Detroit Tigers Best Hit Tools: Numbers 5 and 4
5 – Eliezer Alfonzo – C
Elizer Alfonzo is one of the more fascinating players in Detroit’s system. He has hung around the fringes of prospectdom for a few seasons, but it’s easy to miss what he does well and focus on his deficiencies. He’s a well below-average defender behind the plate — though he did improve over the course of 2021 — and for most of his career he has shown zero in-game power. But the switch-hitting Alfonzo is a contact savant.
He’s a career .304 hitter in the minors, with contact rates hovering around 83%, and career walk and strikeout rates in the single digits. And Alfonzo may have unlocked a bit of power late in the season, responding to a mid-season demotion to Lakeland by mashing 15 extra-base hits in 39 games, and then slugging .487 over 21 games in a return to High-A West Michigan.
4 – Colt Keith – 3B/2B
When the Detroit Tigers selected and signed Colt Keith in the 5th round of the 2020 draft (132nd overall) it was very much a pleasant surprise, because Keith was generally considered a 2nd round talent. He couldn’t play pro ball in 2020, of course, and was held back in extended spring training for about a month last season. It took him a few weeks to get adjusted to Low-A, but then he took off, batting .379/.493/.508 in a 35-game stretch from July 1st to August 22.
Keith struggled for 18 games after being promoted to High-A West Michigan, but he remains one of the most exciting young hitters in the system. He’s aggressive at the plate, but generally stays in the zone and will take plenty of walks, and his short, quick swing is geared for hard line drives. He only hit two home runs in 65 games, but that’s more a function of his launch angle than his raw power — his max exit velocity last year was 109.8 MPH. So even if he doesn’t clear the fence more often, he has more enough sock to pose a threat to pitchers.