Top prospect Clark, Lee earn Futures Game nods

July 9th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Before Riley Greene became an All-Star, the Tigers outfielder gave a glimpse of his potential in the Futures Game three years ago, slapping two singles at Coors Field. The Tigers can hope (Detroit’s No. 1 prospect) and Hao-Yu Lee (No. 13 prospect) can follow a similar path.

When players voted in Greene as an outfield reserve, he became the first position player to come up through the Tigers’ system and represent the club at the All-Star Game since Alex Avila in 2011. All of the Tigers All-Star hitters since then -- Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Jose Iglesias and Justin Upton -- had been brought in from other organizations, where they had broken into the big leagues.

Greene’s arrival as an All-Star is a big step. While the strength of this rebuilt Tigers roster is pitching, bolstered by a coaching group that has helped Tarik Skubal, Reese Olson and others emerge as front-line starters, the Tigers need to find and produce impact position players in their farm system.

Clark became the latest face of that effort when the Tigers drafted him third overall last summer, the first Draft under president of baseball operations Scott Harris and amateur scouting director Mark Conner.

After an up-and-down start to his first full pro season at Single-A Lakeland, Clark has put his stamp on the Florida State League. He entered Tuesday batting .329 (25-for-76) with four homers, 20 RBIs and a .951 OPS over his last 21 games (since June 9). He torched the Tampa Tarpons -- the Yankees’ Single-A affiliate -- in a 9-for-19 series last week that included two homers, a double and nine RBIs, capped by a five-RBI performance Saturday.

Clark’s recent surge has sent him up the prospect rankings as well. He moved up to No. 10 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list last week. His Futures Game appearance could potentially serve as a prelude to a midseason promotion to High-A West Michigan.

Lee doesn’t precisely fit the homegrown Tigers prospect rule; he was a Phillies amateur signing before Detroit acquired him in the Michael Lorenzen trade in August 2023. However, he has taken a huge leap since joining the Tigers' system, from his first double-digit-homer season to improved use of his speed on the basepaths, something he prioritized heading into the season and demonstrated by going 12-for-12 on stolen bases. His .881 OPS entering Tuesday is his highest for any extended stretch.

“He’s an explosive player,” SeaWolves manager Gabe Alvarez said early this season. “He’s fearless out there. That’s the best way I can describe him: He’s not scared out there. He likes to run, he likes to be aggressive, and he’s played outstanding defense.”

He’s doing all this while ranking as one of the younger players in the league. Lee turned 21 in February, and has yet to face a pitcher younger than him this season, according to Baseball-Reference.