The Tigers were Major League Baseball’s worst team in 2019, losing 114 games en route to the second worst finish in franchise history. But even though it was a painful season for the team and its fans, the outcome was understandable -- perhaps even necessary -- for an organization in the middle of a rebuild.
Those rebuilding efforts have helped the Tigers assemble one of baseball’s better farm systems. After claiming the No. 10 spot in MLB Pipeline’s preseason farm-system rankings, they jumped to No. 6 on the list in our August re-rank after a strong Draft and successful Trade Deadline.
Detroit’s youth movement is built around pitching, and as a result the system is teeming with upper-level arms who are on the verge of contributing in the big leagues. That group includes four former first-round picks in right-handers Casey Mize (2018), Alex Faedo (2017), Matt Manning (2016) and Beau Burrows (2015), trade acquisition Joey Wentz, and southpaw Tarik Skubal, one of the 2019’s top breakout prospects.
Some of the club’s better offensive prospects are nearing the Majors as well, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if players such as Isaac Paredes, Daz Cameron and Willi Castro were to receive auditions at some point in 2020. Riley Greene, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 Draft, and 2018 second-rounder Parker Meadows are potential impact hitters but are at least a few years away.
Meanwhile, Detroit’s track record in developing first-round picks bodes extremely well for 2020, when the club will make the No. 1 pick in the Draft for the second time in the past three years.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
HITTING & PITCHING PROSPECTS OF THE YEAR
Isaac Paredes, INF: As one of the younger players in the Eastern League, the 20-year-old Paredes more than held his own, batting .282/.368/.416 with 13 homers, 23 doubles, 66 RBIs and nearly as many walks (57) as strikeouts (61) for Double-A Erie. He swung the bat particularly well down the stretch, too, producing a .321/.400/.466 line with seven homers, seven doubles and 33 RBIs over his final 50 games.
Tarik Skubal, LHP: Skubal, 23, emerged as one of the 2018 Draft’s biggest steals in his first full season while climbing to Double-A Erie, where he racked up 82 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings behind double-digit strikeout performances in six of his nine starts. The ninth-rounder from Seattle University finished the year with a 2.42 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 122 2/3 innings (24 starts) between two levels and ranked third in the Minors with 179 strikeouts. More »
Anthony Castro, RHP (No. 20): Though he was overshadowed by many of the other impressive arms in Erie’s rotation, Castro took a major step forward in 2019 in his first full Double-A campaign. An uptick in velocity had the 24-year-old running his fastball up to 98 mph, and, overall, he showed better feel for putting hitters away. He held hitters to a .207 clip and racked up 116 strikeouts over 102 1/3 innings, albeit while also issuing a career-high 65 walks.
Franklin Perez, RHP (No. 6): The Tigers’ prized return from Houston in the August 2017 Justin Verlander trade, Perez has totaled just 27 innings in Detroit’s system while battling myriad injuries. Specifically, the balky right shoulder that prematurely ended Perez’s 2018 campaign also cost him most of ’19, limiting him to just two starts in the Florida State League. The good news is that Perez is only entering his age-22 season, and therefore has time on his side to make a healthy return and get back on track with his development.
Draft: Riley Greene, OF, 1st round (No. 3 on Top 30); Nick Quintana, 3B, 2nd round (No. 16); Andre Lipcius, 3B, 3rd round (No. 24); Ryan Kreidler, 3B, 4th round; Bryant Packard, OF, 5th round (No. 26); Cooper Johnson, C, 6th round; Zack Hess, RHP, 7th round Complete Draft list »
International: Roberto Campos, OF (No. 25); Manuel Sequera, SS; Abelado Lopez, OF
Trade: Joey Wentz, LHP (No. 10; from Braves); Travis Demeritte, OF/IF (from Braves); Paul Richan, RHP (No. 19; from Cubs); Troy Stokes Jr., OF (No. 29; from Brewers); Alex Lange, RHP (No. 30; from Cubs)
After four straight pitcher-heavy Drafts, the Tigers shifted their focus to hitters in 2019 and selected one with their first six picks. Greene has the ceiling of a franchise-caliber player but will need time to develop as a high school pick, and the Tigers injected a wave of quality depth into their system by selecting college players with the next five picks. Campos, another teenager with power potential, received a $2.85 million bonus as the team’s top international addition, while Seguera and Lopez both signed for at least $700,000. Lastly, the decision to trade both Nicholas Castellanos and Shane Greene at the Deadline netted Detroit four Top 30 prospects along with Demeritte, who appeared in 48 big league games down the stretch.
2020 IMPACT PROSPECT
Casey Mize, RHP: Mize was as dominant as any hurler in the Minors during the first part of the season and fired a no-hitter in his Double-A Erie debut, but issues with his right shoulder landed the 2018 No. 1 overall pick on the injured list in June, and he was inconsistent upon returning before being shut down for the season in mid-August. As long as he’s healthy, Mize, with three plus pitches and exceptional feel for his craft, figures to spend most of 2020 in the Tigers’ rotation and will be among the more popular preseason picks for AL Rookie of the Year.
Hit: Isaac Paredes
Power: Riley Greene
Run: Derek Hill
Arm: Sergio Alcantara
Best athlete: Parker Meadows
Fastball: Casey Mize
Curveball: Matt Manning
Changeup: Mize (splitter)
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
Detroit’s system is loaded with homegrown talent, with Draft picks and international signees comprising two-thirds of the Tigers Top 30 Prospects list. Draft picks alone account for half of the list, and 13 players within that group are products of the Tigers’ 2016-19 Drafts. The rise and success of players such as Paredes and Castro reflect the Tigers’ international efforts, and the club has high hopes for both Campos and 20-year-old shortstop Wenceel Perez. The Verlander trade began to pay dividends for the club in 2019 with the arrival of catcher Jake Rogers, and Cameron appears poised to join him in the Majors at some point next season. In general, the Tigers have targeted both upper-level pitching depth and up-the-middle players in trades during their rebuild.
TOP 30 BY POSITION
While upper-level pitching depth is an obvious strength in Detroit’s system, it’s worth noting that 18 players on the club’s Top 30 list, and more specifically nine in the Top 11, will enter the 2020 season with previous experience at or above the Double-A level. That should give the Tigers’ everyday lineup a much different look as next season unfolds, as it’s only a matter of time until the team begins to reap the rewards of its developmental efforts by replacing the veterans on the current team with up-and-coming talents.