As the Bless You Boys staff prepares to dive deeper into the prospects on our top 30 prospect list, there are numerous prospects debated for the final few spots who were close but didn’t make the list. After outlining five players who just missed, there are still others worth highlighting, particularly as they’ve been largely out of sight over the past year.
The Detroit Tigers system is reasonably deep these days, so it’s inevitable that some talented names would be left off. There are plenty of reasons that might happen, but regardless these names are worth noting, and monitoring as we (hopefully) see Minor League Baseball again soon.
So, let’s dive into five more pitchers to watch that didn’t quite make our top 30 Tigers prospect list.
LHP Max Green
The Tigers drafted Green in the eighth round of the 2017 draft. He made it up to Advanced A ball in 2019 where he posted a 2.83 ERA with a K/9 of 5.97 and 2.54 BB/9 in 60 innings over 36 relief appearances. His consistency across the 2019 season as a bullpen arm is very intriguing.
Green’s repertoire is highlighted by a good fastball that can reach up to 98 mph and features some armside sink low in the zone. With limited 2019 games viewable, there isn’t a great selection of heaters available, but that won’t stop me from sharing a look at the fastball.
He compliments that fastball with a slider that breaks across the zone in the low 80’s. Green utilizes these two pitches to keep hitters off balance.
Part of what makes Green so interesting is that he’s an athletic lefty who can get to the upper 90’s with the fastball, and has some deception as well. He missed the top 30 for a couple reasons. One being that he is a relief-only prospect and they are notoriously difficult to include unless you’re looking at true closer quality stuff. Another is finding a true compliment to his fastball. His slider is a decent pitch, and he’ll mix in a slow curve as well, but an improved secondary offering would make this a different conversation.
Green’s walk numbers are low, but the strikeout numbers are low too. He’s gotten better at pounding the zone for weak contact, though as mentioned, he still needs a legitimate out pitch, and he also has a pretty even split between flyballs and groundballs. In 2019 he was utilized in many different leverage roles. He’ll be a fun one to see how he comes back in 2021.
RHP Paul Richan
When the Tigers traded Nick Castellanos to the Chicago Cubs, Richan was one of the two pitchers they received in return. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the Competitive Balance Round B in 2018. Unlike Green, Richan is a starter. He was traded midseason, but spend the whole year at Advanced A ball with a combined 4.00 ERA over 123.2 innings of work.
Richan has the pitch mix to be a starter. He works off of his fastball which generally sits in low 90’s and gets a significant amount of 2-seam movement.
The secondary pitch he uses most is his curveball that tows the 80 MPH line. It plays well bottoming out of the zone, and create some whiffs.
Richan will also feature a low 80’s slider that, like the curveball, isn’t necessary impressive in isolation, but can be a weapon when he sequences well. His advanced command allows him to regularly make it work, particularly in a righty on righty matchup.
The repertoire is rounded out with a changeup. That pitch is not used as often, and mostly against lefties. He controls the zone pretty well. His stuff overall isn’t quite up to the level of the guys who made the cut on the top 30 list, but he still has an interesting arsenal with some promise because he already spots the ball pretty well with multiple pitches. As a result, he’s in kind of a unique spot where he doesn’t have the stuff for a fallback plan in relief, but his command and ability to execute several pitches keep him close enough to a potential future as a backend starter that he’ll bear watching as he moves into the upper levels of the system in 2021. If the Tigers can help him find another gear through conditioning or pitch design, we’ll probably regret leaving him off the top 30 this year.
RHP Hugh Smith
A tall, tall man. Standing six foot, 10 inches tall, Smith was taken out of Division III ball by the Tigers in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. The height alone is enough to make him endlessly intriguing. However, with the height comes concerns about his ability to repeat his mechanics and develop his command. He was also a very raw product on the mound in 2019. Smith threw 44.2 innings over 10 starts where he posted a 3.63 ERA with a 9.07 K/9 and 4.03 K/9.
Smith has a three pitch mix. He sat in the low 90’s with his fastball in 2019, and the pitch has some armside run to it, but particularly considering Smith’s height, is often rather flat through the zone.
He generally couples the fastball with a low 80’s slider that he’ll throw to either lefties or righties. It gets depth and can be a weapon when he sequences it well.
Rounding out Smith’s repertoire is a mid 80’s changeup that he uses less than the other two pitches. Mostly it’s a change of pace pitch he uses against lefties.
There is a lot to dream on with Smith just based on size alone. The fastball/slider combination is pretty interesting considering the projection remaining. Control and command are the big factor, and it’s fair to suggest that pitchers his size don’t have a great track record of success. The hope is that his velocity will take a step forward then we could really see something. As is, he’s a name to keep an eye on.
RHP Drew Carlton
Carlton made it the highest of this bunch so far, up to AA before the cancelled 2020 season. He was used in relief only, but showed out well with a 1.46 ERA in 68 innings of work. It can be said he is already overperforming the expectations of a 32nd rounder, which is what he was in 2017.
In terms of his arsenal, he is a side arm pitcher. Add that funky delivery to a low 90’s fastball that plays all around the zone, it’s easy to see why he can create weak contact. He leans heavily on the fastball, using it almost exclusively.
Carlton pairs that fastball with a, generally, low 80’s changeup. It’s really good velocity separation, about 10 mph. The changeup creates weak contact more than anything, but when he can change eye levels, it can be a good pitch.
The Tigers have had an eye for the specialty reliever in recent years and Carlton’s ability to play the fastball/changeup combination around the edges of the strike zone could ultimately carry him to a major league debut this season. Between his funky delivery and pitchability, Carlton has certainly earned a nod on this list, and it will be interesting to see how his stuff holds up against tougher competition this year.
RHP Elvin Rodriguez
The Los Angeles Angels originally signed Rodriguez out of the Dominican Republic in 2014. The Tigers acquired him via trade in 2017. He’s slowly been climbing his way up the ranks, peaking in Advanced A in 2019, where he posted a 3.77 ERA with a 112/44 K/BB ratio in 133.2 innings of work.
Rodriguez’s fastball doesn’t create much in terms of movement, and it’s low 90’s velocity won’t blow anyone away, but it gets used well in games. His delivery is pretty deliberate from the leg lift until he throws the ball, which can create some deception with the pitch. Being able to spot it at the knees helps too, but he’ll work above the strike zone with it regularly.
He couples that fastball with a solid curveball with some tilt. It bottoms out of the zone well, and will get some whiffs down.
Finally, Rodriguez has a changeup that really just is a pitch he uses to throw a wrinkle into the pitch mix. He will rarely flash it and despite good velocity separation it’s a bit underwhelming in terms of movement.
Control helps Rodriguez’s stuff to play up. He doesn’t miss over the plate often, and he can throw his fastball and curveball with relative confidence in any count. That keeps the batters off balance enough for him to have found some success at the lower levels. The secondaries taking a step forward would be huge for Rodriguez and his future. The issue is that he’s plateaued somewhat in terms of velocity and stuff, and he’ll be 23 in a few months. Hopefully the year off sees him return with a little more power at his disposal.