The Detroit Tigers don’t exactly have one of the better minor league systems. In fact, in Keith Law’s preseason breakdown he ranked the Tigers 24th out of 30 MLB teams.
Despite the lack of firepower across the board, there are some intriguing names that bear watching. This list will illuminate 7 names that you probably already know as well 7 names that have been flying under the radar.
- Nick Castellanos (20 y/o, 3B, High A Lakeland) – Castellanos has started his 2nd season of pro ball with High A Lakeland. Last year he was awarded as the Tigers’ minor league hitter of the year. It looks like he wants to make that 2 in a row. In 21 games, he’s off to a .398 start with a .435 on-base%. He has 8 doubles, 1 homer, and 14 RBI’s. He will probably finish the season at AA Erie and start pounding on the Tigers’ door next spring.
- Jacob Turner (21 y/0, RHP, High A Lakeland) – After making it all the way to Motown last year, Turner had a dreadful spring depressed by a ‘dead arm’ period and now finds himself working his way back to good with Lakeland. He took some time to rest and has now started 2 games for Lakeland, pitching 10 scoreless innings so far with 3 walks and just 3 strikeouts. The future may still be bright, but the road has become noticeably longer.
- Andy Oliver (24 y/o, LHP, AAA Toledo) – At 24, he’s not getting any younger, and his repertoire is not becoming any more refined. In fact, it might be regressing. In 26.1 innings so far in 2012, he has an impressive 27 K’s and a head-shaking 25 walks. Unless he can find a delivery that lets him pound the strike zone with his power arsenal, this former 2nd round pick is on the fast track to nowhere.
- Casey Crosby (23 y/o, LHP, AAA Toledo) – Crosby suffers the same ailment as Oliver – walks. The only difference is he can use the Tommy John recovery excuse. However, that setback is becoming a bit too far in the rearview mirror to keep going back to. He has electric stuff but little control. He has walked 10 in 18 innings thus far while striking out 16. His ERA sits at 5.00 after 4 starts.
- Rob Brantly (22 y/0, C, AA Erie) – Brantly was a 3rd round pick back in 2010 and has been rising steadily through the system ever since. He is off to a blistering start for the SeaWolves. Hitting .365 with 2 homers and 16 RBI’s puts the Tigers in a unique position of strong catching depth beyond their starter Alex Avila.
- Avisail Garcia (20 y/o, OF, High A Lakeland) – Garcia is the kid with all the tools. The Tigers are excited about his long-term potential assuming he can limit the strikeouts. He’s hitting .395 for the Flying Tigers in the early going with 3 doubles, 2 homers, 11 RBI’s, and 5 steals. He has fanned 17 times in 81 at-bats (21%), which is an improvement. Remember this name.
- James McCann (21 y/0, C, High A Lakeland) – McCann was the Tigers’ top pick in 2011 and brings even more upside to the Tigers’ catching depth. He spent the spring with the big club and is hitting well (.283, 9 RBI’s) for Lakeland. He’s behind Brantly at this point but not by much.
- Brian Flynn (22 y/o, RHP, High A Lakeland) – Flynn was a 7th round pick in 2011 and goes 6’8’’, 240 lbs. He got off to a red-hot start in his first 3 appearances for Lakeland this year before getting thumped around. A guy with his size and command (2 walks) is a name worth remembering. He’ll move up through the system and be fighting for a spot in a few years or make for a really nice trade piece.
- Steven Moya (20 y/o, 1B, low A West Michigan) – Moya is a 6’7’’ first baseman and is off to a .377 start for the Whitecaps. He has 6 doubles, 1 homer, and 11 RBI’s so far and is outshining the legacy names on the roster such as Colin Kaline, Patrick Leyland, and Nicholas Avila.
- Tyler Collins (21 y/o, OF, High A Lakeland) – Collins was selected last year from Howard Junior College in Texas and has a lot of game. He has started off .342 with 7 doubles, 8 RBI’s, and 3 steals. He’s a guy I like as a sneaky fast riser in the system.
- Dean Green (22 y/o, 1B, low A West Michigan) – Also drafted in 2011, out of tiny Barry College, Green has some pop. He’s already hit 5 homers for the Whitecaps and is looking to have the kind of season that puts his name on the map.
- Brennan Smith (22 y/o, RHP, low A West Michigan) – Smith was a 33rd round pick out of Bowling Green in 2010 and has been lights out so far. He sports a 1.23 ERA so far in 2012 and a 2.73 ERA throughout parts of 3 minor league seasons. He has struck out 160 in 217.2 innings of minor league work.
- Bruce Rondon (21 y/o, RHP, High A Lakeland) – Rondon might have the biggest strikeout upside of any reliever in the Tigers’ system. The big fella has been racking up saves in the low minors for a few years now and will be on his way toward the top soon. He has 14 K’s though 8 innings with the Flying Tigers already but does have 7 walks, which will be his one roadblock.
- Melvin Mercedes (21 y/o, RHP, low A West Michigan) – Mercedes was a fast riser until Tommy John surgery struck. He has a big arm out of the bullpen and is working his way back into the conversation. He has 9 K’s in 6.2 innings this year and will need to build on that momentum to start climbing the prospect list once again.