5 Detroit Tigers Prospects To Keep An Eye On Heading Into 2014
5 Detroit Tigers Prospects We May See In The Very Near Future
In recent years, the Detroit Tigers organization has done a terrific job scouting talent and ensuring that their farm system is packed with good players. After the Tigers reached the World Series in 2006, just a mere three years after setting a new American League record for losses, many believed that the turnaround was due in large part to the free agent talent that Dave Dombrowski was able to lure to Detroit and the key trades he was able to swing. However, that was not entirely the case.
Although it is true that players such as Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco, Sean Casey and Kenny Rogers did play a key role in the Tigers' 2006 season, a good chunk of the credit belongs to players who came up through the Tigers organization such as Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Inge as well. The Tigers organization also did terrific work in snagging Craig Monroe from the Texas Rangers as well as Chris Shelton from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Eight years after 2006, while the Tigers do have superstars on their team who have not always been Tigers such as Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, Ian Kinsler, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Joe Nathan, the team is going to be relying heavily on a few homegrown players once again in Nick Castellanos, Andy Dirks, Alex Avila and Bruce Rondon. The Tigers also have many good players down on the farm who could end up being unexpected contributors to the Tigers' 2014 season.
Some Tigers fans were a little perplexed by the fact that the Tigers neglected to add a left-handed bat after Prince Fielder was traded. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and even the more inexpensive Carlos Beltran appeared to be perfect fits for the Tigers. It was easy to get upset with Fielder due to the fact that he was expected to hit 40 home runs and drive in 120 runs to earn the $23 million per year paycheck he was given, and at times he could give off a nonchalant and lackadaisical vibe. However, when one begins to look around the league they do begin to see how most left-handed hitters who can actually hit 25 home runs and drive in 100 runs, as Fielder did last year, are already locked up to multi-year contracts.
Fans should feel relieved to learn, however, that the Tigers do have a few quality left-handed bats down on the farm who are going to make the Tigers' decision to not add a left-handed bat much easier to swallow. In the subsequent slides viewers will read of five handpicked prospects who could very easily see big league action in the near future. The Tigers have pitchers who could eventually have an impact akin to the one Verlander had on the team in 2006 and hitters who could have an impact like the one Brennan Boesch had on the team in 2010. One should never underestimate the importance of homegrown talent and having a good farm system.
5. Jordan Lennerton
Jordan Lennerton is a late bloomer who is perhaps the most interesting name on this list. Lennerton, a career minor leaguer, will turn 28 next month and has really been starting to come on as of late. Last season, while playing in Triple-A Toledo, Lennerton hit .278/.382/.430 with 17 homers, 25 doubles and 57 RBI. Moreover, Lennerton has recently wrapped up a very impressive winter league campaign in which he hit .340 in 39 games for Leones de Ponce which is a professional Puerto Rican team. The Tigers recently added him to the 40-man roster, and he will be given a chance to show what he can do in Spring Training.
Lennerton is plagued by a pair of problems, however. The first one is that he still strikes out at a very high rate as he fanned 133 times last season and struck out in 26 percent of his at bats. The second problem is that Lennerton can only play first base and DH, and the Tigers already have an all-world first baseman in Cabrera as well as a top notch DH in Martinez. Cabrera's contract will expire after the 2015 season, but based on everything that has been reported an extension seems inevitable. Martinez will become a free agent after the 2014 season, and if the Tigers choose to let him walk, Lennerton may be the Tigers' designated hitter of the future. However, the Tigers could very easily want to keep Martinez in a Tigers jersey for much longer than 2014 as well.
4. Tyler Collins
Tigers outfield prospect Tyler Collins is only 23-years-old and is quickly beginning to establish a reputation for being a quintessential left-handed power hitter as he blasted 21 long balls in Double-A Erie last season. However, Collins needs to work on hitting for more contact as he hit just .240 and struck out 122 times in 129 games in 2013. Collins will be putting his power on display in Lakeland this coming February as the Tigers have invited him to Spring Training. He is not expected to make the team, but if the Tigers find themselves in need of a few extra left-handed RBI next season -- which they very well could if Dirks and Avila continue to struggle -- it would hardly be shocking if the young Mr. Collins is given a phone call.
3. Daniel Fields
Daniel Fields is a left-handed hitting outfielder who is the son of former Tigers outfielder and hitting coach Bruce Fields. He possesses the rare combination of speed and power which makes him a valuable commodity. Fields is most likely the biggest reason why Choo and Ellsbury will not be sporting the Old English D next season or anytime in the foreseeable future. Fields spent 2013 in Double-A Erie where he batted .284 with 10 home runs, 27 doubles, 24 stolen bases and posted a solid .791 OPS. If there is one chink in Fields' armor, however, it is that he, like Lennerton and Collins, strikes out way too much. Fields fanned 130 times last season in just 118 games which was good for 28 percent of his at-bats. Nevertheless, Fields is still a very attractive prospect, and many are expecting him to make his big league debut at some point in 2014.
2. Hernan Perez
Hernan Perez saw time with the Tigers in 2013 and was also up very briefly in 2012, had two at-bats and went 1-for-2. It is pertinent to note that Perez is actually the only name on this list who has seen big league time. Perez, who is still only 22, certainly showed signs of being a rookie last season by swinging at balls way out of the strike zone and hitting just .197. Nevertheless, he is a much better player than what he showed. In addition to being with the big league club in 2013, Perez also saw time in Triple-A Toledo where he hit .299 in 16 games and was also in Double-A Erie where he hit .301 in 87 games which is why he is worth continuing to watch and keep tabs on. He has the potential to be a very solid big league infielder.
Perez does, however, find himself in an interesting situation as second base is his natural position and the Tigers recently acquired Kinsler to play there. Perez can also play shortstop and third base, but the Tigers plan on using Jose Iglesias at shortstop and Castellanos at third base. Moreover, the Tigers plan on using Steve Lombardozzi to back up all three of those positions, and Perez is a right-handed hitter in an organization that has a surplus of right-handed bats. Only time will tell what the future holds for Perez.
1. Robbie Ray
Robbie Ray may not be considered homegrown talent as he was not drafted or signed by the Tigers, but he belongs on this list nevertheless. Ray was largely considered to be the deal breaker when Dombrowski elected to trade Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. Therefore, Ray is going to be under the pressure of pitching under a microscope as Fister had a great run in Detroit over two and a half seasons where he posted a 32-20 record with a 3.29 ERA to set the bar rather high for the man he was traded for. However, Ray has all of the potential to meet the fans' expectations and shine in Detroit.
Last season, Ray split time in Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg where he combined for a 11-5 record with a 3.36 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 142.00 innings pitched. The kid is the real deal, so look for him to be a major contributor to the Tigers in the very near future.