Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers: Top 10 Organizational Assets

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Pitcher Matt Manning #19 of the Detroit Tigers and the U.S. Team works the fifth inning against the World Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park on July 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Pitcher Matt Manning #19 of the Detroit Tigers and the U.S. Team works the fifth inning against the World Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park on July 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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As tax season is upon us, it feels like a worthy exercise to give the Detroit Tigers a more-enjoyable version of an audit. You’re about to read how I would rank some of the top assets in the organization. The top choice may surprise you. We’ll start at #10:

     10.  1B Miguel Cabrera

‘Miggy,’ even as his production has slowed in recent years, remains one of the most likable players in Major League Baseball. Even to this day, we get flashes of his greatness. He also remains one of the driving forces behind present-day revenue for the Detroit Tigers. Consider him the most immediate asset on this list.

     9.     SP Spencer Turnbull

Turnbull sneaks into the Top 10 thanks to an underappreciated first full season in Detroit. Turnbull, who at 26 years old, ate nearly 150 innings on the mound. His 3-17 record is the likely reason behind his not winning the Tigers Rookie of the Year award, but he posted a highly respectable 3.99 FIP, with his 2.3 WAR placing third-best on the entire roster.

     8.     SP Daniel Norris

Much like Turnbull, Norris had a quietly efficient 2019. It’s also quite easy to deem his 3-13 season less effective than it actually was. Norris took significant improvements with his command, as evidenced by lowering his 2018 walk ratio from 3.9 to 2.4 the following year – all while tossing a career-high 144 innings at the big-league level.

     7.     RP Joe Jimenez

In this exercise, skillsets are king, and the one equipped to ‘Big Joe’ is one of the best in the entire organization. We’re quick to forget that he made an All-Star team after his first half-season in the big leagues. That first-half, Jimenez was used in 46 of the 98 (47%) games the Tigers played — or, basically in every other game. For comparison sake, Blake Treinen, who led 2018 AL relief pitchers in WAR (4.3), pitched in six fewer first-half games. In the second half, Jimenez slumped to a 7.78 ERA and has yet to return to the form we’ve once seen. A handful of observers have mentioned that the Tigers changed pitching coaches around the time Jimenez began to struggle. Regardless, the talent is undeniable, and a significant indicator came last season when the Tampa Bay Rays, arguably the best team in baseball in terms of player development, were reportedly interested in ‘Big Joe’.

     6.     SP Matthew Boyd

Boyd ranks as the highest current Tigers player on this list, having accumulated a career-best WAR of 3.7 in 2019. ‘Matty B’ may be the most productive player on the active roster and has gotten seemingly better the longer he’s been in the big leagues. He’s also made just as big of a time investment off-the-field, being a recognizable face in the community as he has on-the-field. He’s as good a player as he is a person, and the Tigers know how lucky they are to have him.

     5.     OF Riley Greene

Greene’s performance during 2020 Spring Training vaulted him into one of the best position-player prospects in Major League Baseball, currently ranking #20 among non-pitchers. Greene went 5-for-12 with a pair of home runs and six walks to just two strikeouts in 18 plate appearances to begin 2020. Greene’s MLB ETA is still years away, but it’s easy to think he could’ve had offensive success at both Class-A levels in 2020 on the way to a 2022 debut.

4.     SP Tarik Skubal

Skubal’s numbers have been off-the-charts ever since turning pro. Few players in professional baseball have seen their prospect status elevate like the 23-year old, going from a back-end prospect in the Tigers top 30, to being currently ranked as the #46 prospect in Major League Baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. It’s not a stretch to envision Skubal’s big-league career resembling Matthew Boyd.

     3.     SP Casey Mize

Mize, the top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, caught the attention of the baseball world when he tossed a no-hitter in his Double-A debut in April of 2019. Mize enjoyed a pristine first-half, going 8-0 with a 0.95 ERA between two levels. Going forward, the challenge for Mize will be posting similar numbers into the second-half. In 2019, Mize went winless in six games after the All-Star break with a 7.09 ERA amidst health concerns and a preemptive shutdown. Before his trip to the injured list, Mize looked as good as any MLB pitching prospect.

     2.     SP Matt Manning

It’s fair to have any of the ‘big three’ ranked anywhere among these top spots, but Manning likely sits as the Tigers’ best performance as it relates to player development. No longer does ‘Tigers Twitter’ complain about his lack of velocity in the low-level minor leagues, and here Manning sits as the top-ranked asset among players in the entire organization. We can’t wait until he reaches the big leagues. If the Tigers rebuild is going to work as-designed, Manning is extremely likely to be one of the biggest reasons behind it.

     Honorable Mention: Niko Goodrum, Michael Fulmer

Before we look at the top spot, let’s take a moment to appreciate Niko Goodrum. It’s impossible not to enjoy the 28-year old off or on-the-field. Goodrum, whose been representing the Tigers as a member of the Players League in MLB: The Show ’20, also represents the best of a highly-coveted power-speed combination among players in the system. Goodrum’s positional versatility speaks for itself, but he also ranks as the only Tigers player to achieve double-digit home runs *and* stolen bases in each of the past two seasons. Meanwhile, don’t sleep on Fulmer, who collected a ‘Rookie of the Year’ award and an All-Star Game appearance in his first two seasons. The 27-year-old is still working his way back from 2019 Tommy John surgery and could serve as a ‘wildcard’ to this type of list.

     1.     First Overall Pick in 2020 MLB Draft

Even though there’s no name currently attached to it; having your pick of the best amateur player in baseball has infinite value. Given the pandemic, there won’t be much movement around the current projections. Vanderbilt swiss-army knife Austin Martin brings a higher degree of talent in hitting for contact, fielding, and baserunning. Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson is also in the mix and is considered a better power hitter. It’s worth mentioning that from a historical perspective, the odds of finding a first baseman who can make the desired impact worthy of a first overall selection have been tremendously low. Our friend Chris Brown outlined a convincing argument back in February. Regardless, either player will likely become the Tigers top position player prospect if chosen. If they opt for a pitcher, I would expect the Tigers to have a significant interest in Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy, while they’ll do extensive homework on Georgia righty Emerson Hancock as well.

Until next time,

-DH

How would you rank the Top 10, and why? Feel free to comment below, and find Dan Hasty on Twitter and discuss @ThatDanHasty!

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