After spending the better part of the last five seasons rebuilding via the Draft, trades and international market, the Tigers began to reap the rewards of their efforts during the shortened 2020 season, promoting Top 100 pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal to the Major Leagues, along with notable position players such as Isaac Paredes and Daz Cameron. Although ushering in a new wave of talent didn’t translate to immediate success for the Tigers, who finished fifth in the American League Central for a second straight year, it did lay important groundwork for their future.
Finishing with baseball’s worst record in 2019 netted the Tigers their second No. 1 overall pick in a three-year span in ‘20, as they complemented their selection of Mize (’18) by taking Spencer Torkelson, the top hitter in the country. One of six hitters drafted by Detroit this year, the Arizona State product is also the highest ranked of the organization’s five Top 100 prospects, all of whom rank inside the Top 50.
As a result of their 23-35 record this past season, the Tigers are set to pick No. 3 overall in the 2021 Draft, which will mark the fourth straight year that the organization has had a top-five pick. That should allow them to infuse an already top-ranked system with even more impact talent in a year that will likely feature many of the Detroit’s elite prospects playing in the big leagues together for the first time.
FARM SYSTEM RANKINGS
2020 Midseason: 2 | Preseason: 5
2019 Midseason: 6 | Preseason: 10
2018 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2017 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2016 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2015 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
Only the top 10 systems were ranked from 2015 to 2019 preseason; the top 15 systems were ranked 2019 midseason.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
Trade: Zack Short, SS (No. 26)
Detroit injected some offensive firepower into its pitching-heavy system once again this year by selecting a hitter with each of its six picks in the 2020 Draft. Five of those players came from the college ranks, and the lone prep player taken by the club, fifth-rounder Colt Keith, received an above-slot bonus. More important, all six players now rank among the Tigers’ Top 30 prospects, giving the system a slew of promising young hitters to go along with 2019 first-rounder Riley Greene. Zack Short, acquired from the Cubs for Cameron Maybin at the Trade Deadline, is a solid infield depth piece who’s already on the 40-man roster.
2021 IMPACT PROSPECT
Casey Mize, RHP: Promoted by Detroit roughly a month into the season, the former No. 1 overall pick struggled to find consistency in his first taste of the Majors, going 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA and seven home runs allowed in 28 1/3 frames (seven starts). Mize’s stuff was plenty good, as the right-hander operated with three plus pitches in his best outings, but the control and command both left something to be desired. But with valuable experience now under his belt, it would surprise no one to see the 23-year-old begin to put it together in ’21.
2022 TOP PROSPECT
Riley Greene, OF: Selected fifth overall by the Tigers in ’19, Greene cemented his status as one of the best hitters in the class by raking his way up to full-season ball in his pro debut. He was a standout on both sides of the ball in his first big league camp this past spring, then continued to open eyes with his performance during Summer Camp and at the team’s alternate training site, showcasing a superb combination of hitting ability, patience and game power.
Hit: Riley Greene
Power: Spencer Torkelson
Run: Parker Meadows
Arm: Jose De La Cruz
Field: Derek Hill
Best athlete: Hill
Fastball: Tarik Skubal
Curveball: Matt Manning
Slider: Zack Hess
Changeup: Mize (splitter)
Control: Alex Faedo
How the Top 30 Was Built
The top of the Tigers’ Top 30 list reflects the organization’s ability to land first-round talents in recent years, and the fact that Draftees account for 10 of the top 15 spots on the list shows that the team knows how to find success in later rounds as well. International signees Roberto Campos (No. 20), 17, and 18-year-old Jose De La Cruz (No. 25) are both high-ceiling outfielders who will need time to develop in the Minors. Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers, acquired from Houston in the Justin Verlander deal, have yet to break through at the Major League level, while right-hander Franklin Perez’s once-promising trajectory has been beset by injuries.
Top 30 by Position
Though the quality and quantity of pitchers on Detroit’s Top 30 list will inevitably take a hit with the graduations of Mize, Skubal and Manning, the system should still have quite a few upper-level arms capable of contributing the Major Leagues. The sheer number of position players (20) on the list is largely a product of Detroit’s past three Draft classes, which together netted the organization 12 Top 30 prospects, including seven infielders. The latter group, led by Torkelson, will be key to the franchise’s turnaround at the Major League level.