C – Eliezer Alfonzo – Looking at the chain of command at catcher in Detroit, current (listed) starter Grayson Greiner and backup John Hicks provide a defensively-minded steadiness that will help hold the position down until the organization develops its catcher of the future. Second year backstop Eliezer Alfonzo made a nice step in that direction last season. In 2017, the international signee out of Venezuela began his career in the DSL batting .305 and leading the team with a .414 on-base percentage. Equally impressive was that he drew 26 walks to only 18 strikeouts. Last season, the 5’10” – 155 lb. switch-hitter started back in the DSL with Tigers2, where he batted .391 with 10 doubles and 22 walks with only 8 strikeouts before a mid-July promotion stateside to the Gulf Coast League. He struggled for the first time in his short career, batting .217 with only two extra-base hits and 12 RBi in 22 games. However, he maintained his plate discipline posting an even 9:9 BB:K ratio. Alfonzo has seen time at first base, however, unless he develops more power as he grows, sticking behind the plate might be his best path. Alfonzo could begin 2019 back in the GCL, with a production based promotion to SS Connecticut possible by the end of the season. 1B – Eduardo Valencia – Sticking with the teenage Venezuelan prospects, the Tigers signed the 6’2”- 180 lb. Valencia (yes, the same as his name) native in April 2018 and shipped him to the DSL to start his career. The right-handed slugger split time between first base and catcher registering a .977 fielding percentage at first base and .992 at catcher respectively. However, his bat did the talking, leading the Tigers DSL1 roster in doubles (13), every slashline category (.313/.382/.389/.770) and ranking third in total bases with 77. Prospect Josh Lester blasted 21 homers, 22 doubles for Double-A Erie last season and 21-year-old LoA slugger Reynaldo Rivera not only lead all first basemen, but all hitting prospects HiA down with 28 doubles. If Detroit can get another year or two out of future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, I believe any one of these three could make a case for his replacement. It just might take Valencia much longer. 2B – Kody Clemens – Current Tigers (starting) second baseman Niko Goodrum made a few regular season rounds here at the website back in 2014 and 2015 while with the Twins organization. Twenty-four-year-old Dawel Lugo, who came to the organization in the July 2017 trade that sent 2 time All-Star, World Series champion and former UTR Breakout selection (with Houston) J.D. Martinez to Arizona, made a 27-game cameo for the major league squad last season batting .213 with eight RBi and 20 strikeouts in 27 games, and is most likely poised to start the season for Triple-A Toledo. These two leave the second base prospect door open for Clemens, whom the Tigers drafted out of the University of Texas in the 3rd round last season. Clemens obviously has good bloodlines, with his father being former pitching great Roger, and came into the organization with average to above average tools across the board, having batted .284 with 34 home runs and 11 stolen bases during his three-year Longhorn career. The Tigers shipped him straight to LoA. He batted .302 with 16 extra-base hits and 21 walks in 41 games. Clemens received a promotion to HiA Lakeland in mid-August and Florida State League pitching tamed him a bit, as he posted a 238/.283/.357/.640 slashline in 11 games. I believe Clemens may spend all of 2019 back in HiA, but if he plays up to his tools successfully, he could be tested with a promotion to Double-A Erie. 3B – Daniel Pinero – This was tough. I’m not the type that kicks a man when he’s down. Yet, I also won’t shy away from truth. And truth be told, the Tigers third base hierarchy is a UTR nightmare. Now, let’s get this out there. For the foreseeable future, 2017 Trade Deadline acquisition Jeimer Candelario has third base on lockdown. He provides average defense and sure, he could hit for better average (.224 last season; .233 career), but he provides good pop (28 doubles, 19 homers) and just turned 25 years old in November. So, my choosing of Pinero does two things: gives a 24-year-old his last hurrah as a UTR qualifier, and two, gives the rest of the organization’s third base prospects another year to improve, which, honestly, they need a lot of it. Now Pinero isn’t/wasn’t a pure OAS charity case. He had a decent season for HiA Lakeland, batting .263 with 9 home runs, 26 doubles, and 66 runs scored. In fact he tied Tampa Bay’s Kevin Padlo for most doubles by a third baseman in the Florida State League and led all third basemen with 54 walks. So, he did well, and deserved the UTR recognition. However, he’s probably headed for Double-A, which means I’m heading into 2019 with a clean slate approach, hoping that one (or several) low-key prospects can make choosing next year’s UTR tough for good reasons, not by default. SS – Wenceel Perez – When Baseball America published their Detroit Tigers Top 10 Prospects list, shortstops Isaac Paredes and Willi Castro occupied the third and ninth spots, Paredes being third, Castro ninth. So, anyone familiar with how projection works knows that, when it’s all said and done, two guys with this amount of talent can’t play one position within the same organization at the highest level. But you know what? Organizations always find a way to work it out. But the best part is the development never stops. And the season Wenceel Perez had in 2018 either makes things much easier to sort out or much harder. The Tigers signed the 5’11”- 170 lb. switch-hitter out of the Dominican Republic in July 2016 for $550K and assigned him to the DSL. In 61 games he batted .314, stole 16 bases, scored 31 runs and walked 27 times next to 21 strikeouts. He received a 2018 promotion to the Tigers West squad of Gulf Coast League and proceeded to crush GCL pitching. He played in only 20 of the Tigers West 53 games and still finished within the team’s top overall producers in runs scored (20), hits (31), doubles (7), walks (12), and total bases (44). Tigers brass saw enough, shipping him to SS Connecticut of the New York-Penn League. There, he slowed down a bit, posting a .244/.287/.305/.592 slashline in 21 games, but mid-August saw another promotion, this time to full season Midwest League. For West Michigan, the 18-year-old ended the year holding his own against competition nearly four years his senior. After his second consecutive appearance on the Tigers OAS list, I’m super anxious to see if this kid can pick up where he left off and become part of the Tigers top prospect discussion in 2019. There is a LOT to like here. LF – Daniel Reyes – Ok, now we are getting to some meat on the bone. The Tigers minor league outfield ranks (I wouldn’t say) are loaded, but with three outfielders inside Baseball America’s current Detroit Top 10 (Daz Cameron/5th; Parker Meadows/7th; and Christin Stewart/8th) along with a bevy of low to mid-level minors on the rise, I’d say other than right-handed pitching, outfield might be the organization’s biggest strength. So, it made it a bit difficult to craft together an OAS list of outfielders. We had to be creative, and it starts with 2018 – 28th rounder Daniel Reyes. The 6’1”- 200 pounder came out of the University of Miami with plus-plus power, a good glove, above-average speed and the potential to hit for high average. Well, I’d say he lived up to those attributes in his debut season. He was assigned to Tigers East of the Gulf Coast League to begin his career and in 47 games batted .286 with 15 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBi and 12 stolen bases. He led the team in runs scored (29) and total bases (84) before receiving a promotion to SS Connecticut in late-August. He collected only 25 at-bats in six games, but batted .320, rapped out two doubles and drove in six. He also went all season long without committing an error. Reyes sits right at the peak of the age/level curve and it’s expected that he’ll start 2019 back in the New York-Penn League, but if he resumes his hot debut, he could easily see LoA West Michigan by early-mid season. CF – Esney Chacon – It’s fun to look at stat lines from players in short/half season leagues and project (or translate) what they could have produced if they had played for a full-season affiliate. This is partly why Esney Chacon made the 2018 UTR OAS list. He repeated the Dominican Summer League in 2018 with Tigers1 after batting .273 with only seven extra-base hits and 27 runs scored in 2017. You can definitely say that the 6’1” – 160 lb. Venezuela native is ready to play in the states. Despite a 10 point dip in batting average (.263), the right handed hitter scored 49 runs in only 27 more games, legged out six triples and stole 48 bases, which ranked him third in the entire Dominican Summer League and first among all Tigers prospects Triple-A down. Translate his stolen bases to a full-season league, Chacon could be sitting on 94 stolen bases. The minor’s leader in 2018 was Houston outfield prospect Myles Straw, who swiped 70 bases across Double and Triple A. I’m not saying Chacon is headed for superstardom, however, stats like 2018 make you wonder and hope that it’s doable again, as he ascends the ranks. RF – Brock Deatherage – In left fielder Daniel Reyes’ bio above, the word “creative” was used to describe how the Tigers OAS outfield list came together. Reason being? We had to find a way to get the bat of Brock Deatherage on the list. Usually we try to stay true to the defensive position of a player. Meaning, we’d like it if a player who we list as a right fielder played the majority of his games there. But we looked at it, reminded ourselves that if fantasy baseball leagues on major sports sites list players like Cubs stud first baseman Anthony Rizzo as a second baseman after “playing” only ten games there (not starting) in 2017 , then we see no reason why we can’t choose Deatherage as our right fielder after playing only seven games there during the 2018 season. Again, we couldn’t deny a guy who, after being taken in the 10th round (out of North Carolina State), batted .326 with 8 doubles, 6 triples and 7 home runs, scored 43 runs and stole 19 stolen bases across three levels in his pro debut. This actually didn’t come as a surprise to many, as he left college with a “gamer type, [who] runs well and plays quality defense, [and] can do a bit of everything’ as stated about Deatherage here. I love the kid and I can’t wait to follow him once again this season. Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. RHP Elvin Rodriguez – (14.5) / LoA West Michigan “Legit UTR”
**He may have been the “Player to be Named Later” in the Justin Upton deal, but Tigers are finding Rodriguez to be an intriguing prospect. The 20-year old has had success since coming to the U.S. after a season and a half in the DSL. The 6′ 3″- 160 lb. right-hander’s weapons already consist of a mid 90’s fastball, a wicked curve and an improving changeup. He got a taste of LoA Burlington in 2017 (three starts) and returned in 2018 where he spent the whole season. The 2014 International signee posted decent numbers with a 3.34 ERA, a strong strikeout rate (8.7) and an excellent 2.5 BB/9, a near career average over 291 innings. My system hit upon Rodriguez after the 2016 season when he ranked #2 on the Los Angeles Angels UTR Organizational All-Star roster. He was my pick for the Angels “One to Watch” for the 2017 season. That proficient 2017 season would have ranked him at #3 with the Angels, if it wasn’t for the trade. The Tigers left him unprotected during the recent Rule 5 period, and I was surprised nobody came a-calling. 2019 could be a huge season for Rodriguez.
2. LHP Eudis Idrogo – (11.5) / HiA Lakeland “Legit UTR”
**Idrogo is slightly behind my prospect clock, but may be finally coming into his own. He’s been within the Tigers system since 2012, as a lanky 17-year old lefty. He caught my eye in 2014 and was mentioned during my write-up before the 2015 start of the now-defunct Venezuelan Summer League. I also fell in love with another prospect at that time in Ranger Suarez (Phillies), who’s already punched his MLB call-up card this past season. Here’s a snippet from that VSL preview piece: The Tigers have a “somewhat” version to the Phillies Suarez, in LHP Eudis Idrogo. The soon-to-be 20 year old was also left off the 2014 UTR-OAS roster, so I’m certain he will be in the states with the GCL Tigers in 2015. Idrogo posted a 0.91 ERA over 59.1 innings while striking out 42 batters. Idrogo has been solid through his progression, but was always outside looking in, since his #1 UTR-OAS ranking after the 2015 season. I selected him as the Tigers UTR “One to Watch” for 2017 and he’s finally back in the rankings. The 6′ 1″ 200lb southpaw made his way to HiA Lakeland last season, but unfortunately was used mostly from the bullpen. I still feel the now 23-year old is a deep sleeper within the Tigers depth charts and could be a back-end starter.
Curious on how Idrogo compares to Suarez?….. here are their career minor league numbers over 7 seasons.
Idrogo – 37-25, 2.88 ERA, 506.2 IP, 464 H, 162 ER, 27 HR, 113 BB, 407 K, 1.13 WHIP in 113 apps with 80 starts
Suarez – 28-17, 2.27 ERA, 451 IP, 370 H, 114 ER, 17 HR, 102 BB, 381 K, 1.04 WHIP in 87 apps with 75 starts
3. RHP Matt Manning – (11) / Double-A Erie
4. RHP Anthony Castro – (10.5)/ Double-A Erie “Legit UTR”
**Castro returns to the UTR-OAS roster after ranking #2 last season. The 6′ 2″ 180 lb right-hander is another arm that’s been with Tigers since 2012. He spent two stints in the VSL before coming stateside in 2014 with the GLC Tigers. It all came to a halt in 2015 when Castro underwent Tommy John surgery. He got to full season LoA Lakeland in 2017, and despite two seasons removed from the TJ, Castro’s cruising and earned a promotion to Erie in 2018. The soon-to-be 24 year-old throws a heavy fastball that touches 98 mph, but floats around 93. He’s still developing his changeup which will determine whether he can reach a middle-of-the-rotation ceiling.
5. RHP Dane Myers – (10) / HiA LakelandTop 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. RHP Wladimir Pinto – (11) / HiA Lakeland
2. RHP Joe Navilhon – (6) / Double-A ErieTie 3. RHP Drew Carlton – (5) / Double-A ErieTie 3. Burris Warner – (5) / HiA Lakeland