By Spencer Impellizzeri @Spence_I on April 27, 2014
The Detroit Tigers have arguably the best rotation in baseball, and their farm system can be thanked for that. Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly are all products of the system. Together, they represent the present, Verlander, and the future, Porcello and Smyly. With those pieces in place, the Tigers will look to add talented new arms to the equation.
Here's a look at the top five prospects who could fit into those future roles.
Drew VerHagen is fifth on this list because of the way he has quickly progressed through the Tigers' minor league ranks. He has struggled a bit at Triple A this season, as he is 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA through four starts, but in just his second full season as a pro, some struggles could be expected. VerHagen struggles with his command a bit, especially off speed pitches, and if he can figure that out, he should see his numbers improve.
The Tigers have their closer of the future in Corey Knebel. Fresh out of college last summer, Knebel went 2-1 with a 0.87 ERA and 15 saves in 31 appearances with Low A West Michigan. He moved up to Double A this season, and has been equally as good, going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA through eight innings. With the Tigers experiencing bullpen problems, he could find himself in the majors sooner rather than later.
Jonathon Crawford has shown why he was the Tigers' first round pick in 2013 with an impressive start to 2014 with West Michigan. He is 0-1 with a 4.08 ERA, but those numbers are skewed by a poor first start. Crawford has allowed just one run over 15.1 innings since his poor first start, where he gave up seven runs in 2.1 innings pitched.
Thompson is off to one of the best starts in the Tigers organization at High A Lakeland. He is 2-1 with a 1.05 ERA on the year, and allowed just one run throughout seven innings in his lone loss. Just 20 years old, Thompson is pitching well at a level above average for his age, and has a bright future with the Tigers.
Robbie Ray became the top pitching prospect for the Tigers the minute he was acquired from the Washington Nationals. He is off to a 2-2 start with a 1.93 ERA as a 22 year old at Tripe A, five years below the league average. Ray has pitched well enough that he may be set to earn big league call-up, as Anibal Sanchez is headed to the 15-day DL with a middle finger laceration.
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