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…
5. Jake Thompson- Starting Pitcher
Thompson was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft by the Tigers and like some of their higher pitching draft choices in the past, he could move pretty quickly. Thompson is a big bodied pitcher who owns a three pitch mix that is at least solid across the board with the potential for more. Thompson’s fastball sits comfortably in the low 90′s and occasionally can get to the mid 90′s. Because of his frame, there isn’t a ton of projection with Thompson, but if he can get a MPH or two on his fastball, his mid rotation projection could take on a slightly higher ceiling. Thompson also shows promise with his curve and his change, both flashing as above average on occasion. His feel for his three pitches at his age is a good sign, though I do want to caution the ceiling might not be as high as others on this list if the velocity doesn’t see a little bit of an uptick.
4. Danry Vasquez- Outfielder
Vasquez is one of the more intriguing players in the Tigers system. I guess that is obvious considering the high ranking. For those that saw him early in 2012 in West Michigan, don’t worry, Vasquez still projects to be a top notch offensive player. Vasquez has the ability to make solid contact to all fields, and shows good plate discipline for someone so young. He turns 19 early in 2013. His line drive stroke and good hand-eye coordination make many think that he could be a plus hitter down the road. Vasquez at this point needs to develop some strength, and many think he will be able to do so given his frame. If his power projection comes through, offensively at least, Vasquez could be the prototypical right fielder. His athleticism isn’t great, but he isn’t a complete sloth either.
3. Bruce Rondon- Relief Pitcher
Rondon is quickly becoming one of the most talked about Detroit Tigers right now. With the Tigers not interested in bringing back Jose Valverde, Tigers GM David Dombrowski has hinted that Rondon will have a chance to close in 2013 with Detroit. He certainly has the stuff to do so. Rondon hits triple digits with his fastball consistently, but unlike a lot of other fireball pitchers, he possesses two secondary pitches. He also has a change up and a slider. Though neither is a great pitch, Rondon’s slider at times is filthy with sharp break and a true swing and miss pitch. His change isn’t really that bad either. What Rondon lacks is consistency with his secondaries, and command of all of his pitches. His walk rate at around 4.5 per 9 last season was low for him. However, his repertoire is so difficult to hit, it rarely hurts him. I should also mention that his fastball isn’t straight either, it moves, and when players do connect with it, they rarely square it up. Rondon is like a gunslinger from the old West who shot from the hip in pitching form, just winging it out there on the mound, and it’s difficult for hitter to dig in on a guy like that.
2. Avisail Garcia- Outfielder
I have to say, I am real tempted to put Garcia number one on this list. By now, Tigers fans who make their way around the Tigers blogosphere, and who watched Garcia at the end of the year, kind of have an idea on him. What jumps out obviously is that he is a flat out physical specimen for a 21 year old, and is blessed with tremendous physical ability. 2012 was a big step forward with Garcia. His plate discipline got better, and even though he didn’t walk a ton, his selection in swinging at strikes was better. He runs better than average at this point, though I suspect that will last about five or six more years, where hopefully his power projection will be realized. That will be the next step in Garcia’s development, driving the baseball more consistently and more often. Defensively, he has a real good arm, and while he has his speed still, could be a plus defender for several years.
1. Nick Castellanos- Third Base
I put Castellanos down as a third baseman, mainly because I think that is where he fits best. Maybe left field down the road. At this point, I am going to sound like a broken record, but Castellanos has the qualities to be a plus hitter, and to me it’s mainly because of his hands. The best hitters adjust within at-bats and Castellanos has shown an ability to do so. The only thing that scouts might wonder about is how much power Castellanos projects for. He already shows good ability to drive the ball to right-center field, and at the very least looks like a doubles machine. Some people are worried by his strikeouts, but there isn’t any reason to worry at this point. He was 20 years old in AA, and by all rights should have been playing low A ball. Castellanos is simply real advanced as a hitter for his age. Defensively, he obviously doesn’t really have a home yet, and will likely have to wait out Prince Fielder moving to DH before he settles in.