LAKELAND, Fla. -- If Dave Dombrowski said it once, he said it 100 times during his Tigers tenure as general manager: You can never have enough pitching. As the Tigers restock their farm system, his successor, Al Avila, is taking it to heart.
While the top end of MLB Pipeline’s Tigers prospect rankings looks familiar with Casey Mize and Matt Manning, the arms buildup continues beyond them. Tarik Skubal’s breakthrough 2019 season sent him skyrocketing up the system rankings. Joey Wentz, the main prospect returned to Detroit from Atlanta in the Shane Greene trade, played a strong final month at Double-A Erie into a spot firmly in the top 10. Alex Faedo’s quietly strong season maintained his spot.
Last summer’s Erie SeaWolves rotation comprises half of the 2020 Tigers' Top 10. Add in Anthony Castro, whose breakout season as a swingman in Erie landed him at 16, and reliever Wladimir Pinto at 28, and the talent from that group is all over.
Even with the odds against all the Tigers’ starting prospects sticking in a big league rotation, the system depth means the Tigers could eventually boast a mainly homegrown rotation, maybe sooner rather than later. Several of those pitchers could arrive in Detroit at some point this year.
The key to the Tigers’ eventual rise is finding the offense to go with all that pitching. On that side, they have more talent than they did a year ago thanks to a solid Draft and international signing class, but those players will take time. Riley Greene’s Spring Training impact doesn’t change the fact that he has less than a full season as a professional and ended last year at West Michigan. Jose De La Cruz, Adinso Reyes and Roberto Campos all have upside to raise up future rankings, but none of them have played stateside yet.
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2019 preseason list to the 2020 preseason list:
Jump: Jose De La Cruz, OF (2019: NR | 2020: 22) – De La Cruz was a top-20 international signing in 2018 and backed it up with an outstanding season in the Dominican Summer League. Add in his physical maturation, and he has the potential for a Riley Greene type of impact in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Fall: Sergio Alcantara, SS (2019: 15 | 2020: NR) – Though Alcantara continues to show advanced defensive skills at each level, his offensive limitations linger, despite a good eye at the plate. At this point, his best chance to make it to Detroit is as a utility infielder.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 60 – Greene
Power: 55 – Greene (Campos, De La Cruz)
Run: 70 – Derek Hill
Arm: 65 – Jake Rogers
Defense: 65 – Rogers (Hill)
Fastball: 60 – Mize (Manning, Skubal, Franklin Perez, Bryan Garcia, Anthony Castro, Kyle Funkhouser, Pinto, Zack Hess)
Curveball: 60 – Manning (Franklin Perez)
Slider: 60 – Mize (Skubal, Zack Hess)
Changeup: 60 -- Wentz
Control: 60 -- Mize
How they were built
Draft: 16 | International: 7 | Trade: 7
Breakdown by ETA
2020: 13 | 2021: 7 | 2022: 7 | 2023: 1 | 2024: 1 | 2025: 1
Breakdown by position
C: 1 | 1B: 0 | 2B: 1 | SS: 3 | 3B: 3 | OF: 7 | RHP: 13 | LHP: 2