Detroit Tigers’ farm system: Ranking the top-15 prospects entering 2021

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The minor leagues will return for the 2021 season, following a year-long absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a look at the Detroit Tigers’ top-15 prospects, ranked by the Free Press, and a timetable for how soon they will reach — or return to — the majors. (Shortstop Willi Castro is no longer a prospect because he exceeded rookie limits in 2020.)

2021 PREDICTIONS: Miguel Cabrera, prospect debuts and clarity on future

Age: 20.

Acquired: 2019 draft, first round, No. 5 overall. Minors experience: 1 year.

Projected arrival: Second-half 2021.

Projected to start year: Double-A Erie.

The buzz: Greene is the best player in the Tigers’ system. Whether he was making web-gems in Comerica Park during summer camp, finding his swagger at the alternate training site or showcasing his leadership in the instructional league this fall, Greene exemplifies must-watch baseball. The left-handed hitter is advanced with his bat and patient enough to work deep into counts.

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Age: 24.

Acquired: 2018 draft, ninth round, No. 255 overall. Minors experience: 2 years. Majors experience: rookie status.

Projected arrival: Opening Day 2021.

Projected to start year: MLB.

The buzz: Making eight appearances (seven starts) for the Tigers in 2020, it’s clear Skubal is advanced, especially when using his fastball. He ranked in the 71st percentile for strikeout rate (27.6%) and fastball velocity (averaging 94.4 mph, topping out at 98.5 mph). Also, he finished in the 82nd percentile for fastball spin (2,422 rpm). The left-hander’s fastball can be lethal in the majors, but he needs to improve his secondary pitches.

Age: 21.

Acquired: 2020 draft, first round, No. 1 overall. Minors experience: N/A.

Projected arrival: Opening Day 2022.

Projected to start year: High-A West Michigan.

The buzz: Torkelson has never played a game in the Tigers’ farm system and struggled against big-league pitchers in summer camp. He looked stellar in the instructional league, but those contests were against low-level minor-league talent. The slugger from Arizona State shouldn’t be rushed; the Tigers need to make sure he is ready when his name is called.

ROSTER DECISIONS: Opening Day roster prediction 2.0: Tough decisions emerge

Age: 23.

Acquired: 2018 draft, first round, No. 1 overall. Minors experience: 2 years.

Majors experience: Rookie status.

Projected arrival: 2021 Opening Day.

Projected to start year: MLB.

The buzz: Mize’s first year in the majors was underwhelming. He had a 19.5% strikeout rate and a 9.8% walk rate, both worse than league averages. Opponents owned a .294 expected batting average against him. Again, worse than the .250 league average. While his ERA was 6.99, his expected ERA was 7.27. And his fastball averaged 93.7 mph, yet his splitter — deemed his go-to pitch — lacked command. But it’s reasonable to expect better results in 2021.

[ What Casey Mize thinks about new manager AJ Hinch ]

Age: 22.

Acquired: 2016 draft, first round, No. 9 overall. Minors experience: 4 years.

Projected arrival: Early 2021.

Projected to start year: Triple-A Toledo.

The buzz: Right now, Manning’s floor is a bit lower than Mize and Skubal, but is his ceiling higher? That’s the question the Tigers won’t get an answer to until he reaches the majors. His fastball sits in the mid-90s but can reach 97 mph. He has a nasty curveball, and although his changeup has improved, it needs more work. Manning seemed ready for his debut in 2020 but was shut down in late August with a forearm strain.

Age: 21.

Acquired: 2017, from Chicago Cubs. Minors experience: 4 years.

Majors experience: Rookie status.

Projected arrival: Opening Day 2021.

Projected to start year: MLB.

The buzz: Paredes’ plate discipline is advanced. In four minor-league seasons, he had 163 walks and 226 strikeouts. In the Mexican Pacific Winter League regular season this winter, the third baseman produced 27 walks and 12 strikeouts in 42 games, along with a .379 batting average to win the batting title. He owned a 24-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 MLB games in 2020 but expect him to improve. Also, Paredes boasts untapped power and can become an extra-base machine. What’s more of a question is where he will play in the field. The Tigers hope he can handle second base.

Age: 23.

Acquired: 2019, from Atlanta Braves. Minors experience: 4 years.

Projected arrival: Second-half 2022.

Projected to start the year: injured list.

The buzz: Wentz underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020. A full recovery is typically made within 14-16 months, so he should be able to pitch in games this summer. But the Tigers have no reason to rush him. The 6-foot-5 lefty must build his innings, get his velocity back to the low-90s and continue his unwavering command. Since the Tigers acquired him in 2019 from the Atlanta Braves, Wentz has looked the part of a future middle-of-the-rotation starter.

INJURY UPDATES: How Alex Faedo, Joey Wentz are recovering from Tommy John surgery

Age: 24.

Acquired: 2017, from Houston Astros. Minors experience: 5 years.

Majors experience: Rookie status.

Projected arrival: Second-half 2021.

Projected to start year: Triple-A Toledo.

The buzz: Cameron will compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he could benefit from more time in the minors. He is a solid defender — one of the best in the farm system — but isn’t ready offensively. He hit .214 in 120 games for Triple-A Toledo in 2019, and during his 17-game stint in MLB last season, he went 11-for-57 (.193) with two walks and 19 strikeouts. His first half of 2021, assuming it’s in Toledo, should help the Tigers get a better understanding of his role moving forward.

Age: 22.

Acquired: 2020 draft, second round, No. 38 overall. Minors experience: N/A.

Projected arrival: Early 2022.

Projected to start year: Low-A Lakeland.

The buzz: The Tigers want to develop their catchers internally. The first step: securing Dingler from Ohio State. He is an offense-first catcher, boasting five homers in 13 games for the Buckeyes before the 2020 season was nixed. One-year rentals at catcher, which the Tigers have recently used, can’t last forever, so Dingler might wind up in the majors sooner rather than later — especially if fellow prospect Jake Rogers doesn’t pan out.

Age: 25.

Acquired: 2017 draft, first round, No. 18 overall. Minors experience: 2 years.

Projected arrival: Second-half 2022.

Projected to start year: Injured list.

The buzz: Faedo was shut down in August — with Manning — because of a forearm strain. His injury, however, turned out to be severe, forcing him to undergo Tommy John surgery in December. He didn’t pitch well in 2018 but bounced back in 2019 with a 3.90 ERA in Erie. Yet he wasn’t as strong as Mize, Skubal and Manning in the minors. It’s unclear if he will become the front-line starter that the Tigers drafted him from Florida to be.

Age: 21.

Acquired: 2018 draft, second round, No. 44 overall. Minors experience: 2 years.

Projected arrival: Second-half 2022.

Projected to start year in: Low-A Lakeland.

The buzz: Meadows is the most athletic prospect in the farm system. The 6-5, 205-pounder offers speed on the bases and in the outfield. He has good arm strength, too, allowing him to play any of the three outfield positions. The high school draftee only mustered a .221 batting average in Single-A in 2019, but his raw skills give the Tigers hope for long-term success. By 2023, the Tigers could have this starting outfield: Meadows (left field), Greene (center field) and Cameron (right field).

Age: 17.

Acquired: Signed as an international free agent in July 2019. Minors experience: N/A.

Projected arrival: Second-half 2025.

Projected to start year: Dominican Summer League.

The buzz: The Tigers love Campos, hence why they gave him a $3.2 million signing bonus. The only problem is they haven’t even seen him in a professional game. His first season was delayed  when the minors didn’t play because of the coronavirus. Already 6-3, 200 pounds, he will get bigger and stronger as he matures. He has the early makeup to be a slugger at a corner outfield position. For now, that’s all Campos is — a whole lot of potential.

Age: 25.

Acquired: 2017, from Astros. Minors experience: 4 years.

Majors experience: Rookie status.

Projected arrival: 2021 Opening Day.

Projected to start year: MLB.

The buzz: Rogers turns 26 years old in April and — so far — isn’t the catcher of the future that the organization thought he would be when they acquired him (with Cameron and Franklin Perez) from the Houston Astros in the 2017 Justin Verlander trade. He made his MLB debut in 2019 and hit .125 through 35 games. Rogers is running out of time to show he can make a lasting impact.

Age: 19.

Acquired: Signed as an international free agent in July 2018. Minors experience: 1 year.

Projected arrival: Early 2023.

Projected to start year: Rookie Complex League.

The buzz: The virus prevented Reyes from getting to the U.S. in 2020, but he will be stateside this year. If all goes as planned, the 6-1, 195-pound infielder will be a big-league shortstop with a solid arm in the field and power at the plate. Still, he has a long way to go in his development. Signed with a $1.45 million bonus, Reyes made his professional debut in 2019, hitting .331 with 20 doubles, seven home runs and 48 RBIs in 62 games in the Dominican Summer League.

Age: 23.

Acquired: 2017, from Astros. Minors experience: 5 years.

Projected arrival: Second-half 2021.

Projected to start year at: Double-A Erie.

The buzz: Perez is another player from the Verlander trade who hasn’t lived up to expectations. He couldn’t stay healthy, only pitching 27 innings between 2018 and 2019. Yet he didn’t have any issues at summer camp or the alternate training site in 2020. Even if his MLB debut comes in a bullpen role, it shouldn’t be much longer. During summer camp, his fastball topped out around 95 mph.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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