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Detroit Tigers 2015 Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

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The prospect staff at Fake Teams continues their fantasy prospect rankings and system reviews with an in-depth look at the Detroit Tigers.

Sage Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Just like last year, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking an in-depth look at each major league organization, including our top 10 fantasy prospects, an overview of the organization's minor league system as a whole and potential opportunities for playing time in 2015. Our goal is to provide you with more information as you prepare for minor league drafts for dynasty and keeper leagues, as well as look at players that could potentially be worth watching during the spring, as they could be in line to potentially help your fantasy team. We will be reviewing two teams per week until we are through all 30 teams, and you can see the schedule of when your favorite team will be reviewed below. if we have already reviewed the team, a link to the post, along with the team's top prospect is noted.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore
(3/11)

Chicago
(Rodon)

Houston
(Correa)

Atlanta
(Sims)

Chicago
(Bryant)

Arizona
(Bradley)

Boston
(3/14)

Cleveland
(Lindor)

Los Angeles
(Heaney)

Miami
(Kolek)

Cincinnati
(Stephenson)

Colorado
(Gray)

New York
(3/18)

Detroit
(Today)

Oakland
(Olson)

New York
(Syndergaard)

Milwaukee
(Taylor)

Los Angeles
(Pederson)

Tampa Bay
(3/21)

Kansas City
(2/21)

Seattle
(Jackson)

Philadelphia
(Crawford)

Pittsburgh
(Glasnow)

San Diego
(Renfroe)

Toronto
(3/25)

Minnesota
(2/25)

Texas
(Gallo)

Washington
(Giolito)

St. Louis
(Piscotty)

San Francisco
(Crick)

Organizational Overview
by Jason Hunt

The Tigers have become the class of the American League Central, winning the division every year since 2010 and averaging 91 wins per season while doing so. They made what seemed like an impossible trade last offseason, moving Prince Fielder and the remaining seven years on his contract to the Rangers for 2B Ian Kinsler. They also moved a starting pitcher (Doug Fister) for a trio of prospects in a trade that was widely panned and has netted little in return.

The most astute move of the whole offseason though, was the signing at the end of Spring Training of outfielder J.D. Martinez. Martinez turned in a .315 batting average with 23 home runs and 76 RBI, and gave the Tigers a very lethal heart of the batting order.  During the season, the offense was led by Miguel Cabrera, who had a "down" year with just 25 home runs and a .313 batting average, and the crazy outlier of a season by Victor Martinez, who hit .335 with 32 home runs and a ridiculous 70 walks against just 42 strikeouts.

The pitching staff was already considered a strength with Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer at the top, along with possibly the best #3 starter in the league in Anibal Sanchez. The team got solid performances from the back end as well with Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly providing quality innings. Verlander didn't pitch as well as previous seasons, and with him there are some concerns that he may not return to that level of performance again.

The rotation also saw the biggest move the team made during the season, sending Smyly along with prospect Willy Adames to the Rays in a three-team deal to get a third Cy-Young winner in David Price. The emergence of J.D. Martinez helped soften the blow of the deal, as the Tigers sent starting center fielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners as a part of it.

They managed to hold off the resurgent Kansas City Royals for the division title, clinching the title on the last day of the season. Unfortunately, they couldn't put it together at all in the postseason, getting swept in the Division Series by the Orioles. Coming into the offseason, they knew that with free agency they would need to replace a starting pitcher (Scherzer) and a starting outfielder (Hunter) and went to work quickly. Trades of top prospects Devon Travis, Jonathon Crawford and Domingo Leyba during the offseason have helped make upgrades across the major league roster (although they have made writing about their prospects a little more difficult.) They have also been willing to make moves to the major league roster, finding their replacement for Torii Hunter in a trade with the Red Sox that netted them Yoenis Cespedes.

The team's farm system is among the worst in the majors, but this appears entirely by design. Knowing that they are in a fairly strong window of competition and hoping to extend that as long as possible, they continue to trade nearly any useable prospect for the upgrades they need at the major league level. A quick glance at last year's Baseball America top 8 has two players that graduated (Castellanos and Bruce Rondon) and six players who have been traded away for upgrades. They will use these prospects as the assets they are, and cash them in as soon as is necessary.

Overall, the team is poised yet again to compete for a division crown, and while there may be more competition than in years' past, their rotation with Price, Sanchez and Verlander at the top should make them the favorites to win the division. Look for the team to make any additional upgrades they may find during the season, as they continue to aim for a return trip to the World Series for the second first time in 9 seasons.


2014 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time.

Nick Castellanos (AB), Eugenio Suarez (AB), Bryan Holaday (AB), Blaine Hardy (ST), Ian Krol (ST)

Major League Opportunities in 2015
by Jason Hunt

It's not really all that surprising that a team that has won their division each of the last four seasons doesn't have a whole lot of open spaces in their roster. The only position that really stands out at this point is center field, where they acquired Anthony Gose from the Blue Jays to play excellent defense and hit at the bottom of the order. If he can't hit at all, look for the Tigers to take what remains in their farm system and get an upgrade.

DH Victor Martinez needed surgery earlier in the month, but is currently expected to be ready for Opening Day at this point. It seems more likely that the team would piece together a solution at DH if Martinez isn't ready as expected, with potentially Steven Moya or Tyler Collins getting first crack at additional playing time.

The back end of the rotation is set with Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon expected to hold down the last two spots, although an injury or ineffectiveness could lead to either Kyle Lobstein or Drew VerHagen getting a shot at some spot starts.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
by Jason Hunt

Our top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are based upon standard 5x5 fantasy baseball leagues, with a balancing of ceiling and present value. While we are having discussions regarding these lists as a collective group, the top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are finalized by the writer listed above. Players are no longer considered prospects once they exceed either 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days of service time in the Majors.

1. Derek Hill (OF)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.208 20 2 14 11
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
197 0.296 0.295 9.14% 22.84%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 R R Rk-A-
Roster Status: Protect after 2018 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018
Drafted out of a high school just outside of Sacramento, California, Hill was the top draft pick of the Tigers in the 2014 draft. He signed within two weeks of the draft for a $2 million bonus, and sent him to their GCL affiliate to start his professional career. He appeared in 28 games there before finishing his season in the New York Penn League for the last 19 of the year. The production overall was a bit weaker than expected, but Hill was one of the younger regulars in the NY-Penn League.

The strength of Hill's profile for fantasy relies on his speed, which is considered above-average to potentially elite. His profile points to more of a leadoff hitter, with the potential for a good batting average but not a ton of home run power. He looks a lot like one of those prospects where he will provide more real life value than fantasy value, as his defense is expected to be good enough to stay in center field long term. That said, he is still no slouch for fantasy, as he should provide solid but not spectacular production overall. He seems likely to head to full season ball in 2015, and we could see him in the majors by 2018 if it all goes well.


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2. Steven Moya (OF)

Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.277 83 35 105 16
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
557 0.307 0.553 4.13% 29.26%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 L R AA-MLB
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (2 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2016
Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2008, Moya has been slowly plugging away toward the majors. He spent two seasons in a row at Low-A West Michigan, and was improved in his second go-around there. He appeared in just 59 games that season though, as he needed Tommy John surgery which ended his season. He was moved up to High-A Lakeland for the 2013 season, where he hit 12 home runs with a .255 batting average over 93 games. He was added to the 40-man roster after that season, and sent to AA for the 2014 season. We finally saw the capitalization on the above-average power potential last year, as Moya hit an Eastern League leading 35 home runs before a September call up to the majors. He even added another five in the Arizona Fall League in October as well.

Moya's power potential is his carrying tool as a fantasy prospect, as he can potentially provide 30+ home runs per season. The power may not play to its' fullest potential though, as there are legitimate questions about his ability to hit for average and his approach at the plate. He has struck out at least 27% of the time in each of the last two years, and when coupled with a walk rate below 5%, does not bode well for either number improving as he moves up. The best case scenario is probably a .240-.250 hitter with 25+ home runs, but unless the contact issues are addressed at least somewhat, he may not be a major league regular in right field. He'll likely head to AAA for the 2015 season, and could be the first call-up should the Tigers need an outfielder.

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3. Buck Farmer (RHP)

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
12 0 3.68 1.22 140
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
132.1 0.68 1.20 6.72% 25.41%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
23 L R A,A+,AA,AAA,MLB
Roster Status: On 40-Man Roster (2 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: Late 2015
A 5th round draft pick from the 2013 class, Farmer has moved quickly through the minor leagues after attending Georgia Tech. He made his professional debut at Connecticut, where he made 11 starts and struck out a batter per inning. He started the 2014 season at Low-A West Michigan, and made 18 starts there before being moved straight to AA Erie. After just two starts there, the Tigers needed a starting pitcher and called upon Farmer to make the spot start. He then spent the rest of the year going between AA, AAA and the majors, making another start before finishing the year in the bullpen in Detroit.

Farmer features a three-pitch repertoire consisting of an above-average fastball, a solid slider and solid changeup. None of the three pitches is expected to be a truly above-average strikeout offering, but he does induce a lot of weak contact and gets a ton of groundballs. The best case scenario for Farmer is that he ends up as a back-end of the rotation starter, providing decent ratios with some strikeouts. Most likely though, that translates into an AL-only or a deep mixed league pitcher except for streaming opportunities. He'll likely return to AAA to start 2015, and could be called upon should the team need a spot starter.


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4. Kevin Ziomek (LHP)

Photo Credit: Jim Brown - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
10 0 2.27 1.154 152
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
123 0.40 1.02 10.39% 29.80%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R L A
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017
The Tigers took Ziomek from Vanderbilt University in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, and in what seems like a bit of a rare move from the team, did not push him as aggressively as we have seen for other pitching prospects. After throwing just eight innings in his debut season, the Tigers sent Ziomek to full-season Low-A West Michigan, and left him there for the full season. He finished with 152 strikeouts in 123 innings pitched, good for 2nd overall in the league, and was among the league leaders in both ERA and hits allowed.

Ziomek's repertoire consists of a fastball, slider and changeup, although none of them profile as a true strikeout offering. All three pitches have the potential to be at least average or better offerings, which should help keep him as a starting pitcher long-term. He gets a lot of deception from his delivery, which is a bit funky and looks a bit choppy on video. It definitely helps him out, and as long as it doesn't affect his command adversely, that should continue.

Ziomek has the potential to be a back-end starting pitcher, providing decent ratios and some strikeouts to fantasy owners. He ends up ahead of some other pitching prospects on this list which may have slightly higher ceilings on the strength that his floor is fairly high and he will likely end up in a rotation either way. He may still be another two to three years from the majors, and at this point would likely be more of a wait-and-see prospect except in deeper formats.


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5. Austin Kubitza (RHP)

Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
10 0 2.34 1.08 140
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
131 0.30 3.72 7.98% 25.97%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R A
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017
The Tigers' fourth round pick in 2013, Kubitza pitched as a reliever in his first professional season before the team opted to return him to the rotation in 2014. He spent the full season with West Michigan, where he finished with 140 strikeouts and just 98 hits allowed over 134 innings pitched.

Kubitza features two pitches which are potentially above-average in a fastball and an excellent slider. The slider caused concerns in his draft year, as he relied very heavily on the pitch while at Rice University, and saw a related drop in velocity on his fastball as a result. The reports on his third pitch, a changeup, are generally not very positive, but with that said it sounds like it did improve this year, and gives some hope that he can turn into a mid-rotation starter if it all clicks. If that pitch does not develop, he could still provide value to the Tigers in the bullpen, but would probably not help fantasy owners a lot there.


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6. Tyler Collins (OF)

Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.262 66 19 66 12
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
551 0.332 0.421 9.07% 21.78%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
24 L L AAA-MLB
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (2 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: Late 2015
A sixth round pick for the Tigers back in 2011, Collins has really shown two distinct profiles during his time in the minors. In his first two professional seasons, Collins consistently hit for a high batting average, limited his strikeouts, stole 26 bases and hit 15 home runs over a total of 169 games overall. The scouting reports following the 2013 season noted that he had begun trying to swing for the fences a lot more that year, and while he did see the home run total improve to 21 that year, his batting average dropped to .240 while also doubling his strikeout rate and stealing just four bases. He actually made the major league team out of Spring Training, but spent most of the year with Toledo. The power production continued in 2014, as he hit 18 bombs to go with 12 steals and a .263 batting average.

The question with Collins at this point is which version of his performance at the plate will carry forward as he reaches the majors. The speed is not really expected to translate into double-digit stolen base totals on a regular basis, so we can cross that off the potential stat line other than a few here and there. His approach from his first two seasons seemed to work better overall, but regardless of which grouping ends up happening in 2015, he's likely an AL-only play for both redraft and dynasty formats. Best case is that if he gets full-time at bats, he hits in the .260-.270 range with 10-15 home runs, a little of both but definitely not above-average in either. He's likely to get another shot at a roster spot in 2015, but with a crowded outfield in the majors and Collins not really able to play center field, he'll likely return to Toledo to start the year.


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7. James McCann (C)

Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.294 51 7 54 10
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
472 0.339 0.424 5.30% 19.49%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
24 R R AAA-MLB
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2015
A second round pick in 2011 for the Tigers, McCann is on the cusp of getting a shot at a backup job in Detroit. He has spent the last two seasons at AA and AAA respectively, getting a full season at both levels before a call up at the end of the season this year to the majors.

McCann is considered a solid defender behind the plate and is ready for a shot at consistent playing time in the majors. His value to fantasy owners may only be in AL-only or deep two-catcher leagues, as he is anticipated to provide a solid batting average with minimal power production to go with it. He's expected to be the backup in Detroit this year to Alex Avila, although if he hits better than Avila he could take over full-time. With a full season of plate appearances I can see him hitting in the .270-.275 range with 7-10 home runs, which has value at the catcher position, but is likely waiver wire material in shallow formats.


8. Javier Betancourt (2B)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.269 67 6 54 9
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
612 0.307 0.344 4.25% 13.24%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
19 R R A
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017
The Tigers may be set at the middle infield spots for the foreseeable future with Kinsler and Iglesias expected to hold down the starting jobs, but that works to Javier Betancourt's favor at this point. He was signed out of Venezuela back in 2011, but made his full season debut in 2014 with West Michigan at the age of 18. His performance there was solid on paper, and looks even better given how young he was for the level.

Betancourt works with a solid hit tool, and has shown a solid ability to make contact and specifically avoid strikeouts. He's not expected to provide a ton of power down the line in part because of his size (reported at 6'0, 180 lbs but viewed as likely smaller than that), but could still provide more than a token few home runs each year. His raw speed isn't expected to provide high stolen base totals, but could get a decent amount each year. The one thing that seems to point to him potentially getting the most out of his raw tools is his makeup, which is widely viewed as excellent. He has baseball in his bloodlines, as former major leaguer Edgardo Alfonzo is his uncle.

Betancourt played second base primarily to allow the departed Willy Adames to play shortstop, and it sounds like this will be his long-term fit on the field. He has the potential to be a decent option at the position, providing production of some sort in all five categories but none are likely to be above-average totals, and would likely slot in as an MI option in leagues with 16+ teams once he reaches the majors. He'll likely head to High-A Lakeland for the 2015 season, and we may not see him in Detroit for another three to four seasons still.


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9. Spencer Turnbull (RHP)

Photo Credit: John David Mercer - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
0 0 4.31 1.53 23
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
31.1 0.60 2.50 10.56% 16.20%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A--Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018
Turnbull was the Tigers' 2nd round draft pick in 2014 out of the University of Alabama, signing for a bonus of just under $1 million. After making a start in the GCL, he was sent to the New York-Penn league where he threw a total of 28 innings over 11 starts due to an innings limit.

Turnbull's best offerings are his fastball and slider, which are both considered potentially high strikeout offerings down the line. The questions about his long-term projection come from a changeup which may only be a "show-me" offering if it develops to its' potential. If it does develop, he can be a mid-rotation starter capable of providing solid strikeout production with a bit of ratio risk related to inconsistent command. He has the build to potentially be a 200 inning starter, standing 6'3" and 215 lbs, and his delivery is fairly repeatable and fluid. If he doesn't make it as a starter, he may have value as a reliever, but that value for us would be contingent upon his role in the pen.


10. Steven Fuentes (3B)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.295 30 3 19 6
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
222 0.356 0.475 7.21% 22.97%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
19 R R A-
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018
We've promised you ten prospects per team, and the Tigers are no exception in spite of their desire to trade any prospect of any interest that wasn't nailed down first. Fuentes is a prospect that I generally wouldn't aim to rank in the top 10 for a system because of the distance from the majors, but here we are anyway. In spite of that intro, I actually like what we've seen so far from Fuentes.

The Tigers signed him out of Venezuela in 2011, and while he has yet to play at a full-season level yet, showed signs of a potentially interesting hitter with Connecticut this past year. The potential for Fuentes is a bat-first third baseman that can provide a decent batting average to go along with decent home run totals. How much power he ends up developing will determine whether he ends up as a mixed league or an AL-only option down the line, but the tools are there that he could end up as a 15+ home run hitter as he continues to develop. In a year's time, this will either look much too low based on a strong performance at West Michigan, or will look silly for even thinking it could happen in the first place.


Other Interesting Prospects
by Jason Hunt

Kyle Lobstein - There's something to be said about a pitcher that is generally average across the board and should provide innings for his team. With that, he's not expected to provide a ton of strikeouts, and generally is expected to be a 5th starter type long-term. There's value to that in really deep formats, but not much otherwise.

Greyson Grenier - Grenier profiles as a defense-first catcher, which should be a nice player for the Tigers to have, but unless his power develops beyond what is reasonably expected right now, he'd likely be outside our top 30 at the position when he reaches the majors.

Drew VerHagen - VerHagen reached the majors in 2014, and looks like he could get another opportunity to pitch there at some point in 2015. However, he doesn't appear likely to provide a particularly high amount of strikeouts, and while a groundball specialist who generates a ton of weak contact can have value to the Tigers, it limits his value to fantasy owners if he doesn't approach at least 5.5-6.0 strikeouts per 9 innings.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects
Follow him on Twitter 

Brian Creagh is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter