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February 24, 2012

Future Shock

Detroit Tigers Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: The best team in the American League Central by a wide margin, but that certainly doesn't apply to the farm.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Jacob Turner, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Nick Castellanos, 3B
Three-Star Prospects
3. Casey Crosby, LHP
4. Drew Smyly, LHP
5. Andrew Oliver, LHP
6. Brenny Paulino, RHP
7. Bruce Rondon, RHP
8. Danry Vasquez, OF
9. Avisail Garcia, OF
Two-Star Prospects
10. Rob Brantly, C
11. Brian Flynn, LHP
Nine More:
12. Alex Burgos, LHP: Southpaw impressed more with finesse than stuff, but his deep arsenal serves him well.
13. James McCann, C: Big-bodied catcher has a backup profile with a strong glove and questionable hitting.
14. Brandon Loy, SS: This 2011 pick is a legitimate shortstop, but will he hit?
15. Tyler Gibson, OF: High-upside hitter, but he’s raw and not especially toolsy.
16. Tyler Collins, OF: Short, stocky, and stuck in a corner outfielder slot, but he barrels everything.
17. Josue Carreno, RHP: Venezuelan righty with good curve and improving velocity.
18. Aaron Westlake, 1B: Plenty of raw power, but the rule of first base prospects applies, and his debut was iffy.
19. Kevin Eichhorn, RHP: Finally was healthy in 2011 and showed some flashes of pre-injury stuff.
20. Jason King, 3B: Burly third baseman can hit, but he might not stick at the hot corner.

1. Jacob Turner, RHP
: 5/21/91
Height/Weight: 6’5/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Westminster Christian Academy HS (MO)
2011 Stats: 3.48 ERA (113.2-102-32-90) at AA (17 G), 3.12 ERA (17.1-15-3-20) at AAA (3 G), 8.53 ERA (12.2-17-4-8) at MLB (3 G)
Tools Profile: Fantastic combination of stuff and polish.

Year in Review: The top prospect in the system reached the big leagues before his 21st birthday and looked like he belonged.
The Good: Turner has three average-to-plus pitches that all play up due to highly advanced command and control. He throws several variations of an 89-95 mph fastball that he adds and subtracts from while adding cut or sink. His power curveball is an easy plus offering that he uses to get outs while ahead in the count, and his changeup is advanced for his age. He has a big, strong frame, easy delivery, and maintains his stuff deep into games and late into seasons.
The Bad: While it's hard to find weaknesses in Turner's game, scouts are hesitant to put an ace projection on him without a plus-plus offering. While he throws a lot of strikes, he still needs to polish the command of those secondary offerings as well.
Ephemera: There have been 13 pitchers with the last name Turner in draft history, and Jacob is the only one to pitch in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Number-two starter.
Fantasy Impact: Good across the board, but short of elite.
Path to the Big Leagues: Turner will compete for the final slot in the Tigers rotation this spring, and even if he doesn't open camp in the big leagues, he could spend much of the season there.
ETA: 2012.

2. Nick Castellanos, 3B
: 3/4/92
Height/Weight: 6’4/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)
2011 Stats: .312/.367/.436 at A (135 G)
Tools Profile: Plus bat, with other tools beginning to translate.

Year in Review: Big bonus baby from 2010 started the season in an ugly slump but ended up among the Midwest League’s top hitters.
The Good: Castellanos's hit tool stands out. He has a decent approach at the plate and a quick bat with excellent hands. He has long arms and a knack for hard contact, and some scouts project 20-plus home runs out of him once his skinny frame fills out. He's improving at third base to the point where scouts think he can stay there, and a plus arm helps his cause.
The Bad: Castellanos still has a long way to go defensively, but he has the tools and simply needs to improve his footwork and fundamentals. He still has some holes in his swing and is exploitable inside. He's a below-average runner.
Ephemera: Castellanos hit .182 (16-for-88) in his first 25 games of the 2011 season but .339 from there on out.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Good average, solid power, no speed.
Path to the Big Leagues: Catellanos made big strides in 2011 and will try to carry them over to the tough Florida State League in 2012.
ETA: 2015.

3. Casey Crosby, LHP
: 9/17/88
Height/Weight: 6’5/200
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2007, Kaneland HS (IL)
2011 Stats: 4.10 ERA (131.2-122-77-121) at AA (25 G)
Tools Profile: Power lefty.

Year in Review: Stayed healthy and impressed with his stuff, but not with his control.
The Good: Crosby's fastball is capable of both missing bats and generating groundballs, siting in the low-to-mid 90s with heavy angle and sink. He throws a curveball that some scouts grade as above-average. More importantly, after missing a year due to Tommy John surgery and then nearly all of 2010 will elbow soreness, he showed no ill effects and kept his stuff into the Arizona Fall League this year.
The Bad: Control has never been Crosby's strong suit, and it regressed in 2011; he had trouble throwing strikes and racked up high pitch counts quickly. His changeup is not bad, but it lags behind his other two-pitches. He tends to scrap his secondary offerings with runners on base and gets hit hard because of it.
Ephemera: Journeyman reliever Doug Creek is the only left-hander selected with the 181st overall pick to reach the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Number-three starter or set-up man.
Fantasy Impact: Walks will always hurt him, but other numbers should be good.
Path to the Big Leagues: Crosby will move up to Triple-A in 2012 but might be forced to relieve in order to assist the Tigers in the second half of the season.
ETA: 2012.

4. Drew Smyly, LHP
: 6/13/89
Height/Weight: 6’3/190
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010, Arkansas
2011 Stats: 2.58 ERA (126.0-103-36-130) at High A (22 G), 1.18 ERA (45.2-32-15-53) at AA (8 G)
Tools Profile: Stuff doesn't match the numbers.

Year in Review: Reached Double-A in his full-season debut and dominated at two levels.
The Good: Smyly is a highly advanced pitcher who gets by with location and by keeping hitters off balance. He pounds all four corners of the strike zone with an upper-80s fastball that occasionally pumps up to 90-91, but the pitch plays up since he can hit his spots and add movement to it. He throws a slurvy but effective breaking ball and an average changeup.
The Bad: Smyly, doesn't have much room for error, and scouts question his ability to succeed as anything more than a back-end-of-the-rotation battler in the big leagues. Finding a single secondary go-to pitch would help his cause.
Ephemera: In Smyly's eight Double-A appearances, he did not allow an earned run in the second, third, fifth, sixth, or seventh innings, during which he pitched a total of 30 frames.
Perfect World Projection: Number-four starter.
Fantasy Impact: Worthy of a roster spot, but he’ll have little impact.
Path to the Big Leagues: Smyly will begin the year at one of Detroit's upper-level affiliates and has an outside shot at a September look.
ETA: 2013.

5. Andrew Oliver, LHP
: 12/3/87
Height/Weight: 6’3/210
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2009, Oklahoma State
2011 Stats: 4.71 ERA (147.0-149-80-143) at AAA (26 G); 6.52 ERA (9.2-11-8-5) at MLB (2 G)
Tools Profile: Power stuff from the left side, but ultimately frustrating.

Year in Review: Reached the big leagues but made little progress as a prospect.
The Good: Oliver has a big league frame and delivery and the stuff to match; he can touch 96 mph with a fastball that sits comfortably at 92-94 mph. He'll occasionally show a decent slider and changeup and looks like a big league starter when everything is working for him.
The Bad: Scouts spend a lot of time speculating on why Oliver isn't better. He has the stuff to be an above-average starter, but his command and control have declined as a pro, and he's yet to find a consistent breaking ball.
Ephemera: Only five pitchers out of Oklahoma State have been selected higher in the draft than Oliver, and of them, only John Farrell and Jeff Bronkey reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He could still become a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Fantasy Impact: For now, it’s limited, but there is some upside.
Path to the Big Leagues: Oliver's pro career has become similar to his college one in that many are frustrated with his inability to take the next step his talent suggests is there. For now, he'll return to Toledo.
ETA: Late 2012.

6. Brenny Paulino, RHP
: 2/21/93
Height/Weight: 6’4/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009
2011 Stats: 2.35 ERA (45.2-34-18-45) at Rookie (11 G), 21.94 ERA (5.1-9-9-7) at High A (2 G)
Tools Profile: As projectable as they come.

Year in Review: Dominican right-hander was among the most impressive pitchers in the Gulf Coast League.
The Good: Paulino's ceiling matches any young pitcher in the system other than Turner. He already sits in the low-90s, can flirt with 95-96 at times, and should add some ticks as he matures and his ultra-thin frame fills out. He generally throws strikes and has some feel for both a curveball and a changeup.
The Bad: Paulino is a project. There are a lot of moving parts to his delivery, which can create inconsistencies in velocity and location. His secondary pitches both need considerable improvement, and more than anything, he just needs innings.
Ephemera: Eric Arce of the Blue Jays, who set a Gulf Coast League record last year with 14 home runs, was the only player to take Paulino deep in 2011.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average starter with star potential.
Fantasy Impact: If you're in a deep keeper league, he might be worth a gamble.
Path to the Big Leagues: Paulino learned some tough lessons during a pair of disastrous late-season starts at High-A, so he'll spend 2012 in the rotation at Low-A West Michigan.
ETA: 2015.

7. Bruce Rondon, RHP
: 12/9/90
Height/Weight: R/R
Bats/Throws: 6’2/270
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2007
2011 Stats: 2.02 ERA (40.0-22-34-61) at A (41 G)
Tools Profile: One of the liveliest arms in the minors.

Year in Review: Was often unhittable but rarely accurate.
The Good: Rondon is a gigantic, intimidating presence on the mound and brings an equally intimidating fastball that sits in the upper 90s, has touched triple digits, and has impressive late life. His slider should become an effective pitch with some refinement.
The Bad: Rondon slings his heat from a low arm slot and has extreme control issues. While he's earned the nickname 'Bambino Grande' for his size, he's not so much big as just overweight, and it could become an issue down the road.
Ephemera: Batters leading off an inning against Rondon in 2011 had a .485 on-base percentage by going 4-for-21 with 10 walks and two hit by pitches.
Perfect World Projection: Shutdown closer.
Fantasy Impact: If he can't throw more strikes, he's not going to get save opportunities.
Path to the Big Leagues: All the Tigers can do is keep working with Rondon, and he'll begin 2011 at High-A Lakeland.
ETA: 2014.

8. Danry Vasquez, OF
: 1/8/94
Height/Weight: 6’3/169
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2010
2011 Stats:.272/.306/.350 at Rookie (54 G)
Tools Profile: Impressive hit tool, and he'll need it.

Year in Review: After signing for a $1.2 million bonus in 2010, Vasquez impressed scouts during his pro debut.
The Good: Vasquez has a remarkable hit tool, combining bat speed with excellent hand-eye coordination and strong wrists. He's skinny but long and should develop average or more power as he fills out. He's solid in the outfield with enough arm for right.
The Bad: Vasquez gets himself out too often with poor at-bats. He's merely an average runner, so there is additional pressure on him to develop power.
Ephemera: Vasquez was born in Ocumare del Tuy, an agricultural center of approximately 150,000 people in northern Venezuela that is also the birthplace of Ozzie Guillen.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: Not worth discussing yet.
Path to the Big Leagues: Vasquez turned 18 in January, and barring a big breakthrough in spring training, we won't see his name in a box score until the short-season leagues begin.
ETA: 2016

9. Avisail Garcia, OF
: 6/12/91
Height/Weight: 6’4/230
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2007
2011 Stats: .264/.297/.389 at High A (129 G)
Tools Profile: The tools are not the problem.

Year in Review: Venezuelan outfielder continued to impress with his tools but not with his performance.
The Good: Garcia has everything it takes to be a star. He's a huge, muscular outfielder with well above-average power. He's a very good athlete with average speed, good instincts in the outfield, and one of the best arms in the system.
The Bad: Garcia has yet to translate his unquestionable tools into skills. The primary culprit is his approach, or lack thereof, as he swings at any pitch he can reach and chases everything.
Ephemera: From what I can tell, there has never been a player with the first name Avisail in organized baseball.
Perfect World Projection: Garcia has all the tools to become an above-average everyday player…
Fantasy Impact: …but he's still far from it.
Path to the Big Leagues: Garcia has been rushed through the system, and he's simply not ready for Double-A pitching. He repeated Low-A in 2010 and will get a second High-A season in 2012, yet he does not turn 21 until June.
ETA: 2015.

10. Rob Brantly, C
: 7/14/89
Height/Weight: 6’2/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, University of California-Riverside
2011 Stats: .303/.366/.440 at A (75 G), .219/.239/.322 at High A (39 G)
Tools Profile: Solid across-the-board catcher.

Year in Review: Outstanding first half at Low-A, but he struggled big time after moving up to the Florida State League.
The Good: Brantly has abilities both at the plate and behind it. He has a smooth swing, excellent contact rates, and slightly below average power. He moves well for a catcher and has an above-average arm.
The Bad: Brantly doesn't have the kind of tools to be a star. His power is not projectable, and his on-base ability is a bit lacking. He can be guilty of stabbing at balls as opposed to receiving them.
Ephemera: The last player drafted out of UC Riverside to hit a big league home run is former Padres starter Eric Show, who hit the last of his four career home runs in 1985.
Perfect World Projection: A second-division starter or a good backup.
Fantasy Impact: Limited.
Path to the Big Leagues: Brantly struggled late in the year at High-A Lakeland and will return there in 2012.
ETA: 2014

11. Brian Flynn, LHP
: 4/19/90
Height/Weight: 6’8/239
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Seventh round, 2011, Wichita State
2011 Stats: 3.46 ERA (67.2-58-23-57) at A (13 G)
Tools Profile: Huge left-hander with stuff.

Year in Review: Had an inconsistent spring, but he left scouts wondering how he fell to the seventh round during his pro debut.
The Good: Flynn's fastball ranges wildly from 87-93 mph, but he scraped the mid-90s at times in college, and with his height and release point, it comes in at a difficult angle for hitters to pick up on. He'll flash a plus slider and has a decent changeup.
The Bad: Flynn has very little track record for success, and everything about his game seems to come and go, not just from start-to-start but from inning-to-inning. His upside is intriguing, but he's certainly a risk.
Ephemera: Flynn won two state titles at Owasso High in Oklahoma, the same school that produced Baltimore top prospect Dylan Bundy.
Perfect World Projection: Flynn could be a star-level starter or an effective power reliever, but there is still much work to be done.
Fantasy Impact: Role to be determined. If he's moved to a relief role, he's unlikely to close.
Path to the Big Leagues: Flynn could open 2012 as far along as High-A Lakeland. He's easily one of the most intriguing players in the system.
ETA: 2014.

The Sleeper: 20-year-old Venezuelan Eugenio Suarez has defensive flexibility, hitting chops, and surprising pop from a skinny frame.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Alex Avila, C

2. Jacob Turner, RHP
3. Rick Porcello, RHP
4. Austin Jackson, OF
5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
6. Al Alburquerque, RHP
7. Casey Crosby, LHP
8. Drew Smyly, LHP
9. Daniel Schlereth, LHP
10. Andy Oliver, LHP

Putting Avila first might have shocked me more than anyone, but he's turned into an All-Star catcher and there's little fluky about what he did in 2011. Porcello is still going to get better, and when he's good five years from now and still just 27 years old, you'll be sorry you wrote him off. Austin Jackson is not as good as he was in 2010, but scouts don't think he was as bad as he was in 2011 either. In the end, that makes him a middle-of-the-road center fielder, and there are plenty of teams who would like to have that. Alburquerque may seem like a fluke, but he was sitting at 96 and touching 99 for much of the year, and it sure looked real. Schlereth could have value with more strikes, but faith in him ever putting it together is waning.

Summary: The Tigers have gone all in for the 2012 season, and they don't have much of a backup plan; after Turner, there is no other immediate help on the way.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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