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Detroit Tigers Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

The aging Tigers missed the playoffs for the second season in a row, and a rebuild may be on the horizon. How much help do they have waiting in the wings?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Our Basis

With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.

Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat that must be rehashed every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.

The Tiers

The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers that do not have prospects for certain teams.

Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects

These prospects are expected to be in the top-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.

The Tigers on't have anyone in this tier.

Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates

These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.

#1 - Matt Manning (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 19
ETA: 2020

Manning was viewed as one of the top prospects in the 2016 draft, checking in at 11 on Baseball America's big board, and 12th on Keith Law's top-fifty. The Tigers picked the 6'6" righty 9th overall, and he showcased his potential by pitching to the following line in the Rookie Level GCL - 29.1 IP, 27 H, 7 BB, 46 K, 3.99 ERA. The 18-year-old is a fantastic athlete (and the son of former NBA player Rich Manning), and has surprisingly consistent mechanics and strong command for a high school draftee (particularly one that split his time between baseball and basketball). Manning sits in the mid-90s with an explosive fastball, and pairs that with a hard curveball in the low-80s. His change-up is a work in progress and he's several years away from the Majors, but he has the makings of a top of the rotation pitcher.

#2 - Christin Stewart (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 23
ETA: 2018

A couple of months ago, I chose Stewart as my High-A Player of the Year, on the strength of his .264/.403/.534 slash line in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. The 22-year-old is limited to left field defensively, which limits his overall prospect status, but he plays it well enough to stay out there for the foreseeable future - which bolsters his fantasy value. Stewart does strikeout quite a bit, which may hinder his batting average, but he has a good approach and well above-average bat speed, so he shouldn't be a detriment in that category. Moreover, he has plus raw power, as evidenced by his 30 home runs in 443 AB between High-A and Double-A last season, and profiles as a middle-of-the-order bat as a result.

Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters

These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats, like 12 and 14 team leagues.

#3 - Beau Burrows (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 20
ETA: 2019

The first few weeks of the Low-A season were a bit disconcerting for Burrows, as his fastball sat in the upper-80s with a distinct lack of bite; luckily, the velocity ticked up to the 92 to 94 range as the weather warmed up. There will always be some questions about Burrows' ability to hold velocity and rack up innings, as his 6'1" frame is a bit small for a power pitcher, but it is difficult to overlook his above-average fastball (largely due to its movement) and wicked curveball. If he can find consistency in his promising change-up, he can be a quality mid-rotation starter. If not, he has all of the ingredients of a shut-down reliever.

#4 - Derek Hill (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 21
ETA: 2019

It is difficult to look at Hill's 2016 season and get excited, as he batted just .266/.312/.349 with 1 HR in 415 PA, striking out in 25.3% of his PA. He did steal 35 bases in 41 attempts, showcasing the elite speed that can make up for several flaws. As always, though, I must caution against scouting the stat line, as there is a great deal to like about Hill's overall profile. The soon-to-be 21-year-old is incredibly athletic, and has the potential for an above-average hit tool and average-ish power. His growth is on-hold for the time being, as he will miss part of 2017 recovering from elbow surgery. Nevertheless, he could hit around .280 with 10 to 15 home runs and 30-plus steals at his best.

Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays

These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.

#5 - Kyle Funkhouser (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 23
ETA: 2019

Funkhouser was drafted 35th overall by the Dodgers in 2015, as the consensus top-10 talent slipped dramatically due to signability concerns - and he made good (or bad, depending on your point of view) on that, and deciding to head back to Louisville. One year later, he slipped to the 4th round (115th overall), as his stuff and performance backslid as a senior. His mid-90s running fastball and swing-and-miss slider turned into a low-90s straight fastball and inconsistent slurve, and his stock adjusted accordingly. Funkhouser did look better after signing, recovering some of the lost velocity and snap on his slider, and most of his scouting reports read as an open-ended question. He looked like a potential front-line starter in 2015, and a back-end starter in 2016, so his true potential may lie in the middle.

#6 - Michael Gerber (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 24
ETA: 2017

Gerber may best be described as a boring prospect, as one could argue that his tools are simply average across the board. He hit .276/.345/.466 with 18 HR and 8 SB between High-A and Double-A this year, after batting .292/.355/.468 with 13 HR and 16 SB in Single-A in 2015. Gerber struggled against LHP in his first full season, but his platoon split was mild in 2016 (.825 OPS vs. RHP, .772 vs. LHP), and he has a strong overall approach at the plate. He doesn't profile as a top flight fantasy talent, but he should be a fine supporting player, capable of hitting between .260 and .270 with 15-plus home runs and 8 to 10 steals.

#7 - JaCoby Jones (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 24
ETA: 2017

For better or worse, Jones may be the most intriguing prospect in the Tigers system (even with two suspensions for drugs of abuse under his belt). The 24-year-old is an incredible athlete, and boasts above-average raw power and plus speed, as well as the ability to play CF and 3B. There's a great deal of swing and miss in his game, though, which doesn't always jibe with his aggressive approach, and he struggled in his first taste of Triple-A (I wouldn't read much into 28 PA at the MLB level). With regular playing time, he could hit 15-plus home runs and steal 15-plus bases - but he's unlikely to be more than a .250 hitter.

Tier 5 - We Ranked Ten Prospects, We Really Did

These prospects generally will be useful in the deepest of formats. Think 24+ teams for mixed leagues, and single-league formats with more teams than the league it uses. In many cases, these will be part-time players or utility-types when they get to the Majors..

#8 - Joe Jimenez (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 22
ETA: 2017

It is difficult to rank relief-only prospects, as so much of their value is dependent upon holding down a closer's role. He was utterly dominant across three levels, pitching to a 1.51 ERA and striking out 78 in 53.2 IP, and the Tigers do have a need in their bullpen, so it could be a matter of time. Jimenez undoubtedly has the stuff and control to translate that success to the Majors, coupling a mid-to-upper 90s lively fastball with a big breaking slider, and he'll get a chance to pitch at the highest level in 2017 (and could break Spring Training with the team).

#9 - Spencer Turnbull (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 24
ETA: 2018

If there is one player on this list who we may be too low on, it's Turnbull. The 23-year-old has a mid-90s sinking fastball and a slider with (at times) ridiculous frisbee movement, and he is able to both keep the ball on the ground and rack up whiffs. The issue is that he missed nearly half of 2016 with injuries, including a shoulder impingement and oblique strain (both on his throwing side), and his change-up did not return from the injury with him. As a result, Turnbull has the look of a two-pitch pitcher, and those types have terribly little room for error in the rotation, unless those pitches are truly elite (which is not the case with Turnbull). If he can stay healthy and rediscover that change-up, he could be a mid-rotation starter.

#10 - Tyler Alexander (LHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 22
ETA: 2017

Alexander is the pitching equivalent of Gerber, as a prototypical finesse southpaw. The 22-year-old has above-average command of all of his pitches, including a sinking fastball in the high-80s/low-90s, a solid-average change-up in the low-80s, and a fringe-average slider. He had a tremendous overall season between High-A and Double-A in 2016, posting a 2.44 ERA in 136.1 IP, with a 105 to 20 strikeout to walk ratio. Alexander does not have the stuff to pitch higher than 4th in a rotation, and will always be dependent upon soft contact and grounders - but he should be able to eat innings with average-ish run prevention numbers.