It’s Prospects Season, and the industry continues to give the Detroit Tigers’ system high marks. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been said.
Whitney Houston wasn’t talking about prospects in “Greatest Love of All”— but she could have been. All organizations hope to teach their prospects well and then let them lead the way to a successful future. That process has seemingly been the main focus of the Detroit Tigers these last four years.
Fans got a glimpse of the first wave of that future last season, with potential building blocks Daz Cameron, Casey Mize, Isaac Paredes, and Tarik Skubal all seeing big-league action. But all four are still considered prospects, which helps keep the system strong for at least one more ranking season.
Coverage of prospects has become an industry unto itself over the past two decades, but two of that’s industry’s titans released their top-10 lists today, so it’s time to discuss them. Perhaps we’ll double back when we hear from The Athletic, ESPN, FanGraphs, and MLB Pipeline.
The very first list to arrive, of course, was from Prospects Live more than a month ago. Please note I am extremely biased toward this list. First of all, it’s free, which is always nice. But it was also written by my friend James Chipman, who is one of the best in the business, with help from MCB staff members Jake Boes and Rogelio Castillo. I even wrote a few blurbs myself.
But with baseball prospects it’s often best to get multiple opinions. So I encourage you all to also check out today’s lists from our friend Emily Waldon and Baseball America ($), and Jeffrey Paternostro and the gang at Baseball Prospectus ($).
The Detroit Tigers Top 5 Prospects
There’s some pretty strong consensus about the Tigers top five prospects, though the specific orders are staggered a bit:
On Spencer Torkelson
All three lists are in agreement that the #1 overall pick in the 2020 draft is also the new top dog in the system. Baseball Prospectus ($) essentially says it doesn’t matter where Torkelson plays on the field, because he’ll be a potent offensive player thanks to his hitting ability, patience, and power.
On Casey Mize
Prospects Live is the highest on Mize, so let’s let James Chipman explain why:
"His advanced pitchability and deep well rounded arsenal of average or better pitches show top of the rotation promise. The injury history and mechanics give pause, adding reliever risk. Mize’s work ethic, impressive arsenal and combination of polish and moxy are too great to ignore though. Overall there’s impact frontline SP, with perennial All-Star potential during his prime years. Considering risk, there’s mid-rotation or impact closer possibility if the mechanical deficiencies fail to shore up."
On Riley Greene
Baseball Prospectus is the most bullish ($) on Detroit’s young outfield prospect, saying he has “five-tool” potential and an advanced approach considering his age.
On Tarik Skubal
Baseball America boosted Tarik Skubal up to their second slot, explaining ($) that his dominant fastball and improving secondary offerings should allow him to become at least a mid-rotation starter, with front-line potential if everything clicks.
On Matt Manning
Prospects Live was the lowest on Manning. Here’s part of Chipman’s report:
"His impressive plus fastball, plus breaking ball and ability to miss bats carry the profile. A recent season ending forearm strain and reliever risk due to a short arsenal that’s heavily reliant on two pitches, create some pause and uncertainty. Modest gains in the development of his change-up and pitchability should mitigate those modest deficiencies. Should that fail to come to fruition, the profile still yields a solid high leverage reliever. His future role may be undetermined, but Manning will undoubtedly have a solid big league impact."
Overall it looks a like a strong top five, and after the past two drafts it seems the Detroit Tigers have finally found a bit of balance in their system.
One last note on recent prospects coverage. We’ve done a few previews of this year’s expected crop of Detroit Tigers international signings, but Eric Longenhagen at FanGraphs has recently updated his International Board, including a new scouting blurb on Detroit’s presumed big signing in January, Cristian Santana:
"Among the more polished hitters in the class, Santana’s swing is compact but dynamic throughout the hitting zone, he has natural feel for all-fields contact and his swing’s gentle loft creates power without compromising much contact. He’s this year’s Placido Polanco comp, projecting to play second or third and hitting enough to profile there."
That’s a comp sure to makes Tigers fans smile. Longenhagen ranks Santana as his 4th best International Amateur this year (not counting players from the Pacific Rim), and the 45 Future Value grade he gives Santana would place him somewhere between 7 and 12 on FanGraphs’ list of Tigers prospects, behind Isaac Paredes and ahead of 2020 draftee Daniel Cabrera.