Quick updates on all the BYB top 34 prospects

Bless You Boys

We often use the 40 game mark as the point of reassessing a major league team. The minor league season starts a few weeks later, other than at the Triple-A level, so Memorial Day weekend seems as good a time as any for a quick update on how the Tigers top prospects are doing.

Sorry that it comes at the expense of the usual Monday weekend wrap-up of the farm system for the weekend. Not too much needs be said, however. Roberto Campos continues to work on pulling the ball in the air to tap into his raw power, and results have improved. Max Clark and Kevin McGonigle continue to rake atop the Lakeland Flying Tigers’ lineup, and Parker Meadows, Jace Jung, and Akil Baddoo are all swinging it well.

Carson Rucker unfortunately suffered a season ending shoulder injury. Eddys Leonard and Ryan Kreidler started rehab assignments in Lakeland last week, so expect them back in Toledo within a week or so. Otherwise nothing too notable happened other than Troy Melton having a second bad outing, the first struggles we’ve really seen from him in a year.

So, as quickly as I can, let me just update how each of our top 34 preseason prospects are faring to date. At the end I’ll touch on a few younger players making some waves in the Florida Complex League.

Yep, this is going to be a real long one again. Take your time.

1- RHP Jackson Jobe

Everything was going perfectly with the game’s best pitching prospect. After dropping jaws throughout spring training, the 21-year-old right-hander made five short starts to nearly unhittable success before a minor hamstring strain in early May put him on the shelf. Jobe is currently on a run of 35 straight batters faced without a hit, with just two walks in the mix, and hasn’t allowed a home run yet. The high walk rate is completely inflated by an April 13th start where he was almost comically squeezed all game long. Don’t sweat it.

He threw a bullpen on Saturday, and looks on track to return to action by mid-June or so. With only 16 23 innings thrown to date, that injury basically did the job of keeping his innings progression on track to allow him to pitch all the way through the rest of the season. Jobe has the tools to dominant major league hitters already. He could use more experience pitching in traffic, and that isn’t going to happen at the Double-A level. Look for the Tigers to take their time getting him back to full speed, but he should be moving up quickly once he’s returned and settled in again.

2- 2B Colt Keith

Colt Keith had a rough five-week introduction to the major leagues, like most top prospects these days. Adapting to the level of major league pitching, particularly with bad calls re-introduced after using the ABS and challenge systems at the Triple-A level, makes for a greater challenge that that leap used to pose young hitters. Since May 1 he’s hit .357 with four doubles and one home run.

Keith is only 22 years old, so there will be some ups and downs, but you’re going to love having him in the middle of the Tigers order for years to come. Keith has every bit as much raw power as Spencer Torkelson and the skills and approach to get to it more consistently and effectively. If he starts tapping that power the way he’s capable of, Keith is going to come on strong for ROY considering in the American League. He’s also improved his speed and defense, and made some of our modest concerns on those scores look pretty overblown.

3- CF Max Clark

The Tigers somewhat controversial first round pick in 2023 is off and running at the Low-A level. 19-year-old Clark is showing off the speed and defensive skills that should keep him near the top in those categories, but he’s also hitting like mad after a bit of a slow start.

Clark is walking nearly as much as he’s striking out, slashing .277/.388/.378 with two home runs. In recent weeks he’s been slashing line drive after line drive to left field for singles and doubles as he and fellow 2023 pick Kevin McGonigle lead the high flying Lakeland offense. We’ve seen signs of his work to adjust his swing and approach to pull more balls in the air recently too. The first few weeks of the season were a drag on his power numbers, but he appears to just about have the level solved. Expect the dynamic duo to be promoted to High-A West Michigan in the second half of their season, if not sooner. They both look ready for the challenge.

4- CF Parker Meadows

After a very nice 37 game debut last summer, Meadows struggled quite a bit this season and was optioned back to Triple-A in early May. He hit for power in April, but he was also completely out of step with his timing, his swing got long, and he looked pretty frustrated, chasing far more than we’ve ever seen from him. Meadows hasn’t struck out that much since his 2022 swing changes and breakout, and since going back down he’s been raking, hitting three home runs and five other extra base hits in just 14 games.

Meadows, like Keith, graduated from prospect status and won’t be on the next list. The question is how long it will take to fight his way back to Detroit with Wenceel Pérez doing a nice job holding down center field most days. Meadows high end defensive ability, speed, power, and generally good plate discipline says it won’t be too long, but the opportunity may not open up for a while.

5- 2B/3B Jace Jung

The Tigers 2022 first rounder has been the key cog in a good Toledo Mud Hens offense in his Triple-A debut. A left-handed hitter, Jung continues to show consistent power production to the pull side in particular, launching eight home runs, with 12 doubles and a triple over 45 games at his new level. He’s walking plenty as well. The issue remains a good amount of swing and miss in the zone.

While not chasing much and taking his walks, Jung’s strikeout rate is elevated at 26.6 percent. A good fastball hitter generally, Jung has struggled a bit as pitchers mix more good breaking balls and changeups in early in counts, particularly if the pitcher has good velocity and can really put him on the horns of the dilemma as to what’s coming next. None of that should dampen enthusiasm for the 23-year-old infielder. He’s still just settling in at a tough new level. When he starts cutting down the swing and miss and shows that he’s adapted to handle better pitching, he’ll be ready for a look at the show, probably this summer.

The move to third base has been a little rocky, but Jung has the skills and arm to play a solid third base. He’s still new to the position and working on the finer points. Don’t let the seven errors get in your head too much. We remain pretty confident he’ll be an average defensive third baseman once he’s gotten enough reps and work in at the position.

6- RHP Troy Melton

After a pretty striking full season debut at High-A last season, we moved Melton aggressively up in our rankings. I still feel very good about that, but while he continues to pound the zone, his stuff has been more inconsistent and better hitters have taken advantage of his very aggressive approach. Melton throws a ton of strikes and doesn’t issue many walks, but inconsistent secondary pitches and too many fastballs in hitters’ sweet spots down and in have been his undoing, as he’s suddenly given up multiple homers in his last two starts.

Melton’s two keys this year in my eyes were to improve his breaking ball, and get more comfortable pitching in traffic. He has the spin rate to sharpen what is often too blunt a cutter, and needs to up the whiff rate on the pitch to dominate right-handers the way he did in High-A last year. So far the results aren’t there on that front. He is getting a little more work dealing with baserunners and pitching out of potential bad innings. Now he needs to sharpen his stuff a bit more and learn to expand the zone rather than just attacking hitters with raw abandon. Too many fastballs and hangers down and in but still in the strike zone have gotten whacked the past two outings, and all by right-handed hitters.

7- RHP Ty Madden

Now 24 years old, the season began on a disappointing note for this hard-throwing right-hander as he was assigned to Double-A yet again. Madden has consistently dominated right-handed hitters the past two seasons, reaching 99 mph with his fastball and carving hitters up with his plus slider. The problem remains left-handed hitters, who continued to draw walks and do serious damage against him. Adjustments to his cutter didn’t really do the trick, but this spring Madden adopted a split-change and managed to conquer his issues with lefties as a result.

The pitch is still new and pretty inconsistent, but when he’s commanding it Madden looks like a mid-rotation starter who is ready to go. When he isn’t, Triple-A hitters have beaten him up pretty badly. You’ll know Madden is ready when he starts to throttle lefties at his new level. Right-handers continue to struggle a lot with him. Madden is a few refinements away from starting at the major league level. If the opportunity arises, he should get a look in the Tigers’ rotation this summer. If not, he could at least temporarily make a good relief option for a bullpen that needs some help. For now, he just needs to continue to refine the split-change and dial in his fastball command a bit more.

8- 2B/SS Kevin McGonigle

We wanted to see a little more from McGonigle after a nice debut last summer, and we’ve definitely gotten more. McGonigle may not quite have the arm to stick at shortstop, but otherwise he’s played well there. At the plate, he is absolutely raking.

So far, he’s walked a lot while striking out less than he walks, and posted a stellar 149 wRC+ while hitting leadoff most days for the Lakeland Flying Tigers. McGonigle’s short, sharp stroke sprays line drives to all fields, and he has the ability to make in-flight adjustments and still create the bat angle to drive the ball into the outfield. The power will probably never be more than average at best, but McGonigle is going to hit, and hit a lot.

MLB Pipeline recently added him to their top 100 list, and right now only Jobe and Clark really grade above him, Clark mainly because the of the speed and defensive ability he brings to the table. As hitters they’re different, with Clark holding a bit more power potential and McGonigle the better pure hitter. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching the two of them develop over the next few seasons.

9- RHP Keider Montero

This 23-year-old right-hander continues to be pretty ridiculously overlooked nationally. He’s struggled to adjust to the tight strike zone at the Triple-A level, but continues to rack up a solid amount of strikeouts without getting hit very hard. The occasional bouts of command trouble have led to minor blow-ups stemming from walks.

Montero’s stuff continues to give him arguably the highest ceiling of all the Tigers top, non-Jobe, pitching prospects. With a nasty pair of 3000 rpm breaking balls that he’s learned to shape more effectively to play off one another, the whiffs are plentiful. Montero sits around 95 mph, touching 98 mph with really good ride and angle to the top of the zone. The big improvement last season was a new split-change grip that developed into a really good offspeed pitch for him. He hasn’t quite put it all together to command the full package for long stretches yet, but he’s close.

Montero is on the 40-man roster now, so look for him to get one of the first calls this summer when the Tigers dip into their pitching prospects. He’s been really durable despite a less imposing 6’1” frame that the other pitchers high on this list, and has the best raw stuff of the group other than Jobe. If it doesn’t fully come together this year he too could see work in the Tigers’ bullpen this summer. Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the first to get the call despite the elevated walk rate this year.

10- OF Justyn-Henry Malloy

There really isn’t that much to report on the J-Hen front. The transition to playing the corner outfield has been a little rocky, but he seems to be settling in. He has enough speed to be solid out there, and his arm actually plays fairly well in right field.

The problem with Malloy is not enough hard contact, and like Jung, too much swing and miss in the zone. However, he continues to draw an enormous amount of walks, currently running a cool .408 on-base percentage for the Mud Hens. In a way he reminds me of Isaac Paredes as a hitting prospect. Incredibly patient to the point of passivity, drawing lots of walks, but too often failing to get a good swing off against crushable pitches early in counts.

Malloy still struggles to drive breaking balls, but remains a very good fastball hitter who needs to do a better job covering secondary pitches in the zone. When evidence of that appears, he’ll be plenty ready for a look at major league pitching, and if the need or opportunity arises, he should be able to at least hang in a major league lineup already.

He just needs to put that great eye at the plate to work getting better pitches to hit rather than just drawing a lot of walks. The strike zone won’t be nearly so tight at the next level, and as a corner outfielder with some swing and miss issues he’s got to do more than get on base a lot to play regularly in the major leagues. He’s close, but not there just yet.

11- RHP Wilmer Flores

It’s been a really strange year and a half for Wilmer Flores. After his monster breakout in 2022, he was creeping onto top 100 lists in some quarters. In 2023, he struggled with some forearm issues and his velocity was down most of the year. The velo is back, and Flores has routinely pumped 98-99 mph this year, but the Tigers made the decision to convert him to relief as his somewhat fire-breathing approach and high-effort delivery just didn’t bode well enough for high volume work.

So far, Flores has struggled with his command in the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens bullpen. The fastball, power curve, and cutter all still play well, particularly with his velocity back up, but he’s struggled with the tight strike zone, and hasn’t yet made the adjustments to his mechanics the Tigers are looking for to help him be more consistent. However, some of the erratic production may have been the shoulder issues. He was coming around at the beginning of May with some better outings, but then hit the injured list with a right AC joint sprain in his shoulder back on May 12. He’s just back to throwing bullpens as of this weekend.

The stuff is plenty good enough if the command is willing. We’ll see if the Tigers can get him sorted out when he returns. If so, he’ll get a look in the bullpen this summer. Right now, his stock and future rankings are down significantly due to the move to relief.

12- C Dillon Dingler

Dillon Dingler has adapted well to the Triple-A level so far, but his profile hasn’t really changed. A quick, very athletic catcher despite his size, Dingler draws excellent reviews for his work behind the plate, accurate arm, and leadership. He just continues to look like a mix of Jake Rogers and Carson Kelly at the plate.

Dingler has plus raw power and has become a better fastball hitter, but it’s still a bit of a long stroke that can sometimes be overpowered by good velocity. He still struggles with too much swing and miss against breaking balls and changeups. It’s hard to see the upside of a second tier starting catcher, as his offensive production will always be limited, but Dingler should have little trouble filling one of the Tigers two catching spots as soon as this summer. Catchers often develop a little later as hitters, and I’d expect he’ll eventually hit as well as peak Kelly or Rogers. Just don’t expect much more.

13- SS Peyton Graham

Efforts to overhaul the Tigers’ second round pick from 2022’s swing have so far proven fruitless this season. A rough full season debut marred by oblique injuries was pretty forgettable, and though healthy now, there hasn’t been much improvement.

Graham has plus power and all the physical skills required to be an outstanding two-way shortstop. He remains extremely raw on both sides of the ball, however. For every exciting play he makes, there’s a ball misplayed or thrown away. Likewise, he’ll occasionally smoke a ball and remind you of his power potential, but that power comes from a long swing that needs refinement and more muscle to power it to the same extent while shortening his path to the ball.

He continues to show a good eye at the plate, but attempts to drive the ball in the air have so far produced pop-ups and not much extra base power. There’s a lot of raw potential here, but he’s got a long, long way to go to realize it. You’ll see him dropping like a rock in most system rankings this summer if he doesn’t start making real progress cleaning up these issues.

14- INF Cristian Santana

Santana is still just 20 years old, so there’s a ways to go to start forming a final opinion of him, but as a hitter he’s become a very all or nothing type. He draws a lot of walks, but the Tigers attempts to adjust his swing is still very much a work in progress. Santana has taken the “pull the ball in the air” mantra to heart and is pulling over 60 percent of balls in play. He’s also popping up a ton, and hasn’t really got the swing changes dialed in and integrated to his swing decisions at the plate. It’s been messy. Santana is playing third base and a bit of second base now, moving off of shortstop as expected. He’s hitting for solid power and drawing a ton of walks, but the swing and miss plus the pop-ups have a lot of evaluators moving off him rapidly. I’ll point to his age and magnitude of the swing changes he’s trying to ingrain, and hang in there with him for now.

15- OF Justice Bigbie

This 25-year-old corner outfielder broke out in a huge way last season, running through three levels to reach Triple-A late last summer. He hit 19 home runs in 115 games last year, and continues to make more consistent hard contact that either Jung or Malloy. He just has an approach oriented to going to right center field, and doesn’t pull too many balls in the air. On the other hand, he’s walking plenty and striking out a lot less than Jung or Malloy.

Bigbie has adapted to left field and is doing fine out there, although he’s still a bit below average as an outfielder. His numbers in April were really lousy, but he was also really unlucky. Things have been much better in May, but he’s still not tapping into that power to hit the ball over the fence. Until he does, it’s tough to find a path to major league playing time for the right-hander hitter. He remains pretty interesting as a pure hitter.

16- LHP Brant Hurter

Brant Hurter had a really impressive camp. The big lefty’s command of his sinker-slider combination was really sharp and he was racking up the strikeouts while remaining a low walk pitcher who doesn’t give up much damage in the air. The 24-year-old’s introduction to Triple-A was a little shaky for a few starts, but he’s settled in nicely, and has carried his much improved strikeout rates last season up to the new level.

17- LHP Paul Wilson

The Tigers fourth rounder last year, Wilson was one of the top prep left-handers in that draft. With a really well developed four-pitch mix for his age, good athleticism, and the mechanics and velocity to become a really outstanding southpaw starter, the pick was pretty well received. So far though there isn’t a ton to report as Wilson is just getting his feet wet in the Complex League and has been pretty wild so far.

18- C Josue Briceño

It’s still at best a toss-up whether 19-year-old Josue Briceño ends up behind the plate or at first base, but he sure looks like he’s going to hit and hit for power either way. The left-handed hitter already has a good eye, a fairly refined approach, and the raw power to hammer the baseball to all fields. He’s already posted 110 mph exit velos, and for most of the season so far has sprayed triple digit missiles all over the field, though most of the power comes from the pull side. His short, quick bat, and the power he’s generating already at his age are impressive. He may not have much physical development left in his frame, but there’s more than enough juice already.

Briceño throws fairly well, and his technique and skills are improving, but he’s just not quite quick and agile enough to fully buy him as a major league catcher someday. We’ll see if that changes, but even at first base the bat looks to have a good chance of playing.

Unfortunately, Briceño suffered a PCL strain in his right knee on May 5 while running the bases and hasn’t played since. There’s no timeline for his return yet.

19- 2B Hao-Yu Lee

The Tigers acquired Lee from the Philadelphia Phillies for Michael Lorenzen last July. A knee injury cut the rest of his 2023 season short, but an aggressive assignment for the 21-year-old has gone pretty well so far this season.

Lee is a bit more of a free-swinger than his good walk rate of 10.6 percent might lead you to believe. He finds a way to get his barrel on a lot of pitches and is a pretty good pure hitter overall, but he isn’t really selective enough yet with his swing decisions. His up the middle approach often leads him to settle for something he can slap to the right side rather than looking to drive the baseball to the pull field.

This season, he’s clearly working on pulling the ball. He’s actively looking for pitches in that he can turn on, and he has increased his pull percentage significantly so far. He just hasn’t driven enough of them in the air to really cash in yet. Still, he’s got five home runs in 40 games, and is hitting for more extra base power than he did last season. For 21, I’d say he’s doing really well and starting to find his way to the power.

Lee can hit a bit and he shows signs of developing into a more complete threat at the plate. His issue is a pretty limited defensive profile as a decent second baseman or left fielder. If he can develop more of his pull side power threat, he might cleave a path to a big league role in a year or two. It he can develop that pull side power threat and still take the ball to all fields like he’s shown he can in the past? Well the Tigers might have a really good hitter here. It just all rides on the bat.

20- 2B Max Anderson

The Tigers second rounder last year, the Nebraska slugger has held his own so far but hasn’t hit for the kind of power expected of a high end college slugger. Anderson isn’t striking out, but a low walk rate and a lot of weak contact says he’s still struggling to adapt to the pitching. On the other hand, he is putting the ball in play a lot. Anderson has a fair amount of chase to go with potential plus raw power, so it’s no surprise that he needs some time in his first year of pro ball. Look for him to get dialed in this summer and start doing more damage.

21- RHP Jatnk Diaz

We’re perhaps a little over enthused about the 19-year-old with the big arm and out of nowhere backstory, but there’s an awful lot to like. Diaz wasn’t able to pitch his senior season of high school due to missing time while caught visiting home in the Dominican Republic in 2020. He’d only more or less taught himself to pitch using coaching videos the prior season. Instead, he focused on building himself up and working on his craft with no obvious path forward.

There is a lot to like beyond the work ethic. Diaz is a very athletic 6’4”, 225 pounds and in short order built himself up with minimal coaching. Pre-draft clips of him throwing 97 mph with a pretty nasty power sinker made the rounds and Diaz got into some MLB Draft League games where he became a bit of a sensation for the few scouts that saw him. The crowd grew with each outing, but in the end, the Tigers were able to land him in the eighth round on an overslot bonus.

Diaz can spin a breaking ball and shows feel for his changeup already as well. The build and his easy arm speed say he’s got a fair chance to be a good and durable major league starter in time.

He made his first appearance in the Complex League on May 21, spinning two scoreless innings but was wild in doing so. Like Wilson, Diaz is just getting his feet wet at this point and working on a lot of adjustments, but the potential here is pretty huge.

22- INF Eddys Leonard

In retrospect I didn’t appreciate Eddys Leonard’s power surge with the Mud Hens last summer enough. There’s plenty of skepticism about Leonard’s ability to play shortstop in the major leagues, and for an infielder that then requires a certain level of power or high end on-base ability to consider a prospect a realistic starting option. Leonard falls a little short in both departments, but he has made a concerted effort to pull the ball in the air since coming to the Tigers’ organization and its paid off.

Leonard caught fire in July and August last year after the Tigers traded cash to the Dodgers for him in a move partly forced by the Dodgers 40-man roster depth. He cooled in September but had a really nice spring camp this year as well. He tore an oblique on a swing back in mid-April, and is just starting to work his way back with a rehab assignment at Low-A Lakeland.

He’s a little caught between power and defensive ability, being unlikely to hit for good power as a major league third baseman, but not regarded as an everyday major league shortstop either. Still, he can hit, and has shown a growing ability to hit for modest power, at least. A future as a useful part-time infielder at least seems much more plausible than it did a year ago. And if he heats up to the degree he did last summer he’s going to force his way to Detroit pretty quickly.

23- RHP Andrew Dunford

The Tigers first draft under Scott Harris and his new scouting leadership was notably prep heavy, with the Tigers aggressively hunting for upside in some tougher signs where they had to pay well above slot value. Andrew Dunford, their 12th rounder in 2023, is one of the most intriguing of the bunch, but unfortunately the 19-year-old right-hander has been placed on the full season disabled list. There’s no injury report yet, but one can assume it’s not good for the throwing arm.

24- RHP Dylan Smith

The Tigers third rounder in 2021, Smith has become a bit of a forgotten man over the past two seasons. A solid, if unspectacular full season debut at High-A was followed last year by a forearm strain that limited him to less than 40 innings. When he returned late in the season and pitched in the Arizona Fall League, he looked in really good shape and was showing bursts of high 90’s heat. He was also pretty wild.

Smith has a full repertoire of pitches but it comes down to a fourseam and sinker mix that has started to tick up in velocity, a good slider, and a solid changeup. He’ll mix in a decent curve as well. He throws plenty of strikes but really only the slider popped as a pitch until he returned from injury late last year. He’s carried the velocity gains through this year and while still sitting 94 mph he’s regularly dialing up 97-98 mph when he wants extra.

Smith is about to turn 24, and still hasn’t established himself in the upper minors, so his best chance of a major league career is as a reliever. In short outings, the fastball-slider combination is pretty good, and if he can sustain that top velocity band the Tigers might yet get a good bullpen arm out of him. It’s been a rough start to his pro career, but it’s worth remembering that he lost most of the 2023 season. He only has 41 pro starts, but this year is a big one for him and so far he’s continued to have stretches of hitters where his control falls apart.

25- UT Wenceel Perez

Coming into the season, the 24-year-old Pérez was a solid hitter with subpar power who didn’t really have a position. A few years struggling to make accurate throws to first base had worn out his welcome at second, and despite his speed, he’d never played the outfield much. Despite making some nice adjustments to hit from some power and his long running ability to take his walks and put the ball in play with regularity, it was hard to imagine him playing much more than a bench role in the Tigers’ future.

Well here we are. Pérez has converted to the outfield pretty well, and provided a huge spark of offense when they sorely needed it. He continues to handle major league pitching with plenty of competence despite tougher luck lately, and he’s played average defense in center field while providing a speed and switch-hitting element to the Tigers’ offense. He may cool off into more of a platoon role but he’s made a big impression so far.

26- RHP Tyler Mattison

Unfortunate news for the right-hander this spring as Mattison underwent Tommy John surgery and will be out until 2025. Arguably the Tigers best relief prospect, it was hoped he’d be available to help the Tigers out in a setup role, but fate had other plans.

27- OF Roberto Campos

The Tigers top international signing to date, the 20-year-old Cuban corner outfielder is a name to watch as he’s really heated up and started tapping into his raw power more in recent weeks. He’s due to turn 21 in June, but he’s still pretty young for the level. And yet he’s showing some signs of figuring it out.

Campos has plenty of raw power, but like many he’s had trouble tapping into it. Profiling exclusively as a corner outfielder, he and the Tigers are looking to help him mash, and he’s showing those signs lately by trying hard to get the ball in the air. So far that’s translated to a 33 percent line drive rate rather than a ton of fly balls, but it’s working for him. He has three homers, five triples, and nine doubles in 40 games for the West Michigan Whitecaps.

The fly in the ointment is that more strikeouts have come with more power, but with the changes in his swing and approach, an adjustment period is understandable. We’ll see if he can keep it going and settle in with this added power production. If he can, he’ll reach Erie this summer and that would be quite good progress for his age and experience level.

28- 3B Carson Rucker

Rucker was another overslot prep signing from the 2023 draft, and a really interesting hitter with discipline and power beyond his 19 years. Most likely a third baseman, we were really excited to see how he developed this season. Unfortunately he separated his shoulder on a slide last week and is now out for the season.

29- 2B/3B Luke Gold

This 23-year-old infielder has been one of the Tigers top performers on the farm so far this season. Gold has nine home runs in just 42 games and holds an .886 OPS so far. A good fastball hitter who has his approach dialed to pull the ball in the air, Gold is also pretty vulnerable to good breaking stuff and is still striking out 28.1 percent of the time. He’s about ready for the move to Double-A Erie, but expect him to have major adjustments to make in the upper minors to continue this success.

Gold still struggled to handle third base, and while he’s better at second, ultimately he’s really more of a 1B/DH type who could possibly play a bit of left field as well. So far he’s hit right-handers really well, but there are distinct lefty masher traits in his profile. It’s all about developing the bat with Luke Gold. He probably will always be a tricky fit defensively, but he may hit for enough power to eventually hold down a bench role at the major league level. For now, we need to see him move up and successfully adapt to a much tougher class of pitchers. If he can, he’ll start moving up the rankings more quickly.

30- RHP Jaden Hamm

We were pretty enthused about Hamm last fall based on his four outings at Low-A, but really underrated him based on what we’ve seen this season. Hamm’s riding fourseamer and outstanding angle to the top of the zone have absolutely overpowered High-A hitters. Hamm is striking out 34.8 percent of hitters faced, which is about as good as it gets for a minor league starter, all while walking just 3.7 percent of hitters faced. In short, he’s pounding the zone with impunity.

Hamm packs the makings of a solid changeup and a pretty good whiff inducing curveball that plays off the high fastball well. He needs to develop a harder breaking ball better than the slider he’s throwing, and we’d like to see him improve the strength and balance in his lower half to clean up his mechanics and build on his extension, but there’s just a ton to like, and Hamm is only nine starts into his first full season.

An extreme fly ball pitcher, we’ll be interested to see how Double-A hitters handle him, and whether the ball starts flying out of the park a bit more. So far he’s been really, really impressive and has already worked his way up into the top ten as the biggest mover in the system so far this season. A promotion shouldn’t be too long in coming. There’s plenty of work ahead to improve his secondary pitches and overall command, but he’s off to a great start.

31- CF Trei Cruz

This switch-hitter converted to the outfield part-time last season and showed the ability to play a pretty good center field. As a shortstop he’s pretty solid, but just doesn’t quite have the range and throwing accuracy to thrive there long-term. He’s versatile though, and the switch-hitting and decent base stealing ability could make him a weapon for the Tigers off the bench. The problem is that he continues to strike out a fair amount, and just isn’t going to hit for much power.

Now 25 years old, Cruz is down to his final year to really make an impression. If he can’t take the next step effectively, he’s going to move into 4A territory as a player who may get some cups of coffee in the majors based on his versatility and fundamentally sound game. There just isn’t enough sizzle to forecast more at his age.

32- 3B Izaac Pacheco

A long, grooved swing and a poor approach have made Pacheco a pretty disappointing prospect for the Tigers. However, the 2021 second rounder is still only 21 years old, and has shown signs of trying to cut down on his swing this season. So far, the results haven’t improved and he’s striking out 38.3 percent of the time.

It was always a power-based profile with a limited upside, and so far Pacheco hasn’t been able to get to his raw power enough for it to make an impression. Apart from the occasional tape measure shot, he doesn’t show much of anything that would make a major league future look more likely. There’s still a little time for him to develop, but it’s going to have to be a major change for the positive to keep him on prospect lists any longer.

33- SS Gage Workman

We can’t quite quit Gage Workman. The combination of power, speed, and defensive ability could make him a pretty valuable bench player as a left-handed hitter. He finally ditched switch-hitting and trimmed his swing down, eliminating some leg kick and working to get his hands in position to hit earlier. The results have been pretty encouraging.

Workman still strikes out too much for his age and the Double-A level, but now we’re talking about a 25 percent K-rate rather than something close to 40 percent, so the improvement is tangible. He draws his walks, steals bases, and there’s above average power on tap if he can improve his swing decisions enough to get to it more often.

We still don’t forecast a major league regular here, but a guy who hits left-handed with power and speed, who can play a good third base and handle shortstop in short stints, may still be a pretty valuable player off the bench for the Tigers. A bit young for his draft class, Workman is now 24 years old and needs to make a move this year. He’s off to a solid start, and if the swing changes and his approach gel a little more as he gets comfortable, it’s not impossible that you could see him in a Tigers’ uniform this summer. For now, we’re just glad to finally see some significant progress and a swing change to back it up. Hopefully, like Parker Meadows and Wenceel Pérez before him, it’s just a bit of a late breakout and Workman can build on his work this spring.

34- C Brady Cerkownyk

Cerkownyk is a really interesting catching prospect who was one of the best hitters at the JUCO level last season. He also has pretty solid skills behind the plate considering his lack of experience. We’re interested to see how the bat plays at the A-ball levels before getting too enthused about it, but we’re going to have a long wait. Cerkownyk suffered a season ending knee injury and so he’ll be on the back burner until 2025.

New to the list

There are some players who weren’t on the list last year making an impression as well. Closest to the major leagues is lefty reliever Andrew Magno, who has moved up to Toledo full-time and trimmed some walks so far. He has the stuff to get major league hitters out, but his command needs further refinement.

Lael Lockhart Jr. continues to look like a potential lefty long-man. He’s started for both the Mud Hens and the Erie SeaWolves this season. He continues to strike out plenty of hitters and keep the ball in the park. Two outings at Triple-A have been rough, but he should settle in shortly. He’s a bit of a poor man’s Brant Hurter, without quite the outstanding breaking ball Hurter possesses, but he could provide some lefty depth for the Tigers.

Bennett Lee, the Tigers sixth rounder out of Wake Forest, has hit the ground running in his first full season. The catcher has the raw chops to develop into a major league quality backstop, and he’s shown some power, but there’s also plenty of swing and miss. He moved up to West Michigan quickly, but his first nine games there have been pretty rough at the plate. He bears watching this season as one of the few good two-way catching options in the lower levels.

Finally, we can look to the Florida Complex League. Beyond Paul Wilson and Jatnk Diaz, the Tigers traded for left-handed prep pitcher Blake Dickerson back in February, sending $500K in international bonus pool money to the Padres.

Dickerson was essentially a free third round pick, and has a lot of potential as a starting pitcher. I’m not sure whether I like him more than Wilson, but adding a really good prep lefty only adds to the stockpile of young talent the Scott Harris front office has collected over the past year. So far he’s off to a good start with plenty of whiffs and a decent walk rate, though he’s been hit around a bit as well. He has the size, velocity, and the makings of a good breaking ball and changeup combination, and has been one of the more effective strike throwers for FCL Tigers. He may be the first of the group to reach Lakeland.

Other notables would include hard-throwing Lakeland relievers Yosber Sanchez, Eiker Huizi, and Thomas Bruss, starters Andrew Sears, a 2023 draft pick, and RHP Zack Lee, signed after going undrafted last summer, along with 2023 picks RHP Hayden Minton and RHP Donye Evans. RHP Rayner Castillo is also throwing a good deal harder and making his presence felt. Infielder Samuel Gil has also made his presence felt in the Flying Tigers offense, and shows some pretty good chops at shortstop. Outfielder Brett Callahan has also been impressive for Lakeland, showing off good power in a left-handed stick.

At the FCL level, we’ll also note catcher Enrique Jimenez, SS Franyerber Montilla and outfielders Nomar Fana and Anibal Salas, all very young recent top international free agent signings who are performing well so far.

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