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Inbox: How will Detroit's prospects stack up?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
January 17, 2019

Time to dig back into the Tigers Inbox as the offseason rolls along. The Tigers Winter Caravan and TigerFest should provide some opportunity to answer more questions next week, but for now let's examine what we have.With MLB Pipeline beginning to release its lists of top prospects for each position,

Time to dig back into the Tigers Inbox as the offseason rolls along. The Tigers Winter Caravan and TigerFest should provide some opportunity to answer more questions next week, but for now let's examine what we have.
With MLB Pipeline beginning to release its lists of top prospects for each position, and eventually top 100, how many top 100 prospects do you think we will have to start this season? And who?
-- @tonydombrowski on Twitter

The Tigers had five prospects, all starting pitchers, on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list at the end of last season. They'll likely have at least four on the next list, possibly five. Their chance at getting six hinges on all five pitchers staying on the list, plus Daz Cameron getting a bump after rising from Class A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo last year. Christin Stewart could also crack the list, but that would be temporary until he has enough time in left field with Detroit to graduate him from prospect status.
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Once upon a time, the idea of jumping a pitching prospect to the Majors quickly wasn't that far-fetched. Jeremy Bonderman opened the 2003 season in the Tigers rotation at age 20 after ending the previous season in Class A ball. Rick Porcello did the same six years later. Justin Verlander made his Major League debut in 2005 barely a year after he was drafted.
Those moves rarely if ever happen anymore. Part of that is organizational planning: Teams try to time prospects' arrivals so that they can build a window to contend with young talent before players become eligible for free agency. Part, too, stems from the way teams watch pitchers' innings from year to year in hopes of avoiding too big of a jump that could increase risk of injury.
So, while there's a strong possibility Casey Mize opens Spring Training in Major League camp for the experience like Alex Faedo did last year, I don't expect him to get to the big leagues until next year.

I haven't heard much on Jose Iglesias, who remains a free agent. Shortstop is one of the positions on the free-agent market that hasn't had much movement this offseason, with Freddy Garcia, Alcides Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria and Asdrubal Cabrera also still unsigned. An eventual Manny Machado signing could put the rest of the market in motion, but there's such a big gap between Machado and the rest of the market. Trades have also had an impact, with the Phillies acquiring Jean Segura.

As great as it would be to see Curtis Granderson bring his career full circle, it's hard to see a fit in Detroit as the roster currently stands. Nicholas Castellanos is set as an everyday right fielder unless he's traded. Left fielder Stewart is a left-handed hitter like Granderson. The Tigers could have an opening for a part-time bat at designated hitter, but that would be a lot for which to pay Granderson at this point in his career. A Castellanos trade would create an opening for a good amount of at-bats in right field.

The plan is for Jose Cabrera to play primarily first base, and get some days at DH to keep his bat in the lineup while taking some wear and tear off his legs and back.

Tigers general manager Al Avila referenced this at the Winter Meetings with a quote I wrote about a couple weeks ago. His point was that it's unfair to pinpoint a return he should get for Castellanos, that it's up to what the market will bear. That relies on competition for a player's services, and right now -- much like J.D. Martinez in 2017 -- the Tigers don't have much competition building to acquire Castellanos right now. Maybe that changes once Bryce Harper and Machado sign and teams start scrambling for hitters, but it's far from guaranteed.

There are not many players left on the second-base market after last week's flurry of signings. Josh Harrison will likely have too much interest given his versatility. Neil Walker, John Forsythe, Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Phillips are still out there.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.