Detroit Tigers: Beyond the Top 20 – Top Position Player Tools

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 09: Brock Deatherage in action against the Houston Astros. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 09: Brock Deatherage in action against the Houston Astros. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

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.

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.

In the first article in this series, we looked at the three Detroit Tigers prospects who just missed making our Top 20 list. For our second dive into the prospects beyond the top 20, we are going to look at which position players have the best tool in each of the five scouting categories (hit, power, speed, defense, and arm). For each tool, we will highlight two prospects, one who grades out the highest on the 20-80 scout scale and a runner-up (a co-winner in some cases) along with some other names to know.

Detroit Tigers Top Hit Tools

Eliezer Alfonzo (Scouting Grade 55): Alfonzo is the rare catcher who could potentially be an above average hitter. He has excellent hands and barrel control for such a young prospect and has shown no issues making consistent line-drive contact. His ability to get the bat on the ball has also made him almost impossible to strikeout. So far in his minor league career he has a strikeout percentage below 10%. The issue for Alfonzo as a prospect is his hitting ability is the only tool that projects to be average or better. He has essentially hit for no power as evidenced by his 2 career home runs (you read that right) and in 2019, he only had 8 total extra base hits in 179 at-bats. Alfonzo is also a below-average runner which would not be an issue if he were able to stay behind the plate however many question his ability to do so.

Wenceel Perez (55): In the first article in the “Beyond the Top 20” series we went in-depth on Perez (that article can be found here) and broke down his 2019 performance, which was certainly a disappointment. However, prior to that Perez was seen as a hitter whose ability was far beyond his years. He has a natural feel for hitting that generally makes it easy for him to make contact. Perez has, at times, demonstrated an understanding of the strike zone and shown the ability to adjust to spin. The upcoming season will be important, as another year like 2019 would certainly drop this grade and throw his overall prospect status into question.

Honorable Mention: Jacob Robson, Danny Woodrow

Detroit Tigers Top Power Tools:

Ulrich Bojarski (55): Bojarski is a physical specimen who is basically built to be a power-hitting corner outfielder. The Australian born prospect is listed at 6’3″ and 200 lbs. and his long limbs and natural strength allow him to create significant leverage in his swing. Very raw when signed, 2019 was a bit of a coming out party for Bojarski in some respects. It was his first extended exposure to full-season ball, and while the rawness was still present he did demonstrate the power many thought he possessed, hitting 10 home runs (.138 Isolated Power) at West Michigan, which is a difficult environment for power hitters. Despite Bojarski’s power potential he will need to make significant improvements to his approach to fully utilize it. A very aggressive hitter, he rarely works deep into counts and walked only 17 times in 500 plate appearances in 2019. He does have the makings of a solid defensive right fielder and more than enough arm for the position.

Nick Quintana (55):

Optimism surrounding 2019 second round pick Nick Quintana began to fade quickly after a dismal performance in the Midwest League. Promoted to West Michigan shortly after being drafted, Quintana played in 41 games with a wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) of 36 (for those who prefer OPS, it was .454, yeah still not good). In addition to that brutal offensive output his defense left something to be desired as well. He frequently missed throws and had problems with his footwork at third. However, even after that disastrous performance many still believe in the pre-draft scouting reports on Quintana. Those reports show a player with solid bat-speed and some loft to his swing which could lead to above-average power as a professional. Like many power hitting prospects, his ability to make contact will eventually determine how usable his power truly becomes.

Honorable Mention: Kody Clemens, Reynaldo Rivera, Dylan Rosa

Detroit Tigers top Speed Tools:

Brock Deatherage (70): Deatherage burst onto the scene the summer he was drafted, and a combination of immediate success and his amazing name quickly generated a strong following. His overall performance and skill set hasn’t lived up to the expectations placed on him by a segment of Tiger’s fans, however the one thing that isn’t in question is his speed. He is an absolute burner whose speed plays both on the bases and in the outfield. An older prospect (25), Deatherage needs to make substantial improvements at the plate, and quickly, in order for him to avoid washing out of the Tiger’s system. There is some power in the bat, thanks to his natural strength and athleticism which help generate bat speed, but his overall feel for the barrel and lack of strike zone command limit its usefulness.

Derek Hill (60): If you feel like Derek Hill has been in the system forever, well, you’re kind of right. The Tigers first round pick in 2014 (they drafted Patrick Mahomes that year as well), Hill’s ascent through the farm system can optimistically be described as methodical. The offensive production many saw developing at the time of the draft has not presented itself, however his speed, athleticism, and defense have not disappointed. Hill may have lost a step over the past couple years due to injuries but he still shows plus speed on the bases and in the outfield.

Honorable Mention: Kingston Liniak, Akil Baddoo, Wenceel Perez

Detroit Tigers Top Defense/Arm Tools 

Cole Peterson (70/70): Cole Peterson is an absolute stud at shortstop. He has outstanding range, speed, soft hands, and a cannon for an arm. His defense is so good, watching it is worth the price of admission. He makes the routine look effortless, the difficult look routine, and the impossible look somehow possible. Simply put, he is the best defender in the system and in the discussion for best defender in the minors (I have seen 80 grades for his defense). Like other prospects on this list it’s his bat holding Peterson back. Even given the ridiculously low offensive bar for a potential gold glove defender at short, Peterson is going to struggle to hit enough to make it to Detroit. A contact oriented hitter, he has not shown the ability to consistently hit for average or get on base, and he has little power.

Cooper Johnson (60/70): Johnson was drafted in the 6th round in 2019 largely due to his excellent defensive reputation. Johnson has no real weakness behind the plate. He moves well laterally, has a very quick release, handles velocity with ease, and is a solid pitch framer. Add in his very strong, accurate arm and you have all the makings of a fantastic defender. Unlike some of the other prospects on the list Johnson does have some tools/skills that could allow the bat to progress enough to allow him to reach the big leagues. Johnson has shown a patient approach and has posted a walk rate about 14% in his 160 plate appearances in the minors. In addition to the patience, Johnson does have some power potential even if, as a professional, it has yet to manifest itself. Prior to the draft, most scouts agreed Johnson could develop some power especially to the pull side. Johnson will likely always struggle to make contact however and that could ultimately be his undoing as a prospect.

Honorable Mention (Defense): Derek Hill

Honorable Mention (Arm): Kingston Liniak