Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects 2015
The calendar has flipped and spring training is fast approaching once again, meaning it is time for the baseball world to go crazy over prospect rankings for the forthcoming season. Based primarily on stats and potential, below is our list of the Detroit Tigers’ top 20 prospects for 2015.
1. Steven Moya OF: Signed out of Puerto Rico in 2008, Steven Moya had his breakout year in 2014, culminating in 8 at bats at the major-league level. Standing at 6’6 and weighing 230 pounds, Moya still runs fairly well for his size in the outfield. His main weapons are his above average power with his arm and bat.
Last year for the Double A Erie SeaWolves, the 23 year-old slugged a league leading 35 home runs and 105 RBIs, stole 16 bases and maintained a .276 average in 133 games. That was good enough for League MVP and a call up to the majors, and the left-handed hitter notched 3 hits in his 8 plate appearances. Expect Moya to compete for a spot on the active roster for the Tigers out of spring training.
2. Derek Hill OF: Hill was the Tigers’ 1st round pick in 2014, selected 23rd overall. The outfielder possesses exceptional speed and has the potential to dictate an opposing pitcher’s actions on the mound. Hill’s strong arm allows him to be a major asset on defense also, though it is his bat that needs to catch up.
In 47 games last year at low Single A, the 19 year-old posted just a .208 average, but did steal 11 bases. Hill’s ability to walk and potential to hit for a solid average makes the right-hander ideal for a lead off spot for the Tigers in the future. Hill is expected to start 2015 in the upper ranks of Single A.
3. Kevin Ziomek LHP: Drafted in the 2nd round in 2013, Kevin Ziomek signed with the Tigers for $956,000. The front office believes the big left-hander will prove to be great value as he rises through the minor-league ranks. Ziomek has three above average offerings: fastball, slider and changeup, which allow him to strike out over a batter per inning. Drafted out of Vanderbilt University, the Tigers predict Ziomek becoming the next Drew Smyly, or better.
The 22 year-old had a sterling year in 2014, pitching in 23 games for the Single A West Michigan Whitecaps. He posted a 10-6 record, 2.27 ERA and 152 strikeouts in just 123 innings. Ziomek projects to be a 2-3 starter in the future and is expected to start 2015 with the Single A advanced Lakeland Flying Tigers.
4. James McCann C: McCann was the 2nd round draft pick for the Tigers in 2011, and made it to the major-leagues in his 4th season of professional baseball. Though coaches will advocate for his defensive tools more than his offensive ones, the right-hander put together a terrific year with the bat in 2014. His above arm and range behind the plate will allow him to hold his own in the majors, but it is his bat that will determine what role he has with the Tigers.
For the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens a year ago, the 24 year-old posted a .295 average, with 7 home runs and 34 doubles. That was enough to earn a call up to the big-leagues and in 12 plate appearances, McCann recorded 3 hits. He’ll compete for the backup role out of spring training.
5. Austin Kubitza RHP: Brother of LA Angels of Anaheim prospect Kyle, Austin Kubitza is aiming to make it to the majors on the mound, as opposed to with the bat. Drafted in the 4th round in 2013, Kubitza has an above average fastball and slider, and the potential for a decent changeup also.
In 23 starts for the Single A West Michigan Whitecaps last year, the right-hander posted terrific numbers: 10-2 record, 2.34 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. The 6’5 hurler drew a 3.72 GO/AO ratio, leading to just 5 home runs given up all of last season. Tigers fans can expect to see Kubitza in Double A at some point in 2015, with a call up possible towards the end of the summer.
6. Dixon Machado 2B/SS: Signed by the Tigers back in 2008, Dixon Machado is widely regarded as the best defensive middle infielder in the Tigers minor-league system. The 22 year-old has above average glove and footwork, and an arm capable of holding down the shortstop position against any competition.
His bat is the tool the Tigers front office are more concerned about however. A lack of power and an average ability to hit consistently mean Machado is up against it every time he enters the batter’s box. With that said, the right-hander had a pleasant year in 2014, splitting time between Single and Double A. Overall, he posted a .286 average, .375 OBP, 6 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 131 games. Machado will likely see time at Triple A in 2015.
7. Hernan Perez 2B/SS: Perez has all the tools to be a solid major-league infielder for the Tigers in the future. Signed originally out of Venezuela in 2007, Perez has seen time at the major-league level in each of the last three seasons. The Tigers front office like his solid approach at the plate and plus defense and range on defense.
In 133 total games at Triple A, the 23 year-old hit .287, 45 extra base hits and stole 21 bases. As he matures in all facets of his game, Perez should be more successful in the majors. He’ll compete for a spot on the active roster out of spring training, but the chances are running out. Big year for Perez.
8. Buck Farmer RHP: Drafted in the 5th round in 2013, Buck Farmer has risen quickly through the Tigers farm system, making 4 appearances in the majors in just his second season of pro ball last year. The 6’4 right-hander possesses an above average fastball and slider, as well as an average changeup that needs some refining.
His minor-league totals in 2014 were solid: 22 starts, 12-6 record, 3.07 average, 129 strikeouts in 123 innings. His 4 games in the majors weren’t as prosperous however, as the 23 year-old posted an 11.57 ERA in 9.1 innings. Farmer will likely be given another chance at the highest level in 2015, but will need to perform better.
9. Drew VerHagen RHP: VerHagen is another tall right-hander the Tigers drafted in the upper rounds of the Draft. Standing at 6’6 and selected in the 4th round in 2013, VerHagen has the potential for three above average major-league offerings. The 24 year-old appears to be ready for the majors, having made a solid start their last year.
His 3.67 ERA in 19 starts at Triple A earned him a call up to Detriot in July, where he surrendered 3 runs in 5 innings. It wasn’t a bad start, and VerHagen will get the chance to improve by competing for a spot in the rotation out of spring training.
10. Joe Jimenez RHP: The Tigers signed Jimenez as a free agent as an 18 year-old out of Puerto Rico in 2013. He has impressed the coaching staff with an electric fastball that has a velocity reaching 98mph, and an above average slider. The 6’3 righty has decent control for his age, priming him for a role in the bullpen in the future.
In Jimenez’s two seasons as a professional, he has been magnificent. In 31 games, he has posted a 6-3 record, 1.81 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 44.2 innings. He has all the tools to be a lockdown closer in the majors, and will likely be there in approximately three years.
11. Grayson Greiner C: Drafted in the 3rd round in 2013, Grayson Greiner will match the tallest major-league backstop at 6’6, should he indeed make it to the show. The giant prospect, surprisingly, has above average defensive tools, including a strong arm and uncharacteristically good range. Weighing 215 pounds, Greiner has power potential also.
In 26 games for the West Michigan WhiteCaps last year, the 22 year-old batted .322, with 2 home runs and 5 doubles. Greiner has a lot of upside, it just depends if he will be given long enough to adapt to the rigor of professional baseball. He figures to start 2015 with the Double A Erie SeaWolves, with an eye on the majors by 2016.
12. Tyler Collins OF: At 24 years of age, Tyler Collins may be the most big-league ready of any prospect in the Tigers minor-league system. Known for his sterling batting average and solid pop off the bat, Collins has hit everywhere he has played. He has decent speed, which helps him in the outfield and on the bases.
Collins made his major-league debut in 2014 and, in 24 at bats, the former 6th round pick hit .250 with 1 home run. The left-hander appears to be done with the minors, after hitting 39 dingers in the past 2 seasons. He’ll compete for a spot on the active roster out of spring training in 2015.
13. Javier Betancourt 2B: Betancourt was one of the Tigers’ top international signings back in 2011, when he signed out of Venezuela as a 16 year-old. Betancourt holds himself well on both offense and defense, and has the potential to be a solid everyday player in the majors.
The 19 year-old made the jump to full-season ball in 2014, after two successful seasons in the rookie leagues to begin his career. In 134 games for the Single A West Michigan Whitecaps, Betancourt hit .269, 6 home runs and 18 doubles. Though he can play either middle infield position, he is likely to play second base moving forward.
14. Julio Martinez OF: Martinez was the Tigers’ top international free agent of 2014, and for good reason. Except for his speed, the 17 year-old possesses above average tools across the board, including his ability to hit for average and power, and a strong arm on defense. Standing at 6’3 already as a teenager, Martinez may transition to first base once he starts to fill out his large frame.
Martinez will remain in his home country of the Dominican Republic in 2015, and work on improving his already mature tools. Particularly, the Tigers coaching staff will want to improve his approach at the plate, and continue to delve into his untapped raw power. It may be a while before Tigers fans see the big outfielder in the majors, but it appears that it will be well worth the wait.
15. Spencer Turnbull RHP: Drafted in the 2nd round in 2014, Turnbull has two above average offerings that should see him appear in the major-leagues at some point in the future. His 6’3, 215 pound stature is where he generates the speed for his fastball, which tops out at around 98mph.
Turnbull got straight to work last year, pitching in 12 games in the lower ranks of Single A. He struggled slightly however, producing a 4.31 ERA in 28.1 innings, with 19 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.59. He’ll look to get back to his old self in 2015, when the 22 year-old makes the jump to the full-season format.
16. Kyle Ryan LHP: Ryan struggled mightily for the Double A Erie SeaWolves in the first half of 2014, yet ended up making his major-league debut in the second. Ryan is not a strikeout pitcher, instead relying on precise command and accuracy. His fastball sits comfortably in the low-90s, and a decent curveball keeps hitters off balance.
In his 10.1 relief innings in the majors last year, Ryan posted a 2-0 record and 2.61 ERA. Having been a starter for his entire professional career until this level, it is still unclear of how the Tigers front office plan to use Ryan moving forward. He’ll compete for a spot in the rotation out of spring training this year, though a place in the bullpen may be more logical right now.
17. Chad Green RHP: Since being drafted in the 11th round in 2013 out of the University of Louisville, Chad Green’s professional career has gone sterlingly. In 35 appearances, 25 of which were starts, the 23 year-old has accumulated a 10-4 record and 3.17 ERA, including 141 strikeouts in 150.2 innings.
Green will look to start with the Single A advanced Lakeland Flying Tigers in 2015, as he tries to develop his below average slider and changeup offerings. His fastball is a decent one, currently sitting between 90-94mph, and will lead the way in his pro career. The 23 year-old may transition to the bullpen in the future.
18. Joe Mantiply LHP: The Tigers are the third team to have drafted Mantiply, selecting him in the 27th round in 2013. Mantiply strikes out a lot of batters, via a fastball in the mid-90s and decent slider and changeup offerings. The 23 year-old transitioned to the bullpen last year, after impressing as a starter in the New York Penn League, and performed terrifically.
In 2014, split across Single and Double A, Mantiply produced a 2.55 ERA in 46 games, while striking out 86 batters in 81.1 innings. Being a former starter, the Tigers project Mantiply as a set-up man or long relief pitcher in the majors, and should be within a chance of getting there in 2015.
19. Arvicent Perez C: The Tigers signed Perez as a dual first baseman-catcher out of Venezuela, though he has since concentrated his game around being a backstop. Perez doesn’t own any outstanding tools, but is solid defensively behind the plate, and has a knack of hitting for average wherever he plays.
In 2014, the 21 year-old split time between the rookie Gulf Coast League and low Single A Midwest League. In 41 total games, Perez hit 12 extra base hits and posted a .323 average. He has the potential to hit double digit home runs in the future, and will take his talents to the Single A advanced Lakeland Flying Tigers in 2015.
20. Nate Fury RHP: Selected in the 36th round of the 2014 Draft out of Louisiana State University, Fury reached Single A advanced in his first season in professional baseball. The 23 year-old has impressed the Tigers coaching staff enough to likely start in Double A in 2015.
Last year, split across three Single A levels, Fury posted a 1.76 ERA in 20 games, while striking out 39 batters in just 30.2 innings. He made all of his appearances out of the bullpen, and projects to provide the Tigers a reliable relief arm at the majors in the future.