When compiling any list, it is essential to keep in mind these things tend to be very subjective, especially in the world of prospects. A prospect’s status can fluctuate as quickly as the stock market, depending on injury or a multitude of other factors. I have compiled this list based upon several things, including; scouting reports, contacts, statistics, and of course seeing the players in person.
I just want to say ranking 50 players is no easy task. I’m not looking for credit for it, that’s not why I say that. I say it because I am bound to be wrong on several players here. Last season, myself and ex MCB contributor James Chipman compiled the list together, and for the most part, I am pleased with our rankings. I tend to lean towards players with a higher ceiling, however, the Tigers system is one of the more difficult ones to rank. Please keep in mind that the difference between number 26 and 44 is relatively small, and in some cases you could argue that they could be easily switched. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
But lastly, prospect talk is meant to be fun, as is the rankings. Let’s generate some discussion on these guys.
Without further delay…
45. Jesus Ustariz- 3B
Ustariz is interesting to me because of his bat. While I think his ceiling is going to be limited somewhat because of a lack of athleticism and a true defensive home, I do believe that he is worth tracking. At just 19 years old, Ustariz shows excellent plate discipline, actually walking one more time this past season than he struck out. That’s not typical for 19 year olds, and he adds to it some good gap power that may develop into over the fence power in the next couple of years. Ultimately, I think his home will be first base, but keep an eye on him in 2013, there might be a jump in the rankings coming for him.
44. Jake Stewart- OF
Stewart makes the list in large part because he is a physical specimen whose tools are there to see, however, to this point they haven’t translated into success on the baseball field. There is a bunch of swing and miss in Stewart’s game, but when he does make contact, he has a good amount of pop. Stewart not only can take the ball over the fence, he can run the bases as well with his above average speed. Stewart also shows some ability defensively and wouldn’t be out of place at any outfield position, though right now he works in CF.
43. Javier Betancourt- SS
Betancourt on this list might be a little bit premature, however, sometimes I have to be on the forefront of these things. Last season in the VSL, a 17 year old Betancourt hit .333, striking out only 16 times in 123 at bats. At present, there isn’t a ton of power, but Betancourt makes solid contact and connected for five homers and six doubles, showing he isn’t a slap hitter either. I haven’t heard a lot on Betancourt thus far except one person I know thinks the bat is legit. Defensively, I am going to wait and see, but the comparison to Eugenio Suarez might be apt here.
42. Hudson Randall- Pitcher
Randall was a very successful pitcher for the University of Florida before being drafted by the Tigers in 2012. There was a good reason for that. He can pitch. Randall moves the ball around, changes speed, and in general sets up hitters well. He comes up a little short in terms of pure stuff however. The fastball doesn’t wow anyone, touching 90 or so, but lives in the high 80′s. Randall makes up for it in moxy and command, and is a classic 5th starter/long reliever tweener at his ceiling. He should move up the system relatively fast, and I wouldn’t even be surprised to see him starting in Lakeland this season.
41. Devon Travis- Second Base
Travis is another 2012 draft pick that makes the top 50 already. He signed for six figures in the 13th round, so the Tigers thought pretty highly of him. Travis is one of those guys that does a lot of things well, but nothing outstanding. He is solid at the dish, showing good plate discipline, giving him the potential to hit for average. He runs well, though I don’t see him as more than a 15 steal a year guy. He has some pop, though he isn’t going to drive the ball out consistently. Just a solid all around player, that isn’t going to stand out to scouts, but might find himself on a big league roster for several years.