We all know that Nick Castellanos is the Tigers best prospect. But that doesn’t mean that he is automatically the Tigers minor league player of the year. Now, this isn’t the official word from the Tigers front office, it is just my selections for the awards, but I do happen to agree with one of them.
Devon Travis had hands down the best season of any Tigers position prospect. While he isn’t highly regarded in prospect circles, the type of numbers that Travis posted in 2013 are going to be hard to ignore. Travis hit .351 across two levels of baseball and posted an impressive .936 OPS. He hit 16 home runs, while stealing 22 bases. Yet despite the numbers, we should temper expectations a little bit. Travis will be 23 years old in February and hasn’t played above high A ball thus far.
There are other questions that surround Travis. His body type, where he is a bit thicker in the lower half, suggests that he is going to slow down as he gets older. This is going to affect his base running ability and his range defensively going forward. In the batters box, he hasn’t faced advanced pitching yet, but from my personal viewings of Travis, there is some real ability there. He recognizes pitches well, uses the whole field, and has a bit more pop than your average second baseman.
The good season has earned Travis the right to try out his talents in the Arizona Fall League, which should give us a better idea of his talents. The AFL is loaded with quality prospects, so this should be a decent test of Travis’ true skills. I expect that he is going to start next season in AA Erie.
Ryan went 12-7 on the year for Lakeland, earning himself a promotion to Erie for the playoffs. His ERA was a respectable 3.17 and held Florida State League batters to a .248 batting average against. Ryan, who turns 22 tomorrow, doesn’t have a big arm, but still could see a bit more on his fastball given his lanky frame. Ryan does a good job generating ground balls, and one of the reasons I chose him is for his consistency, he was Lakeland’s best pitcher all year long.
Like Travis, Ryan’s status as minor league pitcher of the year shouldn’t make you believe that he is some can’t miss prospect. His inability to throw with above average velocity mean his margin for error is going to be a bit smaller than someone with a bigger arm, but Ryan has displayed the kind of control so far that helps his profile. The next step will be commanding his arsenal to the point where he can throw all of his pitches where he wants, and that doesn’t mean for strikes always. If he gets there and adds a tick or two to the fastball, Ryan could be a legitimate back of the rotation candidate.