ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranks six Tigers in national top 100 prospects

Bless You Boys

Long-time readers of Bless You Boys know we were big fans of the one-two punch from Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel as the lead prospect writers for FanGraphs. Between the comprehensive coverage, and their book Future Value, which is one of the best books written on the game since Moneyball, it was a bit of a golden era for prospect hounds.

McDaniel left FanGraphs in 2020, signing on with ESPN as their lead prospect analyst. So nowadays, instead of getting the best synthesis between the two of them, their takes can diverge a little more, perhaps. Longenhagen was fairly complimentary of the top of the Tigers farm system, but only placed four Tigers prospects in the top 100 nationally and seemed pretty conservative in the system’s overall outlook. McDaniel’s rankings came out on Wednesday, and were a little more full-throated in their enthusiasm for many of the club’s top young talents.

McDaniel ranked six Tigers prospects in the top 100 nationally, the most we’ve seen in a single season. However, it was some of his notes on said players that were particularly eye-catching and worth reading if you have ESPN+, but long story short, both Parker Meadows and Kevin McGonigle made the list.

10. RHP Jackson Jobe

15. CF Max Clark

40. 2B Colt Keith

45. CF Parker Meadows

63. 2B/3B Jace Jung

95. SS/2B Kevin McGonigle

On Jobe, McDaniel had a pretty delicious comp for a current major league ace, saying that “Jobe’s compact frame, bananas raw stuff, and starter command remind him of Spencer Strider with a tick less fastball quality, but better and more varied offspeed stuff.”

Yeah that sounds pretty good, and McDaniel fleshed the teaser line out with a really strong report for the 21-year-old right-hander. We wholeheartedly agree.

Center fielder Max Clark was roughly comped to Arizona Diamondbacks star outfielder Corbin Carroll in terms of tools. McDaniel described Clark as “an electric 6-foot-1 center fielder with plus-plus foot speed and bat speed.”

McDaniel described Colt Keith as “above average at everything in the batter’s box, but doesn’t offer much speed or defensive value.”

He goes on to say that Keith’s on-base skills are just solid average, but projects him to hit for plenty of power. Keith gets a 55 future value grade, with power and average walks balanced against defensive limitations, which is pretty much the standard take with some debate about whether Keith will hit for average to go with his 25-30 home run projections.

Parker Meadows gets a 50 future value grade at #45 overall. McDaniel discusses early concern over Meadows’ long levers at 6-foot-5 and whether he’d hit enough, and the steady progress the young center fielder has made over the past few seasons. McDaniel doesn’t forecast above average defense but is pretty convinced that the bat will play enough to make it all work.

Over the six years of prime age being projected, it’s possible Meadows could lose speed and defensive value as he fills out and deals with the wear and tear of a 162 game season running all over the outfield. So far he’s trending as a well above average defensive center fielder, but we’ll get a better idea how Statcast’s metrics view him over a full season in 2024.

McDaniel grades Jung pretty much as everyone does. Solid enough as an infielder at third base or second base to let the bat play, but without any surplus defensive value. Jung gets the barrel to the ball with some loft to the pull field, and in McDaniel’s eyes still has an above average hit tool. There’s just a lot to like there.

The one small surprise on McDaniel’s list from a Tigers’ perspective is ranking SS/2B Kevin McGonigle at #95, also with a 50 future value grade. Most, including our own rankings, had him a notch lower as a 45+ because of fringy power and speed tools and concern that he won’t stick at shortstop. McDaniel seems generally in agreement on those assessments, but just thinks the hit tool is good enough to overcome some minor shortcomings physically.

Overall, it’s a very positive overview of the top of the Tigers farm system. With Keith and Meadows already penciled into the lineup this season, they still have Jung and Jobe not too far away now, and a pair of teenagers who will hopefully lead the next wave in a few year’s time.

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