Join Now! Bundle Print + Digital + eEdition And Save $60/year
The Tigers have more pitching depth than they have had in years.
The Tigers have targeted pitchers at the top of each of the past three drafts, and it’s paid off with Alex Faedo, Matt Manning and Beau Burrows. Add in trade acquisition Franklin Perez and the organization has its best group of arms in years. Detroit now has future starters to go with its always deep group of potential power relievers.
Paced by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, the Tigers’ lineup has been potent for years. The foundation of the next great lineup isn’t here yet. Detroit does have some up-the-middle prospects who could be big league regulars, but there are few players in the system who project as potential above-average hitters. Outfielder Christin Stewart is the best slugger in the system but most of the team’s top positions prospects lack star power.
Notable Graduations: OF JaCoby Jones (6) and SS Dixon Machado (14).
When he was training with Carlos Guillen as an amateur, Franklin Perez was a strong-armed third baseman. But in reality, he was a pitcher who just hadn't found his true home yet. When he moved to the mound, he quickly showed a delivery and an aptitude that seemed somewhat remarkable for a newly minted pitcher. He quickly surpassed many more experienced pitchers in the 2014 international amateur class as a clean delivery and ability to work in the strike zone made Perez stand out. He missed a month early the 2017 season with a knee injury but still reached Double-A before his 20th birthday. The Tigers made him the signature acquisition in the Justin Verlander trade, although the Aug. 31 deal came late enough in the season that Perez never got into a game with a Tigers club. The Tigers have pitching prospects with higher ceilings than Perez, but none who combine stuff and feel like Perez does. For a young pitcher, Perez already understands many of the finer details of the craft. He responds quickly to instruction and shows an aptitude for adjustments. After working on a new grip for his slider in just one side session, he successfully took it into his next game. Perez generally sits 92-94 mph, although he can touch 95-96 at his best. There are some scouts who believe that he may end up throwing harder in his 20s because his delivery is clean and he has plenty of athleticism. What's most notable is he commands all four of his pitches. His 75-80 mph curveball is his best secondary pitch. He's long had an ability to spin it, with 12-to-6 break, and he's shown he can loosen it up as an early-count strike or tighten it as a swing-and-miss out pitch. His changeup is a potentially average pitch as well, with more deception than late fade. He's messed with a slider as well. It's hard (88-89 mph) with late movement. It could be described as almost a slutter, as it's in between a cutter and a bigger slider, but because of its power and late movement it's reasonably effective. Perez doesn't blow hitters away like a future No. 1, but he also doesn't have all that much left to refine to be a future middle-of-the-rotation starter. He'll head to Double-A Erie, but could be only a year away from Detroit.
The Tigers understandably never imagined when the 2017 college season began that Faedo might be on the board when they picked. After knee surgery during the fall, Faedo got off to a slow start for the Gators and started sliding down draft boards (he'd been considered a likely top 10 pick). But just as teams lined up their preference lists, Faedo began to dominate again. He was the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series after posting a 0.32 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 27.1 postseason innings to lead the Gators to the title. The Tigers shut Faedo down when they signed him, as he already had thrown 123 innings during the college season. He will make his pro debut in 2018. At his best, Faedo has three plus pitches. He manipulates his 90-94 mph fastball as he can cut it, sink it or make it run. His low-80s slider was among the best in the college class as he can toy with its bite and depth depending on the situation. And his changeup falls off at the plate, giving him another swing-and-miss pitch. His stuff was not as firm early in the 2017 college season and he can get too reliant on his slider, but overall, it's a well-honed three-pitch package. While Faedo has a long arm action, he has average to above-average control. As an accomplished pitcher in the SEC, Faedo should move quickly, even if he's yet to make his pro debut. The cold weather of West Michigan in April makes the case to push Faedo to high Class A Lakeland. He projects as a solid No. 3 starter.
The son of an NBA player, Manning could have gone to Loyola Marymount to pitch and play forward on the basketball team. A $3.5 million signing bonus from the Tigers was a pretty convincing argument to give up basketball. Detroit held him back in extended spring training before sending him to the New York-Penn League. Manning wavered between dominant efforts and struggles both in short-season Connecticut and in a late-season cameo in low Class A West Michigan. When he's synced up his mechanics, Manning can dominate. But so far, Manning has been out of sync a lot. His arm slot unintentionally varied in 2017 from over the top to more of a high three-quarters delivery. He also varied from being direct to the plate to throwing across his body. He struggled with location as a result. In each of his first two outings with West Michigan he failed to make it out of the second inning. But when he put it together, he showed a plus 92-93 mph fastball that touched 95-96. His fastball has riding life up in the zone, or he can gear it down to locate it down and away to a righthanded hitter. His 12-to-6 above-average curveball looks like a second future plus pitch. Right now it's a late-count weapon that he buries while hitters flail helplessly, but he doesn't consistently throw it for strikes early in the count. His changeup is below-average. He needs to refine and develop it. As a tall, if athletic, righthander, Manning will continually have to work on the consistency of his delivery and he has to pick an arm slot. Ideally, Manning could develop into a front of the rotation ace, but if his control and changeup don't advance as expected he could also end up as a power reliever. He's ready to return to West Michigan for his first extended taste of full-season ball.
Burrows blitzed through the Florida State League, leaving plenty of helpless hitters in his wake as he earned a spot in the Futures Game, where he struck out a pair of hitters in a clean inning. Double-A hitters proved tougher, as Burrows' less-developed secondary offerings allowed hitters to look for his fastball. Burrows has a better fastball than any of the Tigers' other top starting pitching prospects. He can blow hitters away with consistent 94-95 mph fastballs--he touched 98 in the Futures Game. Burrows has a high spin rate that makes it appear that his heater has a late hop, generating swings and misses. But if he's going to avoid eventually being moved to the bullpen, he'll need to improve his trio of below-average offspeed pitches. His below-average slider and curveball both are not consistent enough and they sometimes blend together, leading to the question of whether he'd be better off focusing on one or the other. His curve is a little ahead of his slider. It's loopy but it has 12-to-6 break. His changeup is further away and needs more separation and deception. If Burrows were 25 years old, it would be time to move him to the pen and let him rely heavily on his excellent fastball. But he'll pitch the 2018 season as a 21-year-old, so there's plenty of time to let him continue to work on improving his offspeed pitches in Double-A Erie.
Rogers was seen as one of the best defensive catchers in the 2016 college draft class, but he also was an easy out at the plate for most of his Tulane career (.233 career hitter with seven home runs in three seasons). With many scouts seeing him as a glove-only catcher, he fell to the third round despite impeccable defensive credentials. Rogers has proven a better hitter in pro ball and was a key part of the Justin Verlander trade. At the plate, Rogers is looking to drive the ball. He has a big leg kick to start his swing and takes a ferocious cut with a pull-heavy approach. When it works, he has the power to deposit pitches in the left field bleachers. When it doesn't he rolls over groundouts or hits a number of harmless pop outs. Evaluators generally see him as a below-average hitter with a lot of swings and misses and average bat speed. But his power-heavy approach also gives him a chance to hit 20-plus home runs. Combine that with his plus arm (he threw out 46 percent of base stealers) and his defensive skills and that could still be a valuable big leaguer. Rogers embraces the leadership role, moves well behind the plate and has a strong left hand, giving him chance to be an above-average receiver as well. Rogers is at least a big league backup catcher and if he can make semi-consistent contact he has a solid chance to be an everyday regular. He'll jump to Double-A Erie in 2018 and with his defensive polish, isn't all that far from Detroit.
The son of longtime big league center fielder Mike Cameron, Daz slid in the 2015 draft because of his asking price. He landed a $4 million bonus that matched that of Astros first-round pick Kyle Tucker. Cameron wasn't ready for the Midwest League in 2016, and a finger injury ended his season early. He was much better in his second try at full-season ball, impressing the Tigers enough to make sure he was included in the Justin Verlander trade. Cameron has a good understanding of the strike zone and recognizes pitches to hit, but early in his pro career he would fail to consistently square up hittable pitches, often fouling them off instead. His swing path proved to be too steep. Cameron has worked to keep the bat through the zone longer and it has paid off in better contact. Optimistic projections see Cameron as an average hitter, but that should be enough to be a regular as he has the strength and bat speed to hit 15-20 home runs in his prime. Cameron is an above-average defender in center field with an average arm and above-average speed. Cameron lacks a truly exceptional tool, but he's a hard worker and he has a well-rounded skill set. He's ready for high Class A Lakeland.
If not for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Fernando Tatis Jr.'s standout seasons, Paredes would have generated plenty of an attention as an 18-year-old shortstop who hit 11 home runs, drew walks and didn't strike out much. Along with Jeimer Candelario, he was acquired from the Cubs for lefthander Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila at the end of July. Even if his stats don't fully indicate it, scouts saw him as one of the better pure hitters in the Midwest League. He showed a consistent ability to square up balls, while showing pitch recognition, a whole-field approach and the plate discipline of an older, more experienced hitter before wearing down in August. He should be at least an above-average hitter and he has a chance to hit 15-20 home runs a season. Defensively, there's much less consensus. Paredes' thick trunk draws comparisons to Jhonny Peralta, but more often, players with Paredes' build end up moving to second or third base. With an above-average arm, soft hands and good instincts, he should be able to stick at either spot if he stays on top of his conditioning. Paredes' ultimate ceiling depends on how his body develops. If he doesn't get much thicker, Paredes could stick at a premium defensive position where his well-rounded offensive toolset will make him an asset. He should be one of the younger players in the Florida State League in 2018.
One of the top signees in the Blue Jays' 2011 international class, Lugo has gotten used to the realities of pro baseball as he's been traded around the trade deadline twice in the past three seasons. The first time he went to the Diamondbacks for Cliff Pennington and in 2017, the D-backs included him in the trade that also sent Jose King and Sergio Alcantara to the Tigers for J.D. Martinez. Lugo is trying to straddle a tricky paradox. He's a solid third baseman defensively, but he'll have to get to his power more often to really fit at third base. Scouts are less confident he can be an average defender at second base, where his above-average hit and average power would be a better fit. Lugo has plenty of bat speed and above-average hand-eye coordination. He recognizes pitches quickly out of the hand and has steadily turned himself into a very tough out. But that has come at the expense of power. He has above-average raw power, but he has a hit-first approach come game-time at the expense of power. Lugo has a plus arm which plays very well at third and good hands, but his first-step quickness is modest. He's a below-average runner. Lugo isn't all that far away from competing for a big league job. The former shortstop could end up at second or third base depending on team need. He doesn't have exceptional upside, but he has a good chance at a solid big league career.
Stewart ranked among the top 10 in NCAA Division I in home run rate during his junior year of college and he's shown similar power with a wood bat. He's easily led the organization in home runs in each of his two full seasons and ranks second in the minors with 58 home runs over the past two years. Like most power hitters in 2017, he strikes out, but not excessively. He is prone to chase out of the zone because he's looking to do damage whether early or late in counts. He does have some zone awareness and when he stays within himself, he can generate power from a relatively compact swing. Stewart is a little pull happy, but he has the ability to drive the ball out to all fields. Stewart is a below-average runner who is unlikely to be more than a below-average hitter, but with 25-30 home run power given regular at-bats. The concerns about Stewart revolve around when he's wearing an outfielder's glove. He has worked hard to improve his defense, and he has seen some improvement, but he's still well below-average. Most scouts say it's unrealistic to see him as anything better than a future 40 defensively on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. He's limited to left field by a well below-average arm. Stewart's best position is designated hitter, but few teams break in rookies at DH. To play left field regularly, he'll have to be a prodigious hitter to make up for his defensive limitations, which adds to his risk. Stewart either is an everyday regular or a minor leaguer, but his swing gives him a chance to be a productive power hitter.
There's little question that Soto has a big league arm, but he's yet to do much to quiet the speculation that in the long run he'll end up pitching out of the bullpen. Soto has one of the best arms in the Tigers' farm system. Soto sits 95-96 mph from the left side and his slider has enough power and shape to project as at least an above-average pitch as well. But Soto doesn't have a great idea of where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. His cross-body delivery helps contribute to his below-average control--he's walked 4.6 batters per nine inning over the past two seasons. Soto's changeup has a long way to go and its rudimentary nature leads more talk of relieving in the future. Soto has learned how to work out of trouble because he has had a lot of trouble he's worked out of already. Soto most likely ends up as a valuable bullpen arm with two pitches that can eat up lefties and enough stuff to be able to face righthanders. But there are enough glimpses of more for the Tigers to keep working on developing him as a starter when he returns to Lakeland.
In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.
Login or sign up