Over the coming weeks, Jason and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.
Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.
NL West: Arizona, Colorado
NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati
NL East: Atlanta
AL East: Baltimore, Boston
AL Central: Chicago, Cleveland
AL West: Houston
Bleak. If it had a name it would "you're wanting". They have some useful pieces, a star waiting to happen in Castellanos and then detritus. That said, this has been a team that has had late picks, often lacked a first rounder and has traded minor league talent and depth for prosperity at the major league level. If ever there was a reason to have a barren farm system, major league success is it. The Tigers have often managed to eek out surprising performances from their peripheral minor league players that compliment the stars that they've invested big dollars in.
Graduates in 2012
Quintin Berry (OF), Drew Smyly (SP), Al Alburquerque (RP)
AAA or Higher in 2012
These are prospects who reached either AAA Toledo or the Majors in 2012. Generally they are expected to see the Majors in 2013, potentially for a significant amount of time.
Avisail Garcia (BBRef Statistics, Profile)
Garcia started the year in Hi-A as someone to keep an eye on in Hi-A and ended the year in the world series. In between he was promoted to Double-A before getting a surprise call up to the big leagues. Garcia often gets comparisons to Miguel Cabrera, though it is deserved in appearance only, and doesn't necessarily bode well for his ability to play the outfield well into his twenties. Garcia has a bunch of tools and a nice frame, and can hit the ball with authority. He's struggled to make contact, though he improved in that regard significantly this year, chopping around seven points off of his K% compared to 2011. What would truly advance Garcia's game is an improved approach at the plate, though that remains highly unlikely. As is, Garcia projects to be somewhere between a 4th outfielder and a 2nd division starter, though there's definitely room for growth. The Tigers recent signing of Torii Hunter ensures that Garcia should see some valuable time in the upper minors as he was rushed this past season. Only 21, there is plenty of time and space for Garcia to grow.
Bruce Rondon (BBRef Statistics)
Fantasy leaguers should take note of Rondon because Dave Dombrowski mentioned him as one of the possible replacements for Jose Valverde. Those shoes aren't nearly as big to fill after Valverde's collapse at the end of the 2012 season, but if anyone were capable of filling in for "Papa Grande" it's the wide load of Bruce Rondon. He can reach triple digits with his fastball and complements it with a slider that rated the best in the Tigers system according to Baseball America. Rondon pitched across three levels in 2012 and showed improved control for most of the year, though he saw his walks per nine innings balloon upon reaching Triple-A. Control has been an issue for him before, but relievers have survived with poor control before, and Rondon could well be one of those. If he gains some semblance of control/command, he could be an elite reliever with a plus plus fastball and two decent secondaries in his slider and change up. Predicting future closers is a folly I don't subscribe to however, so I'll stop short of anointing him. All I can say is that if he does gain the job he'll be worth owning, so those of you who are into speculative adds could do worse.
AA in 2012
These are players who reached the Tigers' Eastern League affiliate in Erie in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.
Nick Castellanos (BBRef Statistics, Profile)
If you didn't know about the Tigers top pick (44th overall) in the 2010 draft coming into 2012, you certainly did after he hit .405 in 215 at-bats at Hi-A Lakeland and then earned MVP honors in the Futures Game before receiving a promotion to Double-A. At 20 years old, Castellanos is well ahead of the prospect curve and acquitted himself in Double-A with a .264/.296/.382 slash line. That's not a great set of numbers, but not every 20 year old is Bryce Harper, and there's plenty to be excited about with Castellanos. First off, his power came around in the second half of the season, as he hit 7 home runs in Double-A compared to 3 in Hi-A, albeit in about 100 more at-bats. Castellanos isn't much of a power hitter at the moment but has a beautiful balanced swing, and still has time to fill out. He could be a future .330 hitter with moderate power, or as he matures could learn to sacrifice some average for power, and add leverage to his swing. It's hard to peg exactly what type of hitter Castellanos will become, but I'm optimistic that "prolific" will be part of the descriptors. The Tigers had Castellanos start to take reps in the outfield as the hot corner is currently occupied by someone who would be difficult to move off (literally, not figuratively). He's a potential plus defender at third after playing shortstop in high school, but has the tools for right field as well. His most valuable position is third base and I'd expect him to be there after Victor Martinez's contract with the Tigers expires. He could see the majors as soon as 2013, but should return to Double-A for some more seasoning.
Brad McCann (BBRef Statistics)
McCann was the Tigers top overall pick in 2011 (76th overall, see a pattern here?), and received an signing bonus that was $100,000 over slot. McCann has the tools to stick behind the plate, but there have been some questions on his bat. He made a bit of progress in answering those questions in 2012, hitting .288/.345/.350 in the Florida State League. The Tigers are often ultra-aggressive with their prospects, though it may be somewhat warranted in regards to McCann who played 2012 at age 22. McCann reached Double-A this year, actually playing more there than in Hi-A, though he struggled mightily, hitting only .200/.227/.282. McCann's ceiling is that of an average catcher, without much pop (3 career home runs). His probability is something below that, but it seems possible that he could be a solid defensive catcher and a viable backup. That he is one of Detroit's better prospects will tell you all you need to know about this system. He appears on this list because of the low offensive bar set for catchers and the likelihood he has of staying at the position. He's someone to avoid until he proves he can hit at the upper levels.
Low-A in 2012
These players reached the Tigers' Midwest League affiliate in West Michigan, and are likely to be at least 2 full seasons away from contributing in the Major Leagues.
Steven Moya (BBRef Statistics)
Truly plumbing the depths here, Moya is a name to keep in the back of your mind in case he ever puts it all together. Standing 6'7, Moya packs a prodigious punch when he makes contact, a skill that's eluded him as he's registered excessive strike out rates in his three years in the Tigers system. He has improved each year though, and the Tigers hope that 2012 is a turning point for him as he registered a K% of 22.9, by far the lowest of his career, and besting his 2011 rate of 37.7. He doesn't have much of an idea at the plate, never posting a BB% of over 4.5. He did put together a .288/.319/.481 slash line in the Midwest League in 2012, giving the Tigers hope that a light bulb had turned on. While 2012 represented significant progress for Moya, he's going to need to continue to improve by leaps and bounds to avoid getting eaten up by more advanced pitching as he moves up the chain. He's got an immense ceiling, but a low probability of reaching it, or even the majors. All that said, he can't be ignored in a system as thin as the Tigers.
Statistics from Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
Scouting information from Baseball America
You can follow me on Twitter @cdgoldstein