The Detroit Tigers Farm System’s Changing Complexion

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Spencer Torkelson #73 of the Detroit Tigers gets ready to bat against the New York Yankees in a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 05, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Spencer Torkelson #73 of the Detroit Tigers gets ready to bat against the New York Yankees in a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 05, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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Fans got defensive when the Detroit Tigers farm system was categorized by national folks as “top-heavy,” referencing the lack of big-league potential beyond the big five in the system: Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Riley Greene, and Spencer Torkelson. After a flurry of top-five finishes in the farm system power rankings by several national publications, perhaps fans took exception; especially after a 2020 draft that was widely lauded in the baseball world.

This is going to hurt some egos including my own, but it is the truth: they were right. With the graduations of Mize and Skubal, the club is down to Torkelson, Greene, and Manning in the top 100 of the league. Beyond those, the rest of MLB Pipeline’s top 10 in the system has some type of concern associated with them.

Paredes did not show well offensively in his limited big-league stint in 2020, Dillon Dingler and Daniel Cabrera have yet to play their first professional games, Joey Wentz is on a comeback campaign from Tommy John Surgery, Parker Meadows has not met expectations offensively thus far, many are concerned with Daz Cameron’s bat, and Alex Faedo recently underwent Tommy John Surgery himself.

This is not to say any of these concerns are terminal–heck, there are concerns with the top three, too. The point is that the combination of risk and potential ceiling with each makes it difficult to justify a higher rank, and thus, makes it difficult for analysts and scouts to count on them for a notable big league impact, relative to the talent other organizations possess.

The new face of the farm has passed from Casey Mize to Riley Greene, who may be on the fast track to the major leagues as soon as Opening Day 2022 along with Spencer Torkelson. No longer is the Detroit Tigers’ system built on pitching. 7 of the 10 top prospects are now position players; with that number perhaps on the incline if the Detroit Tigers continue their recent approach with the draft this June.

In theory, the Detroit Tigers should not need farm system depth for any reason outside of using it as capital for trades at this point, given the recent and upcoming graduations. But given the current product on the field and the number of holes year-in and year-out that are not yet ready to be filled, it would take a free-agent frenzy to propel the team to contention.

Hanging one’s hat on a farm system is okay, but few organizations can make it their primary resource for major league talent. Keep in mind, the end goal is not, “Where does your farm system rank across the league?” Rather, it is, “How much MLB talent did that system produce and how often did you maximize the value of players within that system to further foster the MLB product?”

Perhaps it is fine the Detroit Tigers system is top-heavy, so long as it is not their sole source of major league contribution. Too often and too recently, it has been.

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