Detroit Tigers: Minor League Depth Review Pre 2020 MLB Draft

Now that we know the 2020 MLB Draft will be five rounds, let’s take a look at what the Tigers plus and minuses are for the current state of the minor league system. We pick up in part two reviewing the catchers, outfielders, and pitchers in the system.

Yesterday, we reviewed the infielders in the system (part one can be found here) with Spencer Torkelson projecting to be the number one pick overall in the 2020 MLB Draft.  If that is the case, he would be quickly the number one first baseman on the depth chart and possibly one of the highest-rated power bats.  In case you were wondering who lead the Tigers minor league system in home runs last year, it was Mikie Mahtook with 21.  So, with that being said, let’s press on and start with the catchers in the system. The format is the same as it was in part one with the players drafted by the Tigers in bold and for the depth chart, we are using the one provided by Fangraphs. 

Catchers:

  • Jake Rogers (R) (trade with Houston in August 2017) Projected team: Toledo
  • Eric Hasse (R) (purchased from Cleveland in January 2020) Projected team: Detroit
  • Kade Scivicque (R) (brought back from Atlanta, originally drafted by Detroit in the 4th round 2015)
  • Brady Policelli (R) (drafted in the 13th round in the 2016 draft) Projected team: Erie
  • Jhon Nunez (S) (traded from Boston for Matt Hall January 2020) Projected team: Erie
  • Joey Morgan (R) (drafted in the 3rd round in the 2017 draft) Projected team: Lakeland
  • Jon Rosoff (L) (non-drafted signee June 2018) Projected team: Erie
  • Sam McMillan (R) (drafted in the 5th round in the 2017 draft)  Projected team: Lakeland
  • Christoper Proctor (L)  (drafted in the 13th round in the 2018 draft)  Projected team: Lakeland
  • Cooper Johnson (R) (drafted in the 6th round in the 2019 draft) Projected team: West Michigan
  • Yoandy Rea (R) (International free-agent signee November 2017) Projected team: Norwich or West Michigan
  • Eliezer Alfonzo (S) (International free-agent signee July 2016) Projected team: Norwich or West Michigan

The Tigers admitted that they rushed Jake Rogers up to the majors last season. His swing, as highlighted by Jules Posner of Forbes.com and Adam Dubbin of Bless You Boys.com, has been in a constant work of progress.  It didn’t stop the Tigers from obtaining two catchers in the off-season with Jhon Nunez, who will be primary in Erie for minor league depth and Eric Hasse, the Dearborn native who has tremendous power and was competing with Grayson Greiner for the backup spot in spring training.

Jay and I had the opportunity to talk to West Michigan manager Brayan Peña about Alfonzo and how he worked on improving on communicating better to the pitchers. He will be one to watch if he ends up at West Michigan. Another catcher that made progress last year was Sam McMillan. His BABIP last year was .302 and he continues his good walk rate at a 16.8% clip. Mind you, he is only 21 years old so he still has time to develop. Cooper Johnson, who was drafted on his defensive prowess, showed off the cannon last year in West Michigan.

Outfielders:

  • Daz Cameron (R)  (Came over in Verlander deal in August 2017)  Projected team: Toledo
  • Travis Demeritte (R) (July 2019 trade) Projected team: Detroit
  • Troy Strokes Jr (R) (Waiver pickup September 2019) Projected team: Toledo
  • Jorge Bonifacio (R) (free agent pickup in December 2019) Projected team: Toledo
  • Jacob Robson (L) (drafted in the 8th round in the 2016 draft) Projected team: Toledo
  • Danny Woodrow (L) (drafted in the 12th round in the 2016 draft) Projected team: Toledo
  • Jose Azocar (R) (international free agent signing October 2012) Projected team: Erie
  • Chad Sedio (L)  (drafted in the 27th round in the 2016 draft) Projected team: Toledo
  • Cam Gibson (L)  (drafted in the 5th round in the 2015 draft) Projected team: Toledo
  • Derek Hill (drafted in the 1st round in the 2014 draft)  Projected team: Erie
  • Brock Deatherage (drafted in the 10th round in the 2018 draft) Projected team: Lakeland
  • Luke Burch (drafted in the 9th round in the 2017 draft)  Projected team: Erie
  • Riley Greene (drafted in the 1st round in the 2019 draft) Projected team: West Michigan
  • Bryant Packard  (drafted in the 5th round in the 2019 draft)  Projected team: Lakeland
  • Reece Hampton (drafted in the 12th round in the 2018 draft) Projected team: Lakeland
  • Ulrich Bojarski (amateur free agent July 2016) Projected team: Lakeland
  • Parker Meadows (drafted in the 2nd round in the 2018 draft) Projected team: West Michigan
  • Kingston Liniak (drafted in the 4th round in the 2018 draft) Projected team: West Michigan
  • Kerry Carpenter (drafted in the 19th round in the 2019 draft) Projected team: West Michigan
  • Matthew Jarecki (drafted in the 37th round in the 2018 draft) Projected team: West Michigan
  • Jose De La Cruz (international free agent signing July 2018) Projected team: DSL Tigers
  • Roberto Campos (international free agent signing July 2019) Projected team: DSL Tigers

When Troy Stokes Jr was added to the 40 man roster, Tigers fans scratched their heads. Detroit has a system filled with outfielders. While granted, most may not be ready for the majors, Stokes Jr and non-roster invitee Jorge Bonifacio were near the bottom in the PCL. Keep in mind that offensive numbers were just video game like in 2019 with the juiced ball. Stokes’s ZIPS projection had him just under 9.8% walk rate and at a 27.8% K rate.

Riley Greene’s spring training and strong start post-draft have Tigers fans feeling good for the future. Watching him run down balls at West Michigan last year and talking to him, he has already a good composure for a man of his age.

You also have to give props to Derek Hill and Jose Azocar on their strong years in Erie from a defensive standpoint. Hill stayed healthy, which is important and so his speed, which will continue to serve him well but as with many outfielders that are in the limbo between Erie and Toledo, are they just 4A players or major leaguers? The projections above are just conclusions based on last year but it was tough to think about it since they are reaching an age that they are not considered prospects anymore. Some of the players above may not spend time in the Detroit system in 2020.

I got to watch Bryant Packard last year and while he may up possibly at first base I like his approach at the plate, spraying the ball to all fields. His swing isn’t too long and he was able to play a good left field. I know Trevor Hooth of Pitcher List is high on him and so is Chris Brown over at Tigers Minor League Report. Parker Meadows has been working on his swing to shorten it through the zone. If he continues to add strength, that will help him with his hitting tool. He was solid defensively last year. I would love to see De La Cruz stateside but we will see happens there.

Starting Pitchers:

  • Beau Burrows (drafted in the 1st round in the 2015 draft)
  • Anthony Castro (international free agent signing July 2011)
  • Matt Manning (drafted in the 1st round in the 2016 draft)
  • Tarik Skubal  (drafted in the 9th round in the 2018 draft)
  • Alex Faedo (drafted in the 1st round in the 2017 draft)
  • Shao-Ching Chiang (free agent signing from Cleveland December 2019)
  • Dario Agrazal (Contract purchased from Pittsburgh November 2019)
  • Spenser Watkins (drafted in the 30th round in the 2014 draft)
  • Joey Wentz (trade with Atlanta in 2019)
  • Franklin Perez (trade with Houston in 2017
  • Casey Mize  (drafted in the 1st round in the 2018 draft)
  • Alex Lange (trade with Chicago Cubs in  July 2019)
  • Elvin Rodriguez (trade with LA Angels in 2017
  • Paul Richan (trade with Chicago Cubs in  July 2019)
  • Logan Shore (trade with Oakland in September 2018)
  • Tom de Blok (free agent signing in 2017)
  • Garrett Hill (drafted in the 26th round in the 2018 draft)
  • Carlos Guzman (international free agent signing March 2015)
  • Brad Bass (drafted in the 7th round in the 2017 draft)
  • Robbie Welhaf  (non-drafted signee in 2018)
  • Hugh Smith  (drafted in the 6th round in the 2018 draft)
  • Dane Myers (drafted in the 6th round in the 2017 draft)
  • Adam Wolf (drafted in the 5th round in the 2018 draft)
  • Wilkel Hernandez (acquired in a trade with LA Angels December 2017)
  • Keider Montero (international free agent signing August 2016)
  • Jack O’Loughlin (international free agent signing July 2016)

Relief Pitchers:

  • Kyle Funkhouser (drafted in the 4th round in the 2016 draft)
  • John Schreiber (drafted in the 15th round in the 2016 draft)
  • Nolan Blackwood (acquired from Oakland in August 2018)
  • Sandy Baez (international free agent signing October 2011)
  • Will Vest (drafted in the 12th round in the 2017 draft)
  • Zac Houston (drafted in the 11th round in the 2016 draft)
  • Joe Navilhon (drafted in the 21st round in the 2016 draft)
  • Trent Szkutnik (drafted in the 20th round in the 2014 draft)
  • Ethan DeCaster (drafted in the 18th round in the 2018 draft)
  • Drew Carlton (drafted in the 32nd round in the 2017 draft)
  • Wladimir Pinto (international free agent signing November 2014)
  • Gerson Moreno (international free agent signing October 2012)
  • Jason Foley (non-drafted free agent signing August 2016)
  • Angel De Jesus (international free agent signing May 2016)
  • Billy Lescher (drafted in the 17th round in the 2017 draft)
  • Zach Hass (drafted in the 9th round in the 2018 draft)
  • Ruben Garcia (Rule-5 Triple-A Phase December 2019)
  • Sandel De La Cruz (international free agent signing October 2016)
  • Maddux Conger (drafted in the 22nd round in the 2018 draft)
  • Angel Reyes (drafted in the 19th round in the 2018 draft)
  • Austin Bergner (drafted in the 9th round in the 2019 draft)

For pitchers, I did not include the projected landing spots on the account if there is a minor league season. According to the recent reports by Jeff Passan of ESPN, there could be a taxi squad situation in which the Tigers would have a set amount of players there in case of injuries on the major league level.

It’s easy to see Mize, Manning, Fadeo, and Skubal on the shortlist for a call-up although Fadeo could need another year in the minors to work on his secondary pitches against lefties, who hit 11 home runs off him in 2019 and his ERA against them was 4.99 per Statcast. The work on his changeup against lefties will continue to get better. Faedo’s velocity was back in 2019, thanks to the help of the sports science folks at the University of Michigan.

Franklin Perez threw without any issues in spring training so we will wait to see if he returns to the top of prospects lists again. What can to a surprise to Tigers management was the heat from Shao-Ching Chiang, who was hitting 97-98 in spring training. While he was a starter in Cleveland, there was talk about him coming out of the bullpen so a welcome change that a possibility that the Tigers could luck out on another’s team released player which is rare when it comes to pitching for the ballclub.

Carlos Guzman looks to rebound from injuries and the same for Gerson Moreno, who was throwing in spring training. The Tigers have a few intriguing arms out of the pen but like the outfield, the log jam has to be sorted sooner or later on roles. With Kyle Funkhouser now in the bullpen along with Anthony Castro, that throws off who could return. Dan Hubbs, the new director of pitching development and strategy, among the rest of the Tigers pitching coaching staff, will have their work cut out for them. They will probably draft another arm among the five picks that could provide an impact. You can never draft enough pitching.

Conclusion:

From the past five drafts, here’s the total amount of players left from each year that are in the system. I did not include the 2019 draft on the account we still have not seen a full season of play from the draft class. It lines up pitching and the outfield seems to be the positions of strength so far.

  • 2014:2
  • 2015:4
  • 2016:10
  • 2017:11
  • 2018:14

Total players drafted in the Tigers system is 41 between 2014 and 2018.  Derek Hill and Spenser Watkins are the only ones left from the 2014 class and Watkins is a good organizational player. Of the 41, which are ready to play in the majors in 2021? It’s a serious question we must ask ourselves. Since 2010, the amount of Tigers regulars develop within the draft that were not pitchers with at least a 2.0 WAR season which is considered a solid starter according to Fangraphs in Detroit.

Christin Stewart, who was a part of the 2015 class, still needs time to see what his role will be. In case you were wondering about the others drafted who was drafted by Detroit but did it elsewhere in the same timespan.

  • James McCann (bWAR of 3.7 with the White Sox in 2019)
  • Devon Travis (bWAR of 2.1 and 2.5 in Toronto in 2015 and 2016)

I get it, the cost of winning earlier in the decade cost the Tigers prospects like Travis, Eugenio Suárez and Willy Adames for David Price, Alfredo Simon and Anthony Gose (ok, one out of three) but going back to 1990 for positional players drafted, to have only Tony Clark, Brandon Inge, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Avila being the answer to the trivia answer to the question of “What positional players have the Tigers development from the draft”? we can hope that with all the new technology available to Detroit and the improving trends in player development can build the Tigers back into contention soon.

 

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