Jung, Jobe highlight next wave of top-tier Tigers prospects

April 3rd, 2024

NEW YORK -- The Tigers are off to a hot start with a roster stacked with former prospects who came up through the farm system. Now it’s the next generation’s turn.

Establishing waves of prospects in the system is generally seen as the sign of a healthy organization, and it makes sense that the Tigers -- one of the biggest risers in farm system rankings going into this season -- have been doing just that. Nearly half of the Tigers’ ranked prospects have either already debuted in Detroit or are projected to get there at some point this season. Top pitching prospect Jackson Jobe is on track to battle for a rotation spot next year, but he could make a push for later this season. Another wave, led by a star-studded Draft class from last summer, could be on the way in a couple years.

Many of these prospects were part of the reason the Tigers won 20 games in Spring Training, their best Grapefruit League performance since 2012. Some were in Major League camp, others came over from Minor League camp as extra players for the late innings, especially during split-squad games. They’ll try to continue that success in the system, where Double-A Erie is defending an Eastern League title, Single-A Lakeland is trying to get back to the playoffs and others are trying to build on strong finishes to last season.

“We want to live at the intersection of development and winning, at every level,” president of baseball operations Scott Harris said last week. “I think we can preach those two things at the same time, and I think you saw it in Spring Training.”

Even as Detroit rises, the anticipation over Tigers prospects doesn’t wane. Here’s a look at where each ranked prospect fits among Detroit's affiliates to begin the season:

Triple-A Toledo

Player to Watch: IF Jace Jung (No. 4)
The 2022 first-round Draft pick showed in Spring Training that he’s not far off from being Major League ready and filling the void at third base that the Tigers are currently manning with a platoon. He’ll be tasked with adjusting to advanced pitching after slugging 28 homers last year between Double-A Erie and High-A West Michigan.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Keider Montero (No. 8)
Montero, a late bloomer of a prospect who went 15-4 in 26 starts last year across three levels, impressed in Spring Training with a combination of power fastballs and high-spin breaking balls. He tossed four scoreless innings with a walk and six strikeouts in his season debut for the Mud Hens last Saturday.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: OF Justyn-Henry Malloy (No. 7), RHP Wilmer Flores (No. 9), OF Justice Bigbie (No. 12), C Dillon Dingler (No. 13), LHP Brant Hurter (No. 15), OF Wenceel Pérez (No. 20), IF/OF Eddys Leonard (No. 21)

Double-A Erie
Opening Day: Friday at Harrisburg, 7 p.m. ET

Player to Watch: 2B Hao-Yu Lee (No. 14)
The SeaWolves aren’t as deep in hitting prospects as in recent years, but Lee has a chance to be next in an infield pipeline that included Jung and Colt Keith last year. The 21-year-old has a nice combination of punch and speed at the plate and held his own at the Arizona Fall League following a Trade Deadline deal with the Phillies for Michael Lorenzen.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Jackson Jobe (No. 3)
Jobe’s starts have a chance to be an event at UPMC Park after he dominated hitters in an inning of Spring Training work that was televised back to Detroit. His breaking pitches move like crazy, but his combination of a 101 mph fastball and shifty changeup are just as nasty.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: RHP Ty Madden (No. 5), RHP Troy Melton (No. 11), OF/IF Trei Cruz (No. 30)

High-A West Michigan
Opening Day: Friday at Lake County, 6:35 p.m. ET

Player to Watch: 2B Max Anderson (No. 17)
The former Nebraska Cornhusker slugged his way to a second-round Draft selection last year and hasn’t let up, earning a High-A placement to begin his first full pro season by batting .289 with a .790 OPS last year in Lakeland. The 22-year-old has solid doubles power but could be challenged to translate that into homers at spacious LMCU Ballpark.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Dylan Smith (No. 23)
Injuries have halted Smith’s trajectory since the Tigers drafted the former Alabama ace in the third round in 2021. This will be his third season at West Michigan. When he’s healthy, he has been effective, including 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.74 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 34 career pro appearances, not counting a stint in the Arizona Fall League last offseason.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: OF Roberto Campos (No. 24), IF Peyton Graham (No. 25), 3B Izaac Pacheco (No. 29)

Single-A Lakeland
Opening Day: Friday at Dunedin, 6:30 p.m. ET

Player to Watch: OF Max Clark (No. 1)
The Flying Tigers are stacked with young positional talent, none bigger than Clark, the third overall pick from last year’s Draft. He’s a potential five-tool talent, and his speed has a chance to thrive in the big outfield of Joker Marchant Stadium, as he showed in last month’s Spring Breakout win over the Phillies.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Yosber Sanchez
The Flying Tigers' pitching staff features no ranked prospects to start the season, but plenty of intriguing arms. Among them is Sanchez, a big relief arm who struck out 39 batters over 22 1/3 innings in the Dominican Summer League last year after the Rangers released him. His fastball sat in the mid-90s during a late-season stint in Lakeland last year but topped out at 99 mph, setting up a curveball that he can spot for strikes and a slider that can draw swings and misses.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: SS Kevin McGonigle (No. 6), Josue Briceño (No. 18), IF Cristian Santana (No. 26)