5 Detroit Tigers prospects who just missed the top 20
Last month we released our top 20 Detroit Tigers prospects for 2022.
The list ended up being more than 5,000 words in all, so we split it into two articles. But one thing we never did was give a basic overview of the system as a whole. In short…it’s okay.
The Detroit Tigers have a fantastic 1-2 punch in Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. After that, there are a handful of very solid prospects, led by Dillon Dingler, who could be an everyday regular behind the plate, and Jackson Jobe, a talented pitcher with a huge ceiling but tons of baked-in risk.
Overall, it’s a top-heavy system filled with mostly low-ceiling pitching and corner bats. As such, it’s hard to find huge differences between the 10th-ranked prospect and the 30th ranked prospect.
So today we want to highlight five more prospects who received some support in our voting, but not quite enough to crack the top 20. We begin with the oldest player in the group.
Detroit Tigers Just Missed Prospect No. 1 – Eric De La Rosa – OF
We’ve profiled Eric De La Rosa before, and while he made three of our six top-20 lists, he ended up ranked 22nd overall. It’s no exaggeration to say De La Rosa saved his career in 2021. He was a 7th-round pick in the 2018 draft, but owned a .534 OPS through his first 99 professional games. He turned everything around last year, though, climbing three levels and flashing his five-tool potential at every level.
De La Rosa’s best tool is his speed, which he used to steal 34 bases last year (38 if you count the Arizona Fall League), but he also owns average raw power, and he can capably play all three outfield spots. The biggest question mark here is De La Rosa’s hit tool. He ran a 30% strikeout rate last year, which is generally too high to find real success in the Majors. He simply misses too many pitches in the zone. But his approach is decent — he maintained roughly the same BB and K rates at each level, even the AFL — and given his plus athleticism and the strides he made in 2021, it’s not impossible to imagine him taking another step forward in 2022.
Detroit Tigers Just Missed Prospect No. 2 – Wilmer Flores – RHP
Flores made just one of our six lists (Rogelio), but it’s not hard to imagine him vaulting up the rankings with a strong 2022 campaign. The younger brother of the longtime MLB infielder of the same name, Flores went undrafted in 2020 after making just six unremarkable appearances for Arizona Western College. But instead of returning to school or transferring, he chose to turn pro and sign with the Detroit Tigers.
He shook off rough first outings at both the Complex (6 ER in 3.1 IP) and Low-A (4 ER in 4.0 IP) levels to post very respectable numbers for a 20-year-old, and he was a somewhat surprising addition to Detroit’s Arizona Fall League contingent. He took a beating in the AFL (14 ER, 16BB, 12.2 IP), but there’s still a lot to like about Flores.
His fastball sat in the 93-95 MPH range and touched 98 with above-average spin rates, although he was hit hard when he kept it low in the zone. His primary weapon is an 11-7 curveball that can be a plus pitch, but he also shows flashes of an average cutter and changeup, though he needs to throw them more. He’s big and strong with solid control, but he needs to refine his command — his ugly walk totals in the AFL seemed to be the result of nibbling to avoid hard contact. If we remove draft pedigree and name recognition, Flores doesn’t seem drastically different from Ty Madden, who we ranked 5th in the system. Fans in West Michigan should get a chance to compare the two this spring.
Detroit Tigers Just Missed Prospect No. 3 – Austin Murr – OF/1B
Austin Murr didn’t come into the Detroit Tigers’ system with a ton of hype. He did bat .319/.376/.504 while winning a Gold Glove award for a strong N.C. State club, but as an under-slot senior sign in the 6th round, there didn’t seem to be much of a ceiling there. That may still be the case, but it didn’t take long for Murr to establish his bona fides as a professional hitter. He quickly climbed to High-A West Michigan and proved to be one of the toughest outs in the league, using his terrific eye and feel for contact to work lengthy at-bats and at one point string together a 16-game hitting streak.
Murr is a solid athlete and he has a chance the be a quality defender at both first base and an outfield corner. The huge question mark for him is power. Players need to show at least average game power to stick at any corner spot in pro ball, and while Murr does have some raw pop, he seems content to spray line drives and take singles. He has good hands and strong plate discipline, and would figure to be an excellent candidate for a swing change designed to produce more power. That’s easier said than done, of course, but if Murr can pull it off, he has some big-league potential.
Detroit Tigers Just Missed Prospect No. 4 – Tanner Kohlhepp – RHP
Tanner Kohlhepp began his college career at the University of Tennessee, transferred to an Iowa JuCo in 2020, and then moved on to Notre Dame last year. He established himself as a stopper for the Fighting Irish, working almost exclusively out of the bullpen in 2021, and throwing multiple innings in 19 of his 23 outings. Detroit drafted him in the 5th round, and though they may be tempted to give him a shot as a starter, he has a chance to be very effective reliever in pro ball.
Kohlhepp’s stuff can be electric in short stints, and it only figures to play up as he settles into more of a one-inning role. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and has approached triple digits, and he gets a good amount of arm-side run on the pitch. He also features a pretty nasty curve in the 78-82 MPH range, and though his 88-92 MPH cutter doesn’t move a ton, it offers enough velo separation to give him a viable option to attack lefties. There’s not a huge ceiling here, but Kohlhepp could fly through the system and help the big-league bullpen as soon as 2023.
Detroit Tigers Just Missed Prospect No. 5 – Manuel Sequera – IF
The Tigers signed Manuel Sequera in the 2019 international class. Bonus amounts for Venezuelans aren’t often made public, but he likely received the equivalent of 2nd- or 3rd-round money. I gave Sequera his lone vote, ranking him 20th in the system, and I did so against my better judgment. I’ve never seen Sequera in person, or on film, but I still made the very ill-advised decision to rank him based on rookie-level statistics.
And even his stats aren’t ideal. He hit just .246, and his strikeout rate was troubling. But he was only 18, in his first season of professional ball, and hit 11 home runs and 12 doubles in fewer than 200 plate appearances. Only five 18-year-olds have managed that kind of rookie-ball power production in the last 15 years. He played shortstop last year, but he’ll move to third base soon, and his approach may keep him from ever reaching the upper minors. But Sequera is an infielder with legitimate game power, and players like that get a lot of chances.