With just two weeks until every player in the game is in the best shape of their life, and balls, bats, and gloves are popping throughout Florida and Arizona’s spring training complexes, it’s time for the yearly ritual once again. Below are reports for our 2023 top 30 prospect list for the Detroit Tigers. As I typically do, I’ve also written up an abbreviated version of the list with commentary on the system at large rather than the individual reports. That can also be found on the front page at Bless You Boys.
While rumors of the farm system’s total demise are a bit overstated, things aren’t great at the moment. The system is very far from gutted, but they certainly lack top tier prospects. Still, there’s enough to work with that things should rapidly improve if the new organizational leadership is the upgrade it appears to be. The specific problem is that our top ranked prospect, right-hander Wilmer Flores, is the only player in the system currently ranked in national top 100 lists who has a real chance to contribute in 2023.
Joey Wentz, Justyn-Henry Malloy, and Parker Meadows are all talented prospects who could take the next step this year, but each has just enough flaws in his game to fall short of projections as average or better major league contributors. All three are likely to play in Detroit to some degree this year, with Wentz coming into camp just outside of the Tigers’ starting rotation but with a chance to earn a spot on the roster.
Jackson Jobe and Colt Keith are perfectly reasonable choices as the Tigers’ top prospect, but neither has played above A-ball yet. Cristian Santana had a fine debut as an 18-year-old but is obviously still a long way away with plenty of risk. Recent additions like Peyton Graham, Jace Jung, and Izaac Pacheco could all move quickly, but have to prove themselves with a strong full season and a convincing jump to Double-A.
So there just isn’t much high-end proven talent on hand. The Tigers have a solid stockpile of players who have a reasonable chance to level up, but most of them are still a year or two away. No one is necessarily coming to rescue the Tigers this year if Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson aren’t much more productive. Things could look a lot better with a good draft from the new front office and another solid trade or two, but for now the Tigers will have to develop the talent already on hand.
These reports are largely compiled and then hashed out between myself and our main prospect writer Trevor Hooth, with input from others on the staff. In the end, I compile the final list and write up the short version of their reports. We look forward to discussing it all with you in the comments, and thank you as always for reading our site.
#1 RHP Wilmer Flores
After bursting on the scene in 2021, the 21-year-old brother of the long-time San Francisco Giants infielder of the same name continued his rapid rise in 2022. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020, Flores opened eyes by overpowering Low-A competition in his first full season of pro ball. There were still plenty of questions coming into the 2022 season but he just got better. The Tigers saw a month of starts at High-A and quickly promoted him to Double-A Erie. He took the ball 19 times with the SeaWolves and solidified his position as a good starting pitching prospect with another strong season.
The well built 6’4” right-hander can run his fourseam fastball up to 98 mph and comfortably sits in the mid-90’s. It has solid movement and is augmented by good extension and pretty good angle to the top of the zone. Flores gets a lot of weak contact against the heater, and he had little trouble leaning on it at the Double-A level. The whiffs could start piling up if he can tighten up his command a little more. He had stretches this season when he was really letting the fastball go and spotting it consistently, and it was impressive.
Flores backs the heater with a high-80’s cutter that was more consistent this season and adds a different wrinkle to his ability to tie up left-handed hitters inside and it got more swings and misses this season. His power curveball is less consistent but is a plus pitch generating plenty of whiffs when he’s dialed in.
Flores’ delivery didn’t change significantly under the rebuilt development staff, but he did smooth out some of the obvious effort apparent in 2021. The armspeed came a bit easier, and his command improved with better balance and tempo. There’s still a little relief risk here, as he can be inconsistent, but he threw a lot of quality strikes this year and has steadily improved over two full seasons now. The stuff gives him solid margin for error and he isn’t far from being a pretty good major league starter as he enters his age-22 season.
As noted in the system overview, you could reshuffle Colt Keith, Jackson Jobe, and Flores in any order and we wouldn’t argue too much with you. Jobe arguably has the highest upside but is still young, inexperienced, and carries the most risk. Keith’s abbreviated season leaves us wanting to see it a little more in the upper minors, while Flores is tantalizingly close. Pick your poison, but we really like Flores’ trajectory right now.
#2 3B Colt Keith
The Tigers made a wise decision during the five round 2020 draft by convincing prep infielder and sometime pitcher, Colt Keith, to sign in the final round. The Biloxi, Mississippi high school standout quickly impressed with his advanced approach and contact ability in 2021, but didn’t drive the ball for much power. In the meantime, the Tigers overhaul of the player development system began in earnest. Those looking for signs that the organization is on the right track can perhaps point to Keith’s rapid development in 2022.
In the offseason, Keith added more than 30 pounds of muscle and showed up in camp taking a more power hungry approach. He proceeded to drive the ball all over the park and rack up excellent power numbers for two months until a fluke shoulder injury suffered diving back to first base ended his season in June. By then, Keith had already raced into the top tier of Tigers’ prospects. The club was careful about bringing him back too soon, but he did get some swings in the Arizona Fall League. Those looks largely confirmed the impression that Keith has a very good chance to be an impact hitter. A host of errors also left some lingering questions about his defense.
Keith hits left-handed, setting up open to the pitcher and utilizing a medium leg kick to cue his sharp, flat stroke. It’s a very professional approach, as Keith doesn’t chase much, and in 2022 did a much better job hunting pitches he could drive and crushing them. He has pretty good hands, and is fairly adept at climbing the ladder to spray hard line drives on heaters at the top of the zone. On the inner third of the plate he was regularly doing damage as that extra muscle and more aggressive approach paid dividends.
At this point, Keith probably doesn’t have much physical projection remaining and his top exit velocities say he’s unlikely to hit for much more than average power. However, he’s a good enough pure hitter that he could out-slug those projections in-game. Defensively he won’t win accolades for agility or great hands, but he does have a big arm and has focused more on agility in his conditioning, as well as putting in offseason work with Tigers’ great and current special assistant and roving infield instructor, Alan Trammell. Until he shows he can play the position effectively, questions will remain.
Keith should open the season at Double-A Erie this spring. He won’t be 22 until August, and he still has only 486 regular season plate appearances plus a little bit of Arizona Fall League play as a professional straight out of high school. It’s pretty striking how polished a hitter he is already. The big knock on him entering the year was that he might not hit for enough power, and he put those concerns to rest pretty convincingly despite the limited amount of games he was able to play. Keith looked fully prepared to move up a level last spring, and we won’t be surprised if he’s in Triple-A and hunting his first cup of coffee sometime this summer.
#3 RHP Jackson Jobe
As expected, the Detroit Tigers took a lot of time to build up and work with prized pitching prospect Jackson Jobe before sending him out for his first assignment in pro ball. Drafted out of high school and only recently converted to pitching, his arm and workload need to be judiciously built up. So the Tigers didn’t pitch him after the 2021 draft, and then kept Jobe in extended spring training for some work on preparation and mechanics before sending him out for his first pro starts.
Despite the understandable laments over shortstop Marcelo Mayer, the Tigers got a really good young pitcher here. Few pitching prospects in the game have more upside, and already he seems pretty likely to develop into at least an average starter. A good year in 2023 will vault him into the upper echelon of pitching prospects. However, there was a lot for him to work on this season and he didn’t really settle in until late in the season. Perhaps we’re feeling a little burned by pitching prospects of late, but for the moment the extra risk of a young pitcher who hasn’t topped 100 innings in a season yet puts him third on our list.
The 6’3” right-hander can run the fastball into the high 90’s already and was comfortably 93-95 mph with extra in the tank all season long. He can rip a slider well over 3000 rpms, and his fastball boasts high spin rates as well. The slider is downright devastating at its best, but was still pretty inconsistent until late in the season. Similarly, his changeup looked just decent early in the year, but by the end of his season he was flashing plus with that pitch and much more consistent overall. In short, there’s a lot of pitcher here already. Jobe has serious weapons in development and a powerful, athletic delivery that bodes well for his future command.
Jobe and the Tigers did some work on his mechanics, but the main project was to tune up his fourseamer a little. Despite the high spin rate, the efficiency and overall shape needed some work. He had some home run troubles, and while some of that was control-based, getting himself in bad counts and giving hitters too much rein to take a rip, the fastball just wasn’t that good until late in the season. It’s going to remain a bit of a project heading into 2023, but Jobe should settle in with the adjustments and move quickly.
During his 18 start run for Low-A Lakeland, Jobe spoke of accidentally cutting the fastball too often, and switched his grip to a tucked thumb among the other adjustments he and the Tigers were making. As the season progressed, the riding action on the fourseamer looked better, but he still needs to show a good deal more consistency. On the plus side is the fact that he looked every bit the high-end athlete we expected, and prospects for his development are really good.
The goals for his second season are just to put it all together more consistently in the Midwest League and reach Double-A this summer. Barring an injury you’ll probably see him much higher on top 100 lists by the end of the year.
#4 2B Cristian Santana
The ongoing lack of young international talent in the system over the past decade may finally meet its match in infielder Cristian Santana. Signed in January 2021 for a Tigers’ record $2.95 million, the Dominican infielder made his Low-A debut this season as an 18-year-old and did nothing to dim his projections. Despite facing competition three years older, Santana’s budding skills were more than a match for Florida State League pitching, leaving us very optimistic about his future.
Santana already has good contact skills and discipline for his age, walking in 15.9 percent of his plate appearances. His swing is compact with some natural loft, but at times it it’s too much, as he made too many easy outs in the air. While he didn’t chase out of the zone too much there were some struggles with good offspeed stuff and too much weak contact overall.
The overall power numbers were solid, as Santana smacked nine home runs in 80 games, but he didn’t drive the ball regularly until the end of the year. He struggled a bit after returning from an oblique injury that cost him most of May but once he settled in again he finished strong with four home runs and five doubles in his final 20 games. Listed at 6’0” and 165 pounds, Santana has added some muscle and weighs more than that now, but still has plenty of room to get stronger and his batspeed should continue to improve. That was a a big focus for him from the Tigers’ player development staff this offseason.
He’ll probably top out with average power, but for a good young hitter who can play in the middle infield, that’s enough. Santana is a fit at second base, and the Tigers seem unlikely to give him much work at shortstop going forward. He should be roughly an average second baseman in time. Still, the story here is the bat. He did most of what the Tigers could reasonably ask in his first full season and playing against much older competition. He looks primed to build on it in 2023.
#5 SS Peyton Graham
If there’s one of our rankings where I just made an executive decision, it’s this one. The Tigers second round pick last summer, former Oklahoma shortstop Peyton Graham perhaps has the widest variance of all the position prospects in this group from five through nine on our list. He was mocked in the first round at points during his junior year, but ultimately concerns about his free swinging ways and ability to stick at shortstop saw him slip a bit. Still there’s a lot to like here, and the Tigers were no doubt happy to land him with the 51st overall pick.
Graham has the tools to play good shortstop, but he will play out of his shoes at times, mirroring his overly aggressive approach at the plate. The range, hands, and arm are all enough, but he does need to refine his game. There is a case that he might be better at third base in the long run, but there’s time to let that play out. He hit 20 homers and stole 34 bases last spring, so there’s a nice combination of tools to work with already.
A key to Graham’s outsized potential lies in his slender, 6’3” frame. The ideal is that he adds good muscle in pro ball, improves his approach, and the Tigers have a legit power-hitting shortstop on your hands. FanGraphs projects a future plus power grade, and Graham’s exit velocities in his brief introduction to pro ball bear out that forecast. He chases a bit too much and can be overly aggressive, but he’ll continue to add batspeed and should be able to improve his approach. There is certainly a chance that without some adjustments he may not get to enough power to make it count, so the risk/reward calculations are still pretty volatile right now until we see a full season from him.
Still, if he turns out to be a low average hitting third baseman with 20-25 home run power and above average speed? That’s still a pretty useful major league player, and something like that seems well within range. And there’s potential for a lot more. It may take some time to polish down his rough edges, but there’s a lot of upside here and alternate paths to the major leagues buffering the fall if things don’t go as hoped.
#6 OF Parker Meadows
Just when the lack of development from his 2018 draft day through the 2021 season finally had prospect watchers starting to throw in the towel, outfielder Parker Meadows finally recognized the need for serious changes. He spent the offseason working on building batspeed and working on swing adjustments. Early in the season he was still tinkering a bit, but from June 1 everything seemed to click and he stormed to the finish line as one of the Eastern League’s better hitters.
The first moves came last offseason, when Meadows focused heavily on developing batspeed. His lanky 6’5” frame has filled out somewhat but the added muscle hadn’t really translated to a quicker bat the past two seasons. He cleaned up his hand path and simplified his timing mechanism to a toe tap. The result was a quicker bat, more success pulling the ball in the air, and a lot more hard contact overall. The results were fairly transformative. Combined with very good plate discipline, he chased just 19.3 percent of the time, Meadows’ improved batspeed and overall contact ability allowed him to tap into his above average raw power much more consistently.
Defensively, Meadows still doesn’t get great jumps and relies too much on his speed to run balls down. However, that plus speed ensures that he still covers plenty of ground. If he can clean his game up a little more he should be average center fielder, particularly as Comerica Park’s outfield dimensions are due to become less extreme.
Meadows has always been a boom or bust type, with big secondary tools but real concerns about his ability to get to his power against major league pitching. Meadows probably won’t ever hit for average the way the Tigers would hope, but he’s still getting stronger and showed good discipline and much better swings last year. There’s the potential here for a solid center fielder with 25-30 home run power. He’s a lot closer to reaching his top end production now, but still needs to balance his splits and build on his progress. If things go reasonably well he’s likely to get his first look in Detroit this summer.
#7 2B Jace Jung
After picking high in the draft for years, 2022 was the first time the Tigers drafted in the teens since 2017. In desperate need of good hitting prospects, they snatched up Texas A&M second baseman Jace Jung with the 12th overall selection. This was a unique selection from an organization that never takes college middle infielders in the first round, but the polished approach and good power potential were convincing. The likely second baseman is a good bet to hit enough, but he’ll need to tap into all of his power to overcome his below average defensive value and speed.
Jung is the younger brother of Texas Rangers third base prospect, Josh Jung. The younger Jung has a pretty distinctive setup with a laid off bat position, but has a good eye for the strike zone and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. He doesn’t have much power projection left and probably tops out with above average raw, and his disciplined approach should help him get to enough of it to be a major league regular. We’re not fully convinced he sticks at second base, but there’s a good chance he hits enough that playing time won’t be an issue even if he’s a part-time DH or has to learn to play some first base.
We didn’t see much of the power in his 30 games at High-A West Michigan, and at times he was overpowered by good fastballs. So the debut wasn’t terribly auspicious, but we’ll look for him to settle in and start driving the ball consistently this season. Jung should reach Double-A by the summer months. Once the power shows up, he’ll move quickly.
#8 3B/LF Justyn-Henry Malloy
The trade of reliever Joe Jiménez for Atlanta Braves prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy was well received by most observers. Like Jung, Malloy’s limited defensive abilities put a soft cap on his future potential, but his extremely selective approach, good hands, and solid power make him a very good bet to be a productive major league hitter. For one year of a good but not elite reliever, the soon to be 23-year-old was a nice addition who epitomizes Scott Harris’ imperative to control the strike zone.
Malloy had a pretty quiet collegiate career until his junior year. He didn’t play that much in his time at Vanderbilt, and moved to Georgia Tech where a good season convinced the Braves to pick him in the sixth round of the 2021 draft. Malloy showed well in his post-draft Low-A debut in 2021, but a lack of polish and a true defensive home kept him largely off the radar. Then he came out and mashed 17 homers in 133 games across three levels with eye-popping on-base percentages and extremely low chase rates in 2022. He only played eight games at the Triple-A level, but looked perfectly comfortable and there’s little reason to think he’s going to have any trouble there in 2023. Malloy really stormed up the rankings as a result, and is now poised to debut sometime his summer.
The issue keeping Malloy from being a top 100 prospect is the lack of a defensive home. The Tigers seem set on developing him as a third baseman a while longer, but the odds remain rather high that he ends up as a below average corner outfielder. The defense will remain a drag on his overall value, so he’s really going to have get everything out of his bat. Of course, his approach is disciplined enough to serve as something of a statement of purpose from Scott Harris in acquiring him from Atlanta, so there’s a solid chance that he will.
#9 LHP Joey Wentz
This 25-year-old lefty came to Detroit from Atlanta in the Shane Greene trade and made his debut in 2022, but didn’t clear the bar to losing rookie eligibility. We’ve tended to consider players of his age and experience as essentially graduated, but Wentz showed enough development in 2022 to give him one more look on the prospect list.
This 6’6” southpaw was drafted out of high school by the Braves way back in 2016, and it’s taken time for him to organize his tall, lanky frame and improve his command to a major league level. That development was derailed in 2020 when he underwent UCL reconstruction, returning in the second half of the 2021 season. The hope was that with 72 innings under his belt, Wentz would finally be able to come into his own in 2022.
Things started off with good promise, as Wentz threw the ball well in spring camp and was running his fastball up to 96-97 mph, several ticks about his usual maximum velocity. However, he wasn’t sharp in several of his April starts for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. Injuries to the Tigers’ rotation saw Wentz debut on May 11, where the Oakland A’s knocked him out of the game in third inning, and then return for a start on May 30 in which he pitched well for four innings and then left the game with a left shoulder strain that would cost him June and July.
When he did finally return to Detroit in September, Wentz put together a string of nice starts, but the underlying tools remain a little too light. He doesn’t have a plus pitch, and generally relies on mixing a solid set of fourseamers, cutters, and changeups, with the curveball mixed in as a change of pace. When his command is sharp he’s plenty capable of handling major league hitters, but he’s still inconsistent and the limited amount of whiffs say he walked a tight rope in September.
Late in the season, and in the Arizona Fall League, Wentz did show a little sharper edition of his cutter and if that pitch remains more effective it could be big for him. Wentz will compete for a rotation spot this spring, but currently looks to be sixth on the depth chart. He could be a valuable southpaw in the bullpen if he doesn’t find his way into the rotation. The Tigers aren’t going to keep him in Toledo half the year as insurance if there’s any need for relief help. And a need for relief help seems very likely.
#10 3B Izaac Pacheco
The Tigers have taken a few swings at prep hitters in the early rounds over the past five drafts. Other than Riley Greene it’s been a bit of a rocky road, but with strong seasons from Keith and Meadows, things are looking up. After a strong full season debut in 2022, third baseman Izaac Pacheco is a very strong candidate for the next young hitter to break out.
The 6’4” third baseman was the Tigers’ second rounder in 2021. Pacheco came to pro ball already possessing serious raw power and posting plus exit velocities off the bat. As a 19-year-old this year, the left-handed hitter launched some absolute tape measure shots and drove the ball with power to all parts of the ball park. While his frame is filling out, the conditioning he’s done over the last year have paid off in both strength and agility, and based on his frame there are more gains to come.
Pacheco’s swing is geared to mash. He’s pretty dangerous down in the zone, and while he’s usually looking to pull the ball, he can adjust to drive pitches to the opposite field with power as well. His hands were better than advertised this year and I don’t think he’s going to be particularly vulnerable to velocity. There’s a lot to work with and he’s only heading into his age 20 season.
Defensively, Pacheco made nice strides by improving his mobility and his fundamentals. He has plenty of arm to play third base, and he looked much better there last season than in his brief post-draft appearance in 2021. He’s still a below average runner and won’t cover a ton of ground but he looks plenty capable of playing average third base in the major leagues eventually.
There is some risk that he never hits for average and doesn’t get to enough of his power in the process, but Pacheco’s improving defense closes one hole in his game, and that big-time raw power makes up for some sins as a hitter. If it all comes together the Tigers are going to have a dangerous bat to add to their lineup.
#11 RHP Ty Madden
After surprising everyone by taking Jackson Jobe third overall in the 2021 amateur draft, the Tigers followed this up by spending the 32 overall pick in the first Competitive Balance round on Texas right-hander Ty Madden. And like Jobe, the Tigers didn’t pitch Madden after the draft, so the 2022 season was the first look at him as a pro. The results were mixed, but the makings of a solid major league starting pitcher are in place if Madden can continue to tune up his command.
Early in his junior year, Madden was still considered a likely first rounder. However, concerns spread during the season about his release angle and fastball shape, and his stock dropped a bit. Madden sits 94 mph and can run it up to 98, but it still plays more like an average fastball. The Tigers first move was to lower him to more of a three-quarters slot, which seemed to help him get a little more run on the ball and miss more barrels. His slider also got better in the process, becoming a steady above average pitch for him as the season progressed. Madden’s changeup is still a little fringy but may make for an average third offering, and he’ll mix in a decent curveball at times.
The adjustments didn’t click early on, but Madden finished the season strong, striking out 34.5 percent of hitters across his seven Double-A starts. He threw 122 2⁄3 innings total in his first look at pro ball and proved himself an aggressive strike thrower with good control. Concerns about his fastball shape were alleviated a bit as the adjustments took hold and his command got sharper overall, but it’s still an issue worth keeping an eye on. If he can carry his success for a full season in the upper minors, Madden will be on target for a 2024 debut.
#12 2B Wenceel Perez
Another one of the Tigers’ position prospect success stories in 2022 was Wenceel Perez’s impressive campaign. He added a little more muscle and make a few adjustments in his swing and approach to try and drive the ball more effectively, and showed off a much more useful power profile. After drifting down prospect lists in recent years as a fast, slap-hitting, infielder who wasn’t a standout defender, Perez looks on track to fulfill his destiny as a very useful utilityman with a good chance to play in the big leagues, and maybe there’s a little more development ahead.
The timing of these developments was good, as Perez became Rule 5 eligible this offseason. Playing his age 22 season and repeating a level, he needed to re-establish himself as a prospect worth adding to the 40-man roster. A strong start at High-A West Michigan and a successful 39 game stint with Double-A Erie with much more power production certainly did the trick. Perez’s season ended with a back strain in August, but he hadn’t missed a beat moving up a level and can hopefully carry that momentum into the new season.
Perez has always had good contact ability and still proved a tough guy to strike out at the Double-A level. With a little more snap behind his short stroke, particularly hitting left-handed, and clear intent to drive the ball in the air more, Perez hit 14 home runs in just 94 games after never topping four long balls in a season. He added 23 doubles and 10 triples to the mix, with 18 stolen bases. The slap and dash hitter we saw in 2021 was replaced by an upgrade who continued to put the ball in play a lot but was now driving it up the gaps and lifting balls out of the park instead of putting 50 percent of his contact on the ground.
As a defender, Perez remains better suited to second base, but can handle shortstop in a pinch. He’s an above average runner who can steal plenty of bases and will beat out his share of soft ground balls to help his average. The athleticism plays into his defense as he’s overall a fairly quick, agile defender whose footwork and fundamentals continue to improve. He’s still prone to the occasional blunder ball, and the arm is a little stretched on the left side of the infield, but he’s a capable second baseman and has the speed to add some outfield work to his skill set should the Tigers choose to lean into the utility profile.
Perez will presumably start out again at Double-A Erie, but now that he’s on the 40-man he’ll have to be tested fairly soon. He’s still short of average power, so he’ll have to get everything out of his hit tool and speed to be an everyday second baseman, but he now seems pretty likely to earn consistent major league playing time. If he can pick up where he left off last season Perez may get his first look at the tall buildings this summer.
#13 RHP Reese Olson
Right-hander Reese Olson came to Detroit in a deal that sent Daniel Norris to Milwaukee back in 2021. That is one of several quality trades of relievers Al Avila made in his time as GM. Since then Olson has done nothing but stay healthy and perform well for the Tigers. The stuff hasn’t really popped, but some adjustments to his delivery helped him to greater consistency in 2023.
To a degree, Olson is perhaps a prisoner of his own success here. If he’d had some injury trouble along the way, it might be easier to buy into the idea of a real breakout ahead. Instead he’s been healthy and pitched 119 2⁄3 quality innings for the Erie SeaWolves this season. His profile just hasn’t improved very much.
Olson comfortably sits 94 mph with his fourseamer, and can run it up to 97 with max effort. The movement profile is a little flat, and the Tigers have tried to counter that with his mechanics, working to get him driving on target to improve his sub-par extension. Still, it’s generally an average fastball with a little extra available when he really lets it go. Good enough if his command was more precise, but not an imposing weapon either.
Where Olson shines is in the depth of his secondary pitches. His slider and changeup are both above average and occasionally flash even better. He can mix in a solid high-70’s curveball as a change of pace, and he’s not afraid to throw any of his four offerings in any count.
Olson is on track to be a decent depth starter who keeps lineups off balance with his full arsenal of pitches. He’s got to be more consistent with the slider and the changeup to really look like a future mid-rotation starter. A move to the bullpen isn’t out of the question either, but the lack of a true plus fastball also makes that a somewhat dicey proposition. Right now, it’s still in Olson’s hands but by the end of the year decisions will have been made.
It feels like Olson will have a lot of attention from the new development staff as he makes his approach to the major leagues, but without a significant bump in either his fastball or his command, he seems bound for a backend role. He could be pretty useful in that context even if he can’t earn a full-time rotation spot. Olson has one more year to break his trendline, and fans will probably get their first look at him in a Tigers’ uniform this summer.
#14 C Dillon Dingler
Dillon Dingler’s first full season at the Double-A level saw his defensive abilities improve, but his bat didn’t follow suit. The 24-year-old could help out behind the plate as soon as this summer, but hopes for a good hitting everyday catcher took a hit as Dingler continued to strike out a lot.
Defensively, there’s plenty here to like. Dingler’s hands have improved behind the plate, and he throws well enough. He continues to make incremental gains throughout his game and he seems to have leadership skills and the ability to implement a game plan behind the plate. His overall speed and athletic ability continue to stand out at the catcher position, and the trajectory of his defensive improvements suggest he’ll be at least an average catcher. The main question remaining is whether he can hit enough to stay in the lineup and catch 100-120 games per season. Right now he’s still tracking more like a solid backup on a good team.
Dingler has decent zone discipline and doesn’t chase too many pitches, but there are still some pitch recognition issues and holes in his swing. Dingler does have solid all fields power, but as a likely low average, low walk hitter, he’s going to need to tap into all of it to carve out a long career as a second catcher. If things are going to change significantly, it probably needs to happen this season.
#15 OF Roberto Campos
This powerfully built young outfielder low-key impressed in his pro season debut with the Lakeland Flying Tigers. However, he’ll still need to unlock his raw power to become the player the Tigers hoped for when they signed him at age 16 back in 2019 for $2.85 million. At the time, that was a surprising amount of money for the Al Avila led Tigers to spend on any one international free agent, but it may pay off handsomely.
Campos has played center field but is bound by fringe average footspeed and an above average arm to play right field going forward. He’s a solid defender already and should improve, but the lack of speed is going to keep him out of center field.
At the plate, the 19-year-old showed solid discipline and contact ability, along with occasional bursts of raw power that should top out as a plus tool. He racked up 26 doubles and 5 triples but hit only 5 home runs in 448 plate appearances. Campos looks likely to hit for enough average, but the question is how to get him driving pitches in the air with authority.
His high hands and flat stroke were decent for covering the top of the zone, but Campos struggled to cover the outside of the plate and too often pounded drivable pitches into the ground. This offseason he’s lowered his hands, holding the bat vertically and close to his body in an effort to keep better connection and ability to adjust to outside pitches in flight. The adjustment is designed to help him drive the ball in the air more and tap into that raw power as well, and we’re happy to hear he’s buying in.
There’s enough risk in the bat that he’s got to prove that he can get to corner outfield level power before evaluators will start ranking him highly. In his favor are good reports about his leadership and work ethic, along with pretty impressive raw power. It’s also worth remembering that he was still quite young for his competition level this season and won’t turn 20 until June. We’ll be very interested to see if he can follow in Keith’s path with a High-A power surge this season. His stock will rise dramatically if that occurs and there could well be a breakout coming for Campos in 2023.
#16 Ryan Kreidler
Kreidler entered last season 8th on our list, and while he made his major league debut in 2022, he’s still qualified as a rookie this season. He falls several spots due to no real fault of his own, as a fractured finger held him back through the first half. After an aborted attempt to return too soon, he never recaptured his 2021 power surge in the second half. Overall this was a bit of a lost season, while numerous other prospects broke out around him. In 2023, Kreidler will be expected to compete for major league playing time at third base, and needs to get back on track.
What Kreidler was able to display in 2022, was his defensive acumen. He has the ability to play anywhere on the dirt and could potentially put up average numbers even at shortstop. He wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by major league pitching either, striking out an acceptable 26.2 percent of the time in his brief 26 game tour of the majors in September. However, he didn’t drive the ball much and was overpowered by top fastballs at times, while continuing to struggle with breaking balls. With average raw power at best, he’s unlikely to slug his way to success so he’s going to have to improve his approach to earn a lot of playing time.
At this point, Kreidler looks destined to be a nice utility infielder who is too light hitting to be a full-time second or third baseman. If there’s more to come, he’ll need to put the injury behind him and have a more impressive season at the plate in the power department to prove it. Considering the lack of a bona fide starting third baseman, he should get plenty of chances this season if he can settle in a bit more at the plate. If he can mash some lefties, get on base effectively, and put his versatile defensive skills to work, he may carve out a career as a backup, and that seems within his reach.
#17 C Josh Crouch
Drafted in the 11th round in 2021 as a senior out of Central Florida, Crouch initially looked like a solid enough catcher to eventual provide some upper level depth, but no more. That was saying something, considering he’d only been a catcher for a short-time before COVID cut off his junior year. Crouch really blossomed on both sides of the ball in 2022 as he came out looking stronger, impressed with his defensive growth, and showed a much more effective hit tool overall.
Unlike Dingler, Crouch is more hit than power at the plate. but he did crack 11 homers in 107 games and showed average power to the pull side. He struck out just 14.9 percent of the time with the West Michigan Whitecaps with a 9.9 percent walk rate, and was a tough out all season. It’s still a fairly light-hitting profile, but with rapidly improving defense, it may be enough.
Crouch looked significantly improved behind the plate this season. His blocking and receiving are sharper and more consistent, and his strong arm and overall quickness and agility are only more valuable now that the rules are being tweaked to encourage the running game. He posted some excellent pop times throughout the year that drew notice as well. If he can carry that offensive growth into the upper levels he’ll be on track as a future second catcher on a major league roster.
#18 RHP Dylan Smith
We were fans of the selection of Alabama right-hander Dylan Smith in the 3rd round of the 2021 draft. The right-hander’s slender frame, good athleticism, and advanced command seemed to bode well for significant development. We didn’t see too much of that in 2022, but Smith put together a solid pro debut despite missing five weeks in late June and all of July. The Tigers were careful with his workload, but Smith finished with a series of good outings that left things in a pretty good place as the season ended.
Smith’s fastball remains a little light at 92-93 mph, but we’ll continue to hope there’s a little more in there as he fills out. The fourseamer has some hop and Smith knows how to work hitters over by moving it inside and out, but overall it remains an average offering at its best. Smith will show an above average slider and that is comfortably his best weapon. He also has a solid changeup and can really turn it over for some ugly swings when he’s going well. It’s a solid set of pitches, but he can’t just rear back and lean on his fastball to get him out of trouble, putting a little added pressure on his ability to command all three offerings consistently.
Advanced command was one of Smith’s key selling points on draft day, and there he proved as good as advertised. He throws plenty of strikes and at his best works all around the edges with his full pitch mix. There’s good reason to believe in his command improving, but his stuff needs to pop for his future outlook to be altered beyond that of a potential backend starter. Expect Smith and the Tigers’ pitch design gurus to do some tinkering this year.
#19 LHP Brant Hurter
The Tigers selected this big 6’6” lefty out of Georgia Tech in the seventh round of the 2021 draft. Like the rest of their drafted pitchers, the Tigers didn’t send him to the mound in games after the draft, so the 2022 season was his first pro season, and it was a good one. Hurter showed good command of his fastball and slider and ran through the A-ball levels, finishing with a pair of starts for Double-A Erie.
Despite Hurter’s outsized frame, he sits around 92 mph, which is still an improvement over the 89-90 mph he was typically at in college. Throwing with a lot of crossfire action from a low three-quarters slot, Hurter gets pretty good tail and some sink on the fastball. As a result he piles up the ground balls. With his size, we can hope for a little more velocity, but it already plays up pretty well due to his delivery and command.
The bread and butter here is a nasty, sweeping slider in the low-80’s. Hurter was one of a small group of minor league pitchers who cracked the 30 percent strikeout rate barrier this season, and the slider is the big reason why. It’s already a plus weapon and could improve a little more. So, while Hurter is more likely bound for a relief role, his command and plus slider give him a chance to put the whole package together and still potentially make it as a starter. A solid changeup does give him a third offering to work with, and it flashes above average at its best, playing up due to his delivery.
The command of the whole pitch mix was really pretty impressive, and should earn Hurter more time to develop as a starter. However, he could be a really tough left-handed reliever if things don’t quite come together, and that gives him a solid floor as a prospect as well. The Tigers may decide to cash in that value in their bullpen by year’s end.
#20 RHP Keider Montero
This 22-year-old right-hander popped up short season A-ball back in 2019 with a firm fastball, occasionally excellent slider, and advanced strike throwing for a teenager. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been as much progress as was hoped over the past two seasons. On the positive side, Moreno cleared 100 innings for the first time in 2022 and will probably get one more crack at a starting role with Double-A Erie this year.
Montero still sits pretty comfortably 93-95 mph with his fourseam fastball, and can get 97 when he really wants extra. It doesn’t have particularly explosive movement but it’s at least an average fastball and a little better when he’s in sync. Despite a pretty average frame for a starter, he does hold his velo well. However, while his delivery isn’t particularly high effort, he still battles with his command and will get wild at times.
The real key to Montero is his slider, and that will be the weapon that makes or breaks his career. He gets elite amounts of spin on the breaking ball and will break off some really nasty ones, but still struggles to shape and command it with enough consistency. At times, he’ll carve up hitters with firm fastballs up in the zone and devastating breaking balls sweeping away from right-handers and look really good, but just as often he’ll lose the handle and throw a few floaters in there or start yanking the pitch into the dirt.
Montero should start in Erie’s rotation, and it’s time he starts putting it all together. A move to the bullpen looms if his command doesn’t tighten up enough this season, but in the end that may prove the best path for both parties.
#21 SS Javier Osorio
This soon to be 18-year-old shortstop was the Tigers’ top international free agent signing a year ago. Like so many of the club’s top signings, Osorio hails from Venezuela. He signed for $2.2 million and got his feet wet in Dominican Summer League action. He’s bound to come stateside this summer and if things go well we should get a good look at him with the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
The reedy, 6’2” shortstop has plenty of room on his frame to add muscle. He has fairly good hands and the batspeed to handle velocity and hit for average, while occasionally showcasing precocious raw power though he’s currently more geared to hitting line drives. The hope is that the whole package comes together in a bona fide major league shortstop with average, or potentially better, power at the plate. It’s hard to say a lot more until he’s playing in Low-A ball.
#22 INF Andre Lipcius
Despite a total lack of standout tools, Andre Lipcius continue to be an ever more polished and productive player. The third baseman, drafted back in 2019 in the third round, gets everything out of his low power offensive game and plays a solid third base. He should get a chance to show his stuff at the major league level this season, but remains highly unlikely to be a factor at the major league level.
Lipcius has good discipline and contact skills, consistently posting excellent strikeout and walk rates. He uses the whole field and makes a lot of solid contact. The problem is a lack of raw power, and unless he starts pulling the ball in the air a lot more, it’s a tough path to consistent playing time at third or at second base, where he’s also gotten reps.
Now 24 years old, Lipcius has developed into a solid player who squeezes a lot out of his game. Lacking speed and the ability to play the premium positions on the field, the bat is going to have to carry the profile even as a utilityman. That’s a tall order for a hitter with below average power potential, but Lipcius continues to outperform expectations.
#23 RHP Troy Melton
The only pitcher the Tigers selected in the top ten rounds of the 2022 draft, Melton is an interesting project for the rapidly improving pitching development in the Tigers’ system to work on. The slender right-hander had some interest from teams as a junior, but decided to return to San Diego State for his senior year and proved it the right decision with a nice season that got him taken much higher in the draft.
Melton can already run it up to 97 mph with a pretty lively fourseamer, but it was the adjustments he made to shorten his arm path prior to his senior year that improved the life and deception on the heater. There is still some room for strength gains in his slender 6’4” frame as well. It’s a good fastball and with a little more development could be a plus offering.
Melton has a solid enough slider, with a changeup and a curveball that are still under construction. Improving the mid-80’s slider into an effective whiff generating breaking ball will be a major key here, and a test for the Tigers’ rebuilt player development system. There’s a high probability that Melton ends up in the bullpen due to his inconsistent command, but the arm strength and projectability give the Tigers some things to work with.
#24 2B/SS Reylin Perez
Dominican shortstop Reylin Perez opened some eyes in his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2022. Signed in the same class as Osorio a year ago, the switch-hitting infielder flat out raked against good competition in his pro debut, launching seven home runs and 25 extra base hits total in just 50 games. He struck out quite a bit, but he also did a lot of damage in the process for a 17-year-old. Perez does have a good eye for the zone in his developing approach as well, walking 20 percent of the time in his debut.
Perez already has pretty good batspeed and some natural loft from both sides of the plate. His reedy 5’11” frame has plenty of room to add muscle in his late teens and early 20’s, potentially producing plus power by the time he approaches the major leagues. He’s a pretty good athlete overall with some speed and a good arm, but could end up playing second base primarily as he fills out. We’re very much looking forward to seeing his stateside debut this summer.
#25 IF Abel Bastidas
Bastidas is another switch-hitting infielder with discipline and power potential from the Tigers recent international free agent signing groups. Inked to a deal for $1.175 million in 2021, he made a good showing in the DSL that summer, and then played Complex League ball in 2022 as an 18-year-old.
Bastidas is still slender, but already has a developing athletic build and stands 6’2”, so he could add significant power as he fills out a bit more. He already has decent batspeed and a good approach for his age. Reports indicate that he might be a bit stretched at shortstop, but seems very likely to stick on the dirt at either second or third. We won’t make any hasty judgements at this point, and are curious to see his Low-A debut this spring.
#26 Mason Englert
The Tigers’ Rule 5 selection from the Texas Rangers, 23-year-old Mason Englert was drafted in the fourth round out of high school. The 6’4” right-hander struggled with injuries and didn’t debut in full season ball until 2021. The 2022 campaign, mainly at the High-A level, saw Englert take a big step forward but he was already out of time in the Rangers’ system and they chose not to protect him. That may work out decently well for the Tigers.
Englert generally sits in the low-90’s and doesn’t have a plus offering. However, he does have good command and has a fairly deceptive delivery. Despite the sub-par velocity, Englert’s short arm path and his command makes the fastball a better whiff generator than one might expect, particularly at the top of the zone. He backs it with a pretty good slider/changeup combination that can play up due to his ability to locate them consistently and set hitters up. His curveball is more of a change of pace offering.
Englert offers a bit of intrigue because he popped in the strikeout department in 2022, racking up a 28.3 percent strikeout rate at High-A, and actually upping that mark in his three Double-A outings to end the season. Englert is a bit underpowered and home run prone as a result, but the command of his full pitch mix gives him a shot at being a backend starting pitcher. More likely he fits best as a hybrid type, taking spot starts and pitching middle relief.
The Tigers will have to keep him on the 26-man roster all year to keep him, and presumably that means he’ll be working as a middle reliever and picking up a spot start here and there. Possibly they may find something to tweak that the Rangers did not. With a good spring, Englert could certainly earn a good look, but his chances are contingent on how healthy the pitching staff is on Opening Day.
#27 INF Luke Gold
The Tigers’ pursuit of impact bats in the 2022 draft led them to Boston College third baseman Luke Gold. The 6’2” infielder is a sub-par defender who will need his bat to carry him, but solid contact skills and discipline combined with above average power potential give him a decent chance to make it.
After the 2020 season cancellation cost him precious developmental time, Gold tweaked his back a bit in his junior year, so overall he hasn’t even gotten the reps other college hitters his age have piled up. The strongly built infielder broke out in his sophomore year, mashing ACC pitching for the Eagles. He followed it up in his junior year with nine home runs and 21 doubles in 53 games, inspiring the Tigers to take him with their fifth round selection.
Gold is a little lacking in the speed and agility departments, but has the hands and arm to get by as a third baseman. In the post-shift era it’s hard to see him playing second base, and third base is a stretch unless he really tops out his projections as a hitter. He has pretty good batspeed and drives the ball with authority. The power potential is real and he’s got some discipline at the plate. We’ll see if it translates to more hard contact than it did in his brief post-draft debut.
#28 INF Manuel Sequera
This 20-year-old Venezuelan shortstop put on a precocious display of his raw power in Complex League play in 2021, his first year stateside. Then he came out in 2022, his age 19 season, and did it again. Sequera crushed 19 long balls in 116 games of Florida State League action, and while he’s likely primed for a move to third base, he has the hands and arm to stick there.
Sequera should continue to get a little stronger, but strength is not the issue here. He’s a free-swinger with a lofted stroke who takes his hacks, making too much weak contact overall while still feasting on hanging breaking balls and middle-in fastballs. The glaring issue is that he walked just 20 times while striking out in 110 of his 491 plate appearances. The lack of discipline and pitch recognition are big enough problems to keep us from forecasting a bright major league future, but that’s a lot of power for a 19-year-old in the FSL, so we’ll give him another season to see if he can improve his approach at High-A. Typically hitters that draw so few walks don’t ever put it together, so keep expectations modest.
#29 RHP Brendan White
Brendan White is the latest of a group of late round and undrafted free agent pitchers that have blossomed under the Tigers’ player development system over the past two years. The right-hander doesn’t have the power stuff that carried Beau Brieske to the major leagues or Wilmer Flores to top 100 prospect status, but he does have a plus slider and the command to make a solid reliever. The Tigers clearly think so, as they protected White from the Rule 5 draft in December, and to date the former 26th rounder from the 2019 draft has survived the restless roster churning practiced by Scott Harris.
White typically sits around 93 with solid life on his fastball. His angle to the plate and ride on the fourseamer will earn him some whiffs up in the zone, despite the pedestrian velocity. It’s not a big weapon, but he does have a fairly explosive delivery and a bit of a funky arm slot to help the heater play up. There isn’t much projection left, as White is a well built 5’11” athlete already, but White does have average command in his favor. He rarely makes big mistakes over the heart of the plate. A decent changeup gives him an extra wrinkle for lefties, but the bread and butter is his slider.
At its best, White’s slider is really sharp with plenty of horizontal movement and depth. At times it can get too big, but he generally commands it well and can shorten it up to throw it for strikes with pretty good control. A lot is going to depend on his ability to command the slider consistently while throwing it 50 percent of the time. White doesn’t have the fastball of a backend reliever and to earn a regular role in the Tigers’ bullpen he’ll need to lean heavily on his best pitch.
#30 RHP Elvis Alvarado
There are plenty of options for these final spots on our list. Project arms and one note position player prospects with a legit chance are much more common in the Tigers’ farm system than they were even just 2-3 years ago. Reliever Elvis Alvarado has a much better chance than most of making an impact this season, so he gets the nod here.
The Tigers claimed the big, 6’4” right-hander in the minor league portion of the 2021-2022 Rule 5 draft from the Seattle Mariners. While he generally throws enough strikes and was very stingy with the walks at the High-A and Double-A levels of the Tigers’ system this season, it’s distinctly control over command. He’ll get a little wild at times, which is scary as Alvarado can run his sinker up to 102 mph. That fastball is the key to the whole package, but Alvarado has a solid slider that will flash above average.
Alvarado was converted to pitching during the lost 2020 season, so he’s only been on the mound for two seasons. If he can harness his stuff the Tigers could have a heck of a power reliever on their hands this season, but he’ll need better fastball command to get there.