The Detroit Tigers: Unprecedented Prospect Rankings

Here's a look at the Detroit Tigers' top 15 prospects for 2020, with a projection of when to expect each player in the big leagues:Gallery cutline
Here's a look at the Detroit Tigers' top 15 prospects for 2020, with a projection of when to expect each player in the big leagues:Gallery cutline /

Major League Baseball released its top-100 prospect list last night, and the Detroit Tigers did something unprecedented:

The team’s official Twitter account celebrated the feat for the 2021 list, but perhaps wasn’t aware no team has ever done this, at least not on MLB Pipeline. In fact, since MLB began posting prospect lists in 2004, only three teams have landed as many as four players in the top 25: Arizona in 2006, Tampa Bay in 2008 and 2010, and Kansas City in 2011.

We’ll take a look at what this actually means in a future article, but for now it’s time to celebrate this symbolic accomplishment.

Detroit Tigers Prospect Rankings

Topping Pipeline’s list for the Tigers this year is Spencer Torkelson, who climbed one spot from his final rankings last year to land at #3.

Pipeline doesn’t often update their prospect profiles, but it’s still worth looking at what they’ve written about Detroit Tigers prospects.

"Torkelson has a special bat, with the ability to hit for both average and power from the right side. He’s extremely patient and controls at-bats well, drawing plenty of walks. When Torkelson does swing, he combines physical strength and bat speed to generate massive power from line to line, including elite raw power to his pull side."

Next up is Casey Mize, the number one overall pick in 2018, who dropped six spots from last year’s rankings to #11 this year. His profile suggests why he fell a bit:

"He opened the 2020 season at the alternate training site and made his highly anticipated big league debut on Aug. 19 against the White Sox. He went on to post a 6.99 ERA over seven starts, showing promise despite the underwhelming results."

Outfielder Riley Greene saw a slight rise this year, moving to #21 from last year’s final ranking of 25. Pipeline explains how he managed to rise despite a year with no minor-league baseball:

"He was the biggest standout among Tigers prospects in his first big league camp, slashing .417/.611/.917 with two homers and six walks in seven games, and continued to make an impression on Tigers officials during Summer Camp and at the alternate training site."

The biggest riser among Detroit Tigers prospects was left-handed pitcher Tarik Skubal, who climbed 18 spots to land at #24. He didn’t have tons of success at the big-league level last year, but Pipeline says the underlying stats are promising:

"Skubal pitched better in the Majors than his numbers suggest, showing numerous starter qualities and encouraging pitch metrics. He consistently beats hitters up in the zone with a high-spin fastball that averaged 94.4 mph and topped out at 98.5 mph."

And the final member of Detroit’s prospect quintet is Matt Manning, who fell five spots from last year to land at #25. The site remains optimistic about Manning despite his small drop:

"The delivery, changeup and overall command will all need to become more consistent for him to get to that point, but all the ingredients are there for Manning to reach his potential as No. 2 starter. He had already recovered from his forearm injury by the end of Detroit’s fall instructional league, putting him on track for a healthy start in 2021."

Detroit Tigers Prospects Elsewhere

We’re deep in the heart of prospect ranking season right now. Baseball America is the originator of these sorts of lists, and when they released their top 100 list Rogelio took a deeper look at the five Detroit Tigers prospects who made their cut.

We’ve also seen prospect lists from Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law ($), though we are still awaiting lists from FanGraphs and Prospects Live. It’s important to remember prospects lists are entirely subjective and largely meaningless, but it can be useful to get an idea of what the industry as a whole thinks.

So here are all of the current rankings in one place:

There are a couple of outliers here, and while some readers may be temped to write those off as an attempt to get attention or spur discussion, we remind you these lists are all subjective. Large variations are most likely the result of how much weight a list places on personal evaluations, as opposed to the opinions of scouts and front office types.

In any event, the consensus is the Detroit Tigers have five top-100 prospects, and three of the lists believe those five all fall in the top third of prospects this year. That’s an impressive accomplishment, and fans should be excited about the future.

But of course now comes the hard part: actually winning games.