The Detroit Tigers are about to begin their first rebuilding season. But, that will open up the opportunity for some young guys to show what they can do in the big leagues. Here are my top five prospects that could be wearing an Old English D at some point this season.
5. Grayson Long
Grayson Long came to Detroit last season in the deal that sent Justin Upton to the Los Angeles Angels. At the time he was the number eight prospect in the Angels depleted system. However, there is a lot to like about this young pitcher.
Long is just as his name describes, his 6’5″, 230 lb frame has him towering over most of his opponents. He has a solid fastball that can hit 95 mph at times. The young right-hander has also gotten a lot better over the past year at locating his fastball. It typically sits around 90 mph, but that number will only go up as he acclimates to higher level baseball.
He tag teams his fastball with an above average slider that keeps batters missing. His third pitch is an underdeveloped changeup that needs work if he is going to throw it at the major league level. He will have to develop that third pitch to be a starter in the major leagues some day.
However, if he can’t develop that changeup into what it needs to be, he will more than likely make a move to the bullpen. If he continues to improve locating his slider and his fastball, he could be a great option as a setup man or closer.
Al Avila praised Long after his acquisition in August lat year saying, “Grayson is a workhorse-type starter who throws strikes and has a great makeup. Our scouts project him to be a starter at the Major League level.”
Long’s opportunity could come as early as this season. He had 23 starts on the Angels AA team last year and was impressive. The 23-year-old was 8-6 with a 2.32 ERA and 111 K’s in 121 innings.
Long currently sits at number 14 in a very good Tigers’ farm system. We will see if he can continue to put up great numbers in AAA this season and maybe even get a few starts in Motown.
MLB Comparison: Nick Tropeano (Los Angeles Angels)
4. Michael Gerber
Gerber isn’t a guy that is going to blow you away with his baseball abilities. However, he is incredibly consistent in almost every aspect of his game.
Gerber hits for contact. He has a very smooth swing that gets him on base often. He hit .291 in 92 games in AA this past season.
The 25-year-old is also a very patient hitter. In those 92 games he walked 39 times and had an on-base percentage of .363. This led Gerber to score 63 times last season.
Gerber also has the potential to be a better slugger. He had 13 homers and 23 doubles in AA last year, but he could get even better. The young outfielder occasionally tries to do too much at the plate leading to some swings and misses. However, if he continues to naturally get stronger and keeps a consistent swing his hitting could be even better. He needs to continue to improve as a hitter to be an everyday outfielder.
Defensively, Gerber can play all three outfield positions which is extremely valuable in today’s MLB. He has average speed for an outfielder and defends fairly well. This alone will give him the opportunity to play on the Tigers as the team is relatively weak in the outfield. I truly believe he could be a solid and consistent starter for Detroit by 2020.
MLB Comparison: Alex Presley (Baltimore Orioles)
3. Dawel Lugo
Lugo has been anything but under the radar. In 2011, the Blue Jays had high expectations for this stud from the Dominican Republic. In fact, they signed him to a seven figure contract.
That idea seemed to change by 2015 when he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for seasoned veteran Cliff Pennington. Then last season he was the centerpiece in a deal to Detroit for J.D. Martinez. Lugo was the Diamondbacks’ 4th ranked prospect in a pretty feeble system.
The young infielderplayed well in AA last season hitting .277 with a bit of power. Lugo hit 13 homers and totaled 65 RBI’s in the 2017 campaign. As he continues to get stronger and see the ball more he will continue to progress on his way to a major league hitter.
On the defensive side of the ball, Lugo has a great arm, but needs to do more work to be an everyday starter at third. The potential is there, but if it doesn’t improve he is destined to be a utility player (he has experience at short and second) or DH.
The Tigers also currently have a logjam at third base. Castellanos, Candelario, and a highly touted 18 year old prospect, Isaac Paredes, are also natural third baseman. In order for Lugo to earn playing time, he will need to show his value at the plate or switch positions.
2. Christin Stewart
Fans should be really excited about what Stewart can bring to the table this season. The talented outfielder can flat out crush the baseball.
In the last two seasons, Stewart has hit 59 home runs across three minor league levels. He played all of 2017 in AA and put up some impressive numbers from behind the plate. Along with 28 home runs, Stewart had 86 RBI’s and had a .501 slugging percentage.
Although he is explosive from behind the plate he has some major drawbacks. Stewart under performs on the defensive side of the ball. Because of this he will more than likely play right field or only be a DH.
Stewart also has to address his strikeout issues. Last season, the slugger was sent back to the dugout 138 times in 136 games. While the major leagues are trending towards more strikeouts, Stewart needs to see the ball better to be successful at the major league level.
Stewart will almost certainly start 2018 in AAA, and will also more than likely get his chance to wear a Tigers’ uniform this season. Expect a lot of excitement around him while he is in the majors because of his ability to hit the long ball.
MLB Comparison: Justin Upton (Los Angeles Angels)
1. Franklin Perez
The only reason Stewart is not number one is because of how special Franklin Perez is going to be.
As a teenager last season, Perez had already developed four solid pitches. His fastball can reach upwards of 95 mph. He also has a very impressive curveball and changeup that work with the fastball very well. He has started to throw his slider more often, and it is projected to become an above average pitch.
As the Venezuelan continues to learn the game more and get stronger, he could be the ace of the Detroit Tigers rotation. Which is saying a lot with Fulmer, and young starting pitchers in Matt Manning, Beau Burrows, and Alex Faedo on the way (all three in MLB’s Top 100 prospect list).
Last season Perez dominated Class A Advanced in the Astros system. In 54 innings Perez threw 53 strikeouts and held opponents to a .191 average. He finished 4-2 with a sub three ERA. This was one of the reasons Detroit coveted him so much in the deal.
Perez is currently sitting as MLB.com’s 39th ranked prospect for 2018. Most say that his floor is a mid-rotation starter who can manage a lot of innings, which in itself would be valuable. His ceiling is yet to be found, Perez has the opportunity to create his own path. But if he keeps doing what he is doing, expect Perez to be at the top of the Detroit’s rotation for years to come.