Over the past two weeks, we have released our top 20 Detroit Tigers prospects which included detailed breakdowns of the 20 best prospects in the system (make sure to go read those articles).
Now, it’s time for us to explore the remainder of the Detroit Tigers farm system and highlight some the interesting names from beyond the top 20 (see what I did there). The “Beyond the Top 20” series will breakdown some of the prospects who missed our list but deserve some further discussion.
First up are the prospects who narrowly missed our top 20 list. Each player was ranked inside the top 20 by at least one member of the team at MCB. It is important to remember, players in ranked in the early 20’s have a very similar overall value to those who made the end of our list so these are definitely names to know.
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21. Kody Clemens, 2B
Acquired: 2018 Draft, 3rd round
Quick Scouting Report: Clemens is a power over hit second baseman whose has fringe-average to average tools across the board. Fans of Clemens site his power potential as a middle infielder as his main selling point and he has shown the ability to drive the ball in the minors. In 2018, while with the Whitecaps, and 2019, with the Flying Tigers, he posted an Isolated Slugging above .170 which is a solid performance especially for a second baseman. In addition to the possibility he could hit for some power he has also demonstrated an ability to work the count and control the strike zone. In his minor league career he has posted a walk rate above 10% and a strikeout rate below 25%. Both of which are solid numbers when indexed against his peers. The concerns about Clemens mainly surrounds his ability to make contact as he progresses up the ladder and a lack of alternate ways to add value outside his bat as he is considered at best an average base runner and defender.
Quick Take for 2021: The Detroit Tigers need more positional prospect to supplement the pitching as a part of their rebuild. Clemens is an older prospect who has competed against higher level competition and that is why he is interesting in 2021. He had a cameo at Erie in 2019 and played in an independent league during 2020 (which was a real family affair with Dad, yep Roger, and a brother also participating to different extents) so he has competed at a more advanced level than some of the higher ceiling middle infielders in the system. A return to Erie to start the upcoming season is likely and may be one of Clemens final chances to prove he can be a part of the Tigers future.
22. Cristian Santana, SS
Acquired: 2020-21 International Free Agent, signed for $2,975,000 per Baseball America
Quick Scouting Report:
The consensus opinion on Santana is that he was among the top 10-15 prospects available during the most recent international free agent cycle. He signed with Detroit in January and received the largest bonus Detroit has ever given out. Most reports indicated Santana was a really good athlete who already has an idea of what to do at the plate.
There are some questions about whether he can stay at shortstop as he matures but most feel his tools would fit at third even if he no longer has the range to play short. New information about Santana is limited since he hasn’t played recently (at least publicly) but our Chris Brown did an International Signing preview article in 2020 which had reports and video from Baseball America and MLB Pipeline (find that article here).
The newest piece of information available on Santana ($) comes from Kiley McDaniel at ESPN. He included him on his Tiger’s top prospects list and thought he was one of the top international prospects available this cycle.
Quick Take for 2021:
As a recently signed international prospect, it is very unlikely we see Santana stateside this year. Hailing from the Dominican Republic he likely becomes the centerpiece of the lineup for the DSL Tigers and plays shortstop everyday. Based upon the scouting reports available, Santana is likely to perform quite well against this level of competition and hopefully, putting him in line for a chance to compete in the GCL in 2022.
23. Wenceel Perez, SS
Acquired: 2016 International Free Agent, signed for $550,000
Quick Scouting Report (alright maybe not quick but Perez is a little polarizing to me and deserved some additional discussion):
Wenceel Perez burst into the consciousness of Tiger’s prospect followers during the 2018 season. As an 18 year old, he climbed three levels finishing with a 16 game stint at West Michigan where he slashed .309/.324/.441 (which was good enough for a wRC+ of 109). Those who saw him during that season raved about his natural hitting ability which appeared to be very advanced for his age.
In addition, he displayed the athletic traits, hands, and enough arm strength to believe he could stick at shortstop as he matured. All this led many prospect analysts to rank Perez at the backend of the top ten in the Tiger’s farm system following the 2018 season. Then, 2019 happened and muddied the waters on the evaluation of Perez.
He returned to West Michigan (still quite young for the level I should add) for the season but wasn’t able to replicate his success from the prior year. His hitting ability which had everyone buzzing at the end of 2018, seemed to vanish and he slashed a disappointing .233/.299/.314. Also, non existent was any type of power. Perez is not expected to be even an average power hitter (Fangraphs gives him a 40 for future game power) but his .081 Isolated Power is bad even given that context.
Some evaluators questioned whether Perez arrived in peak physical condition and attributed a portion of his offensive downturn to a lack of conditioning. It is possible, if that is the case, it could also partly explain the 33 errors he committed at short. Given his age, some of that could also be attributed to his inexperience at the position and issues with footwork. The inexperience also showed as a baserunner. Perez is generally seen as, at least, an above average runner and he used that speed to swipe 21 bases. However he was caught 13 times which is not the most efficient performance.
Despite the overall downturn in his performance Perez did show some interesting splits. Perez is a switch hitter, but he was much better from the right side than the left in 2019. He posted a .273/.312/.336 slash line against lefties, which, while not setting the world on fire is much better than his overall line. Also, he appeared to get slightly better as the season progressed. In the second half, he went .249/.315/.322 meaning he perhaps was able to make a few small adjustments to improve.
Another interesting note, Perez hit significantly better as a leadoff hitter than anywhere else in the lineup. In 236 plate appearances, which was about half of his season total, he slashed .264/.322/.340. Statistical noise? Perhaps. But, there is some evidence to suggest there are players who hit better earlier in the lineup. Lastly, its not a split but it is important to point out. Perez did continue to show strong bat to ball skills striking out in less than 17% of his plate appearances.
Quick Take for 2021:
Perez has become somewhat of an enigmatic prospect. It is difficult to reconcile the performance differences between 2018 and 2019. Part of that difference, is likely a small sample from 2018 leading to an overly optimistic impression of Perez. However, he did spend the 2019 season as a 19 year old competing against players much older than him and that can be a difficult adjustment. He has a solid feel at the plate and an ability to make contact so with added maturity he should at least hit for a higher average than he did in 2019.
Now 21, Perez should return to West Michigan (remember Hi-A now) to start the 2021 season. It seems likely he will be given every chance to stick at shortstop and potentially hit at the top of what could be a very good minor league lineup. Perez is too young to call the upcoming season make or break however his performance in 2021 will likely remove the enigmatic moniker one way or the other.