The latest MLB Pipeline Tigers Top 30 Prospects list is out, as well as Pipeline’s farm system rankings, where Detroit remains second to Tampa Bay. The top of the list remained pretty static, but the back half shifted quite a bit. The unveiling prompted questions; here are some best attempts at answers:
What is the plan for Isaac Paredes? Second base?
At the very least, it’s looking like a strong option for the Tigers that fits their long-term plan. If Jeimer Candelario sticks at third base, or if Spencer Torkelson eventually takes over there, second is a way to get Paredes into the everyday lineup. Even if neither scenario happens, the Tigers have depth at third, with five prospects among their Top 30. By contrast, Kody Clemens was the only prospect on the list whose primary position is second.
One factor that could change that is if Willi Castro eventually shifts to second and the Tigers sign a shortstop. But Paredes has shown an ability to be flexible. He also has a middle-infielder’s instincts, having spent his first few pro seasons at shortstop.
And the games Paredes picked up at shortstop two years ago at Double-A Erie while primarily playing third base appear to be paying off right now.
What is the ETA for Matt Manning?
If the Tigers follow through with the idea of having Mannning stay in Lakeland, Fla., and go through Minor League Spring Training rather than report to the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, then Manning probably wouldn’t get the call until May at the earliest. Injuries could move up the timetable -- Michael Fulmer was supposed to be a potential mid- to late-season callup in 2016 until Shane Greene’s injury prompted Fulmer's debut at the end of April -- but even then, Manning would have to report to the alternate training site for five days before getting called up. For now, Manning looks like a little closer to a midseason callup than first chance available.
Although a year of development was missed with no Minor League season, Torkelson and Casey Mize have struggled this spring. Is it too early to be concerned?
I wonder if they will adjust rankings after watching Torkelson’s preseason at-bats. It's very concerning.
It’s Spring Training, and aside from instructional league, it was Torkelson’s first game action against an opponent in about a full year. I wouldn’t make much of it at this point, other than the idea of him bypassing the Minors to the big leagues was never realistic.
Mize is in a different category because he’s competing for the Opening Day roster after making seven starts for Detroit last year. His fastball velocity is normal, maybe even a tick up from what we saw last season, and he’s getting a fair number of swings and misses and strikeouts. Mize is also giving up a good amount of solid contact when hitters connect, and the splitter hasn’t been a dominant pitch.
Some evaluators believe Tarik Skubal is a more impressive prospect than Mize. Besides the performance so far, Skubal also has used his slider as an elite pitch at times, something Mize has struggled to do with the split. Being left-handed with Skubal’s arsenal also makes a difference. But if anyone can use a rough start like this to learn, it’s Mize, whose pitch mix is matched by his curiosity to explore different ways to use it.
What does Bryant Packard have to do to get some prospect love? I know the actual rankings don't matter as much as the reports, but it's hard for me to believe he's behind all those guys. I think his bat is going to play.
Packard is among a few players whose ranking was really hurt by the lack of a Minor League season, because his skill set really shines in games. There’s a good amount of belief that Packard’s bat can play in the Major Leagues. Many of the questions around him involve other factors, from his ultimate defensive position to his foot speed. Given the Tigers’ need for hitting, Packard easily could’ve been ranked higher on this list. Part of the difference this year came from an influx of talent from last year’s Draft, and part came from the rise of some of the international signings. But it doesn’t mean Packard has diminished as a prospect.