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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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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, particularly after the trade of Cameron Maybin. If he doesn't win the center field job, his versatility will be an asset.
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. 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 in 2016 and made strides in his recognition of offspeed pitches. 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. He plays all three outfield spots, and his above-average arm strength and average speed fit him best in right field. Gerber is likely ticketed for a return to Double-A. Maintaining improved home run power while making more contact could make him a future regular, though his versatility may allow him to stick in Detroit eventually as a fourth outfielder.
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. Ravenelle's hallmarks are his premium pitcher's body and top-end fastball. The pitch took a jump this year, moving from 93-97 mph into triple digits. 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. Though his fastball can touch 101 mph, the Tigers have reminded Ravenelle that he doesn't need to throw that hard to get outs. His coaches have worked to make his delivery smoother and less rotational. After a second straight assignment to the Arizona Fall League, Ravenelle will likely return to Double-A Erie to start 2017.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
After teams passed on Jimenez out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 2013, the Tigers decided to take a flyer on him as an undrafted free agent. They were rewarded with a jump in velocity and one of the fastest-moving relievers in their system. Jimenez has pitched in the last two Futures Games, and rose to Triple-A in 2016 after beginning the year in high Class A Lakeland. Jimenez throws from a three-quarters arm slot and can get across his body at times, which leads to command issues the Tigers have worked to clean up. He has primarily been a two-pitch pitcher in his career, coupling a 93-98 mph fastball with a slider he uses to get swings and misses. He worked this year to tighten the break on his slider, which some evaluators described as having slurve-type break. Jimenez has also worked on adding a changeup to his repertoire. The pitch currently gets the fade necessary but Jimenez slows his arm during his delivery, which detracts from its effectiveness. He is likely to return to Triple-A in 2017 to continue working on improving his command and achieving his ceiling as a setup man.
Signed for $110,000 in 2012, Azocar has progressed slowly. He spent his first two seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, moved to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2015 and made his full-season debut last season with low Class A West Michigan. Along with Derek Hill, Azocar helped form a defensively superb Whitecaps outfield. Azocar has a center fielder's tool set--plus running ability and range to both sides--but was pushed to right because of Hill. Azocar has a plus arm, which further helps him fit in right. He has progressed as a hitter, but at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds shows almost no power. He has just one home run in 1,173 career at-bats and hasn't gone deep since 2014. He is a quick-twitch athlete with a level swing who can slap balls to all fields, although his power is almost exclusively to the pull side. The Tigers are working with Azocar to cut down his strikeouts (22.5 percent rate in 2016) in the hopes of unlocking more offensive potential. He is ticketed for a move to high Class A Lakeland in 2017.
The Tigers gambled $49,000 on Baez's projectability as a 17-year-old throwing in the high-80s. Now 23 and blessed with an ideal pitcher's body, Baez's fastball sits in the mid-90s and has touched 100 mph. He has continued developing his slider, which had slurvy-type break but tightened gradually this year. Baez throws a pair of changeups, one is a traditional circle-changeup and the other is a "fosh," which is thrown harder with a split-fingered grip and bite. Baez's numbers at low Class A West Michigan weren't outstanding--he went 7-9, 3.81 with 88 strikeouts in 113.1 innings--but the Tigers still saw fit to add him to their 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft. There is still a lot of development remaining, but the Tigers believe they are beginning to see Baez peek at his potential. He will move to high Class A Lakeland in 2017.
After spending three seasons at Rookie-level or short-season ball after signing out of Venezuela in 2008, Machado finally moved to low Class A West Michigan in 2011. He has progressively shortened his swing and gotten more physical since that year, when he managed just three extra-base hits in 124 games, but he is still not big or strong enough to make much of an impact with the bat. Even so, Machado's glove has helped him earn cameos in the big leagues in each of the past two seasons. He is the system's best defensive infielder by a wide margin. He has the arm strength and the chops to stick at shortstop, but he saw time at second base in 2016 and could be most useful in Detroit in a utility role. He is an average runner but not a burner. With Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler in Detroit, Machado's likely role will continue to be as an extra infielder who provides depth in the majors and upper minors.
After three seasons in the Texas A&M bullpen, the Tigers liked enough of what they saw out of Ecker to spend their fifth-round pick on him and a $386,500 bonus to sign. Ecker is a relief prospect only, and he spent his first pro season dominating at short-season Connecticut and low Class A West Michigan. Ecker's calling card is his upper-90s fastball, which touched 100 mph in college. He gets armside run and sink, which helps mitigate his short stature. He kept he ball down enough in college to allow just two home runs in three seasons. He couples his fastball with a changeup that improved enough in college to become an average pitch. He throws his changeup with the same arm speed and slot as his fastball and gets effective separation between the two. He also throws a slider that is a clear third pitch at this point. Ecker could start next season at high Class A Lakeland with a chance to move quickly through the system.
Sodders is the son of former Arizona State third baseman and Twins first-rounder Mike Sodders, who was also the recipient of Baseball America's first College Player of the Year award in 1981. The younger Sodders spent two seasons at Riverside CC and was drafted after his sophomore year by the Pirates, but instead transferred to UC Riverside for his junior season. With the Highlanders, Sodders flourished, going 7-4, 2.57 and earning all-Big West honors as the team's No. 1 starter. Sodders doesn't possess a knockout pitch, but instead gets his outs on deception and command of his 88-92 mph fastball with downhill angle and sneaky late life. He has an average changeup as well, and is working on gaining consistency with a slider. Specifically, Sodders is working to add depth to the pitch, which morphs into a small cutter at times. He is likely to begin 2017 at low Class A West Michigan and has the upside of a back-end starter.
After being drafted by the Blue Jays in 2010, Jaye has been a traveling man. The righthander has been dealt three times in the last six years--to the White Sox in 2012, to the Rangers in 2015 and to the Tigers just before the 2016 season. Jaye split his first season in the Detroit system at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo and put up a 5-12, 3.95 mark. His 135 strikeouts topped the organization. Jaye uses a three-pitch mix, starting with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and tops out at 93 mph. He has good feel for both of his offspeed pitches, including a slider in the 82-86 mph range and a firm changeup that settles in between 80-87 mph. Both of his offspeed pitches project as average, though his slider is ahead of his changeup. Jaye dealt with a strained groin in 2016, though it was never serious enough to land him on the disabled list. He projects as a back-end starter or a swingman in the major leagues and is ready for that role in 2017.
The 2015 Tennessee roster featured three future Tigers prospects--outfielder Christin Stewart, first baseman Will Maddox and Simcox. Simcox ranked No. 1 among Baseball America's Top 10 prospects in the Alaska League in 2013, and his father, Larry, played in the minor leagues and spent 17 years as an assistant coach at Tennessee. The younger Simcox is a fundamentally sound player who won't blow anyone away with any one tool, but is average or near-average across the board. He has a sound hitting approach, stays inside the ball well and has begun to drive the ball with more authority as he's gained strength. He still has a bit of work to do in that strength department, however, in order to round himself into a player with everyday offensive value. He is an average defender with average arm strength, though his accuracy needs improvement. His speed is above-average. If he improves with the bat, Simcox has an outside chance at an everyday role. Otherwise, his future is as a backup or a utility player. He should move to Double-A Erie to begin 2017.
After three years at Alabama, the Tigers drafted Turnbull and signed him for $900,000 bonus. He had a solid first full season with low Class A West Michigan, where he didn't allow a home run all season long. He pitched just 44.1 innings in the regular season--with half of his starts coming on rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League--because of recurring stiffness in his throwing shoulder. He was healthy enough to return for a full load in the Arizona Fall League, where he went 1-3, 3.60 with 20 strikeouts in as many innings. More impressively, he got grounders at a 4-to-1 ratio in the AFL and kept the ball in the park. He cranked his fastball up to 96 mph in the Fall League and has touched 99 mph in the past. His fastball features heavy run and sink and he couples it with an average slider and a changeup that has improved to near-average. Getting through the AFL season healthy was an excellent sign for Turnbull, who will try to rebound in 2017 at Double-A Lakeland.
Greiner has struggled to stay healthy since signing out of South Carolina for $529,400 as a third-round pick in 2014. He had his first pro season cut short by a broken hamate bone in his left wrist that required surgery and ended his season. He was invited to major league spring training in 2015 but missed a chunk of time after breaking a finger in the first bullpen session he caught. That was followed by a down season at high Class A Lakeland during which he was limited to just 89 games. He bounced back in 2016, hitting .293/.339/.424 with seven home runs mostly at Lakeland and Double-A Erie. Even with his massive frame at 6-foot-6, Greiner earns positive marks for his defensive abilities. He is flexible and able to get into a low crouch, and scouts who saw him this past season give him average marks for blocking and receiving. He's got an above-average, accurate arm and threw out 44 percent of runners trying to steal last season. He finished the year with stint in the Arizona Fall League and will likely return to Triple-A Toledo next season.
Signed out of Venezuela for $30,000 as a 16-year-old in 2014, Pinto has already opened eyes with his combination of arm speed, velocity and flashes of an average or better curveball. He spent his first pro season in the Venezuelan Summer League and made his stateside debut in 2016 with one of the Tigers' two Rookie-level Gulf Coast League teams. Pinto has a short, stocky build that suggests his long-term role is in the bullpen, but there are evaluators who believe he could start if given the chance. Even as a reliever, the Tigers are excited about Pinto's potential. Besides his big fastball, Pinto has shown a potentially above-average curveball and a changeup that could reach the same level with patience and repetitions. Pinto creates good angle on his pitches from a high three-quarters arm slot and gets the most out of his short stature by staying upright during his delivery. There's a lot of refinement to come as control and command are concerned, but Pinto could be the latest in the Tigers' line of high-velocity relief arms moving through the system.
Garcia spent three years in Miami's bullpen and set the school's career record for saves before the Tigers drafted him in sixth round and signed him for $289,400. The Tigers laud Garcia for his makeup, which features the aggression and competitiveness associated with someone who spent three years in a closer's role. Garcia generates plus arm speed from a three-quarters arm slot and starts his arsenal with a sinking fastball that sits in the 92-96 mph range. He complements the pitch with a potentially plus slider in the mid-80s with 10-to-4 break, as well a changeup that shows fade to both lefthanders and righthanders. He dominated at short-season Connecticut and ended his season in the playoffs with low Class A West Michigan before heading to the instructional league. The Tigers want Garcia to work on commanding all his pitches within the strike zone. If he does that, he could be part of the cadre of Tigers relievers on the fast track to the upper levels. He'll start 2017 at either back at West Michigan or at high Class A Lakeland.
Houston was strictly a reliever at Mississippi State until his junior year, when he made six starts. That included the Bulldogs' final win of the season, when Houston spun six innings of two-hit shutout ball against Louisiana Tech in the NCAA Regionals. He reverted back to a relief role in pro ball and made 20 appearances between short-season Connecticut and low Class A West Michigan. Houston has a funky delivery that includes a hook in the back and a jump that reminds some evaluators of Rick Sutcliffe. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range and has touched 97 with heavy sink and armside bore. He throws a slider that features hard bite but breaks more horizontally than vertically. He rounds out his arsenal with a fringy curveball and a show-me changeup. The Tigers like the aggressiveness Houston brought with him from college. He is likely to begin the year at high Class A Lakeland and has a ceiling of a middle reliever.
Though he made 10 starts--including eight in his sophomore year--Smith was primarily a reliever in his three years at Dallas Baptist. He pitched one summer for the Mat-su Miners of the college Alaska League, where he was teammates with fellow Tigers prospects Christin Stewart and A.J. Simcox. Detroit drafted Smith in the third round of 2015 and gave him a $575,800 bonus. His calling card in both college and the professional ranks is his high-powered fastball, which sits in the 92-97 mph range. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball, but had to be convinced to throw it early in the season. He throws the pitch with sufficient arm speed, but early on evaluators said it had a hump that hitters could easily pick up. He also has a changeup, but he throws it very rarely. His delivery is high-effort and features a small collapse on his back leg. Smith has dealt with injuries throughout his career and landed on the disabled list three times since turning pro. This season he dealt with minor injuries to his shoulder, elbow and pectoral muscles. He will head to high Class A Lakeland in 2017.
Robson was drafted out of high school by the Padres in 2012 but chose to attend Mississippi State instead. Four years later, he improved his stock enough to earn an eighth-round selection and a $181,600 signing bonus as a redshirt junior. He missed most of his sophomore season with an elbow injury and missed time his final collegiate season with a broken left pinky. An above-average runner, Robson shows prototypical leadoff skills and proved too advanced for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and short-season New York-Penn League, where he hit a combined .301/.407/.405 with nine doubles, a home run and 15 steals in 48 games. The Tigers believe in Robson's ability to play center field, work counts and get on base and laud his makeup as a baseball rat. He doesn't have much in the way of over-the-fence power, so he'll have to stay in center to profile as an everyday player. His college pedigree could put him in line for an aggressive assignment to high Class A, but he is more likely to begin at low Class A West Michigan.
The Tigers signed Tortosa out of Venezuela in 2015 for $30,000 and under normal circumstances he would have spent his first pro season in the Venezuelan Summer League. The league shuttered after the 2015 season, however, and the Tigers responded by joining the Yankees as clubs with two Gulf Coast League teams. Tortosa pitched all season in the GCL and showed why the Tigers believe in his upside. His fastball sits in the low-90s from a loose, easy delivery. He also showed a slurvy breaking ball and the makings of a changeup as well. The Tigers are particularly intrigued by Tortosa's size and remaining projection, and see him adding velocity and physicality as he gets older. He dealt with two bouts of forearm soreness in 2016--once at midseason and then again during instructional league--but did not have surgery. Tortosa will pitch all of 2017 as an 18-year-old, so he is likely to return to the Gulf Coast League to continue developing in the controlled environment of the Tigers' minor league complex.
The Tigers signed Perez out of Venezuela as a defensive backstop with the hopes that he might grow into enough offense to find a spot in the majors. He has moved slowly throughout his career, spending two years in the Venezuelan Summer League before coming stateside. Since then, he has spent parts of three seasons at low Class A West Michigan before finally showing signs with the bat this season, hitting .303/.320/.391. The Tigers like his strong build and compact swing, although they don't expect much in the way of power. As a defender, Perez's calling card is his plus arm. He threw out 43 percent (26-of-60) of potential basestealers in 2016, which would have ranked third in the Midwest League if he hadn't been limited to just 74 games while splitting time with Shane Zeile. He needs to continue sharpening his receiving skills and has gotten better at game-calling as well. Perez ranks as the system's best defensive catcher, and is likely to move up to the high Class A Florida State League this year to keep working on his overall game.
Hall busted out in a big way his junior year at Missouri State when led the NCAA with 171 strikeouts in 125 innings. He capped off his brilliant season when he spun a one-hitter with eight strikeouts against Arkansas in the Super Regionals in what turned out to be his final outing. The Tigers popped Hall in the sixth round and gave him a $239,400 signing bonus. Hall's primary weapon is a slow, sweeping curveball thrown in the 69-73 mph range that gives lefthanders fits. His fastball is below-average at 86-88 mph, and his changeup is in the developmental stages and a clear third pitch at this point. He dominated at low Class A West Michigan, going 8-0, 1.09 with 72 strikeouts in 66.1 innings but ran into more trouble at high Class A Lakeland. He walked more than four hitters per nine innings at that level, and surrendered nearly a hit per inning. He was effective against lefties at both levels, however, allowing just seven extra-base hits--no home runs--in 145 plate appearances all season. That role as a lefthanded specialist is Hall's most likely path to the majors.
The Blue Jays traded nearly everything not nailed down during their push to the playoffs in 2015, and Labourt went to the Tigers with fellow lefthanders Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd in exchange for ace David Price, who was brilliant for the Blue Jays before signing a megadeal with the Red Sox in the offseason. Labourt earned a spot in the 2015 Futures Game with the Blue Jays but has struggled since changing organizations. He still throws his fastball in the low-to-mid-90s with sinking life and couples it with a slider that gets swings and misses, but an exaggerated arm swing hampered his command and control greatly with high Class A Lakeland. He issued 70 walks in 87.1 innings while striking out 81, and was moved to the bullpen in an attempt to rebuild his confidence. There still might be hope for Labourt if he can harness his arsenal--he still held hitters to a .202 average--and the Tigers still believe he has an outside chance at returning to the rotation. He is likely to return to Lakeland in 2017 to work on re-establishing himself and rebuilding confidence.
The Tigers signed Soto out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 and has slowly matured into an impressive young lefthander with potential waiting to be harnessed. Pitching at short-season Connecticut this year, Soto showed a lively fastball in the low-90s that peaked at 95-96 at times. Particularly, the Tigers are impressed with the way Soto can spin a breaking ball. He throws two types of curveballs--one with traditional deep break and a harder, shorter version that looks like a slider. The Tigers believe his breaking balls can be plus with repetition and consistency. They also were particularly pleased with the way Soto improved his pitchability this season. When he struggled in the middle of games he was able to make adjustments without letting things snowball on him. Scouts who saw him in the New York-Penn League would like to see him trust his stuff instead of aiming it, and they noticed that he has a tendency to slow down his arm when throwing the curveball. Soto has a chance as a starter if he continues making strides with his overall game. He will start 2017 with low Class A West Michigan.
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