The Tigers farm system is not a strong one. A couple of potential high potential/low floor prospects at the top of Fangraphs recent rankings highlights just how depleted recent playoff runs & trades to keep the big club in the playoffs have left the farm.
Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus & MLB all rank the Tigers prospects in very similar order, but Fangraphs does a good job of breaking down current skill level compared to future potential & it doesn’t paint a pretty picture at this point in time.
This is why the Tigers, when rumors were everywhere that J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Jose Iglesias, Francisco Rodriguez & even Justin Verlander were open to be traded, it made sense. A strong farm system is the lifeblood of a successful baseball organization.
The New York Yankees & Boston Red Sox, despite all the money they spend, have had a lot of success developing their own elite talent. The Chicago Cubs just won their first World Series since before World War I by leveraging young talent they acquired via trades & drafts & developed over a few years.
You should go ahead and look through the entire Fangraphs breakdown, but some of the highlights from the piece are:
- Best Potential (Pitcher): Matt Manning is the Tigers top prospect, a 55/80 on the prospect scale. He does have a big frame, at 6’6″ and potentially great fastball with ability to have a major league curveball & change up, his potential is as a front of the rotation starter, but his floor is he never pans out & doesn’t get a taste of the big leagues
- Best Potential (Position Player): Jacoby Jones, who projects as a 4th OF/25th man. Jones doesn’t have a good enough bat to stay at any one positions, but his speed & ability to play multiple defensive positions will keep him in the majors for a few years, at least
- Keep an eye on Kyle Funkhouser, drafted in the 4th round last year out of Louisville; Once considered a potential top 10 pick, he suffered from arm fatigue his Junior year, returned for his Senior year & started slow, but came on strong late & excelled as a pro in the Connecticut league late in summer
- Joe Jimenez has the potential to be a high leverage relief pitcher, starting this summer. He has good command, a great fastball & very good slider, he has excelled each level he has been at in the minors & should get a chance to be on the Tigers opening day roster this year
- Watch for Michael Gerber this summer in Detroit, especially if the wheels fall off & the Tigers trade an outfielder. Gerber may only be able to play against right handed pitchers, but his good defense & raw power could carry him for a few years on a rebuilding team starting in 2018
- Artie Lewicki is a sleeper prospect that has posted good K/BB ratios and could be a depth bullpen arm in the future, despite not much fanfare surrounding him from the major publications
- Former first round pick, Derek Hill, is going to get to the major leagues one day, but based almost entirely on his defense. Fittingly, his closest comp is Austin Jackson.
- Dixon Machado profiles to be a decent middle infielder but, as with Michael Gerber, unless the wheels fall off & Iglesias or Kinsler is traded, he will have a hard time finding his way to Detroit this summer
Again, I encourage you to read through the entire Fangraphs profile, but towards the end, it gets a little depressing, so I understand if you don’t want to.