing relief prospect with a power arm whom the Tigers protected on the 40-man roster after the 2014 season. Nesbitt throws his fastball 93-97 mph with solid sink and armside run. His breaking ball, an 83-86 mph slider has made promising strides after being a nonfactor early in his career. It's not a knockout pitch, but it flashes average with solid bite, though it still gets slurvy on him when he gets caught in between. He throws a firm changeup with solid sink but right now is below-average, as he tends to slow his arm speed. Nesbitt's walk rate jumped upon reaching Double-A Erie, and while he's been a steady strike-thrower previously, his control and command both need improvement. Nesbitt will move to Triple-A Toledo in 2015, with a chance to help the Tigers as a middle reliever.
De la Rosa is a gigantic human being who looks like he should be posting up down in the paint as a power forward at 6-foot-8, 235 pounds. Instead he throws heat off the mound anywhere from 92-98 mph with steep downhill plane and good extension, though he doesn't generate much movement on his fastball. De la Rosa's fastball is a plus pitch but his strikeout rate is low because he's still searching for a reliable secondary weapon. The pitch with the most potential is his fringy, high-80s changeup, on which he maintains his arm speed and drops late in the zone at times but flattens out at times. He throws a curveball and a slider, but both are below-average. De la Rosa is a solid strike thrower given all the long levers he has to keep in sync in his delivery. De la Rosa has shown durability to handle a starter's workload, though he needs to improve his soft stuff to avoid the bullpen. Extremely tall pitchers can take longer to develop, so the Tigers will be patient with him in case he can have a breakthrough. Double-A Erie is up next.
When the Tigers scouted Baez as an amateur in the Dominican Republic, he had a good frame and a high-80s fastball, so they signed him after the 2011 season for $49,000. Since then his fastball has exploded into the mid-90s, making him one of the organization's most promising arms at the lower levels. Baez has an excellent build for a pitcher and the added strength has taken his fastball up to 92-94 mph and even 96 at times with good movement. He has developed feel to spin a power curveball, which is inconsistent but flashes average and should be a steadier pitch once he gains more experience. He pitches mostly with the fastball and curveball, which are ahead of his changeup. He hasn't had much need to throw his changeup yet, and some think it might develop into an average offering. Baez never has had trouble throwing strikes, so he should remain in the rotation as long as he can bring along his secondary stuff.
After the Tigers drafted him in the third round and signed him for $529,400, Greiner hit well at low Class A West Michigan for a month until a hit-by-pitch broke the hamate bone in his left wrist, necessitating season-ending surgery. There aren't many 6-foot-6 catchers, but Greiner's defense grades out surprisingly well. He's a quiet receiver who handles velocity well and doesn't let many balls get past him. He has a plus arm, but because of his slow release, he's not great at controlling the running game. He has solid-average raw power, though his long levers lead to a long swing. He didn't have any trouble making contact against lower-level pitchers in pro ball, but that will be tested once he faces more advanced pitchers at upper levels. Scouts mostly project Greiner as a backup catcher, but he has upside if he keeps hitting.
A starter at Virginia Tech, Mantiply moved to the bullpen in 2014, which helped his strikeout rate jump to 9.4 per nine innings. Mantiply spent most of the season as a 23-year-old at low Class A West Michigan, but the Tigers skipped him to Double-A Erie in August, where he didn't miss a beat. He followed that up with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Mantiply doesn't overpower, throwing 88-91 mph, but he's not afraid to pitch inside and can manipulate the movement on the pitch to generate sink and tail or cut the ball. He has an average changeup that managers voted the best in the Midwest League, and he has a fringy slider that flashes average. Mantiply has an unorthodox delivery and throws across his body, but that gives him needed deception, and he repeats his mechanics to throw consistent strikes, which gives him a chance to be a middle reliever in the majors.
A key draft pick for the Tigers in 2009, Fields signed in the sixth round for $1.625 million out of high school. His father is Tigers hitting coordinator Bruce Fields, but Daniel was regarded more for his athleticism than his hitting polish at the time, so it was stunning when the Tigers started him as a 19-year-old at high Class A Lakeland in 2010. Fields spent three years in Lakeland before showing signs of life at the plate at Double-A Erie in 2013, but he struggled again upon a promotion to Triple-A Toledo in 2014, including two months on the sidelines after he broke his right hand getting hit by a pitch in May. He is prone to swinging and missing, though he eliminated a leg kick during the 2014 season to try to simplify his approach and improve his timing, and he has average raw power. Fields is athletic but he's a fringeaverage runner and isn't a true center fielder, profiling better in left field with a fringy arm. The Tigers already have lefthanded-hitting Tyler Collins on the cusp, and in the offseason they traded for center fielder Anthony Gose, another lefthanded hitter and a superior defender, so Fields doesn't have a clear path to Detroit, even as a reserve. Thus, he's slated to return to Toledo.
The heavily-built Mercedes had a mediocre season pitching at Triple-A Toledo in 2014, but on Aug. 15 he went six up, six down in two scoreless innings in his major league debut against the Mariners, then returned to Toledo to finish the season. Mercedes is a sinker/slider pitcher who relies heavily on the former, a plus pitch at 93-96 mph that helps him get groundballs. There are times when he will flash a solid-average slider, but it comes and goes because he doesn't stay on top of the ball consistently. His strikeout rate dipped to 4.6 batters per nine innings in 2014, which is in part a reflection of his lack of an out pitch. He got in trouble at times in Triple-A when he went nearly exclusively to the sinker at the expense of his secondary pitches, which made him too predictable. Mercedes has violence and recoil in his mechanics, but he throws strikes consistently and works down in the zone. If he can bring along his slider, he could stick around as a middle reliever, though he's probably heading back to Triple-A in 2015.
Castro looked like the next under-the-radar Venezuelan find for the Tigers, who signed him for $29,000 in March 2011. Once he got to low Class A West Michigan in 2013, he looked overmatched at the plate. He returned to the Midwest League to start 2014 and wasn't hitting well there, but by the end of May the Tigers bumped him up to high Class A Lakeland, where he performed better. Castro has a short, quick swing and good bat-to-ball skills. He hits to all fields and uses his hands well at the plate, flicking the ball to the opposite field on pitches on the outer third. Castro hit .299 in Lakeland but without a trace of secondary skills. He has an aggressive approach and minimal power. He needs to get stronger to deliver more impact and take a more selective approach to improve his on-base ability. Castro is athletic and runs above-average, but he has a fringy arm and below-average defense at second base.
Green pitched well in 2014, but he was also a 23-year-old at low Class A West Michigan getting by more on polish than stuff. He pitches off a solid fastball, sitting in the low 90s and touching 94 mph with good movement. He's a prolific strike-thrower who hits his spots and gets ground balls at an aboveaverage rate. Green's strikeout percentage was good in the Midwest League, but that probably will drop once he faces better hitters unless he can come up with a reliable secondary pitch. He throws a slider and a changeup, but both are below-average pitches. Green should move up to high Class A Lakeland in 2015, where his pitchability should still be good enough to work, but he will be tested at upper levels.
Pankake, who signed for $165,000 as a seventh-round pick in 2014, has close to average tools across the board. He is a smart hitter with a good approach, working counts and understanding how pitchers attack him. His barrel stays in the hitting zone, which helps him make consistent contact to all fields and stay on good breaking pitches. He's strong and has average raw power, though his offensive game will be more about hitting line drives and getting on base. The Tigers flipped Pankake between shortstop and third base in his debut at short-season Connecticut, but he's expected to see more time at third base going forward, since he doesn't project as a shortstop. He's still adjusting to the hot corner, where he has an average arm.