Doing the Tigers Top 50 prospects list can be quite a chore. It’s a chore that I like to tackle every year, and following minor league baseball in general is a passion of mine, so I like to keep people up to date as much as possible throughout the year how our minor leaguers are doing.
If you follow Tigers prospects, or this site regularly, you probably are aware that the Tigers don’t have a very good farm system. Overall on the season, that assessment is playing out on the field as three of the four full season teams are off to losing records. West Michigan has a winning record, but it is one of the oldest squads in the league, so it should do well.
Since I can’t cover every player, I will tackle the top 10 that I had in my pre-season top 50 list, and then go over some of the other guys who are off to good starts, and not so good.
1. Nick Castellanos- Castellanos isn’t off to an impressive offensive start, but we have to keep in mind that not many 21 year old guys are playing at the AAA level at this stage. I’ve heard a report from someone that has seen Castellanos firsthand that he is showing off impressive hand-eye coordination, and ability to barrel baseballs throughout the zone, and outside. He also mentioned that Castellanos is overly aggressive despite cutting down on the strikeouts a bit. Hopefully the Tigers take some time, because it sounds like he needs some.
2. Avisail Garcia- Garcia hasn’t played because of a heel bruise that he suffered at the end of spring training.
3. Bruce Rondon- Rondon is off to a strong start after not being able to handle the pressure in the spring to take over the closing job. Word is, he is still working on mechanics and throwing strikes more consistently, but to this point, he hasn’t allowed a run in 5.2 innings. The encouraging thing is he has only walked two batters, but he isn’t pitching in the closing role for Toledo at this point.
4. Danry Vasquez- Vasquez is making a return to full season ball at the age of 19 years old after failing to stick there last season. This season, he is likely to stay all season in West Michigan regardless of results. So far, Vasquez is flashing his hitting ability here and there, but for the most part still seems over matched. The projected power still hasn’t shown up as his frame is still pretty muscle free, and he is getting beat by good fastballs and breaking balls. A long way to go for Vasquez.
5. Jake Thompson- Thompson is in extended spring training, mainly because of a report that his velocity is down a little bit. No reason to panic on that, as coming out of high school, his throwing regiment is no doubt more demanding than he was used to. It happens and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in West Michigan sometime in May or June.
6. Casey Crosby- Crosby is still Mr. Inconsistent. He is generating a ton of ground balls like he always does. He is striking out a good amount like he always does. But he is also walking a ton of guys like he always does as well. This is make or break time for Crosby as a starter, and it looks like he is cracking.
7. Eugenio Suarez- This is kind of the season in which we determine if Suarez is a potential starter or a future utility guy. He started the season slowly but has picked it up as of late. Suarez is striking out a bit more, but does draw a few walks here and there, and is hitting .286. He isn’t showing as much pop as he did last year, but it’s early, I want to give him time to adjust to the advanced level.
8. Tyler Collins- This one is a major surprise, especially after the spring Collins had with the big club. Collins is off to a terrible start in AA Erie, and from what I have seen so far (3 games), it isn’t that he is over matched, but he isn’t squaring up the baseball right now either. So far, he is just hitting .120 in his 25 at-bats.
9. Steven Moya- Moya is many people’s pick to break out in 2013. However, he is on the disabled list again after falling and hurting his non-throwing arm. Advanced A ball in Lakeland is a huge test for the 21 year old, and so far he isn’t passing. It’s just 20 at bat’s though, so I can’t exactly make a judgment at this point because of the injury.
10. Austin Schotts- I had forgotten to do a progression and regression posts about prospects, and if I did, I would’ve had Schotts in the regressions section. It isn’t that Schotts isn’t talented, but rather I feel like he just isn’t ready for full season ball yet. Schotts aggressive nature at the dish is getting exposed early this season, and hopefully he is a quick learner, otherwise, he could be swimming in it ala Danry Vasquez 2012. Schotts is hitting just .121 in 33 at-bats, striking out in 16 of those plate appearances.
Best Hitter So Far:
Perez has been largely slapped with an utility tag by most prospect experts, but I still believe he has a chance to be an average every day second baseman. Having seen him a couple times this season, Perez looks more comfortable with the bat in his hands than I have ever seen him, and he is making more solid contact than ever. Maybe the most telling thing is how he is taking pitches, he just isn’t as jumpy as he was previously. So far on the season, he is hitting .326, and despite not drawing walks, he isn’t striking out either. Perez is also showing good pop with five doubles and a home run so far, as well as stealing four bases.
Best Pitcher So Far:
Yikes! Having seen Robertson’s first start, being impressed with him as the Tigers top hurler so far is not a good thing for the Tigers organization. Robertson has been solid, in two starts he has gone 11 innings and allowed only two runs striking out six on the season. His fastball is just solid at 89-93, however, he has done a really good job of commanding it thus far. His secondaries need work from what I’ve seen, and he does have the kind of frame that you attach to innings eaters. If his breaking ball doesn’t get better though, it looks like the bullpen could be his future where his fastball could play up.
State of the Farm:
It’s not pretty right now. An already bad farm system has very few highlights to start the season, and unless Dixon Machado and Avisail Garcia light the world on fire when they get healthy, things are looking pretty bleak to start the season. It’s a good thing the Tigers don’t need much besides bullpen arms, where they do have a few that could pitch if needed.
There is no way to sugar coat it. The Tigers farm system stinks right now. Easily one of the worst in all of baseball.