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The Detroit Tigers have been one of the best teams in the MLB the last few season-three straight Central Division titles, three straight ALCS appearances, and AL Champions in 2012. Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers GM, has been known for developing minor league players into superstars. Players like Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Jacob Turner have all come up in the Tigers farm system. Next, I will breaking down my top 15 prospects in the Tigers organization for the 2014 season.
15. Jeff Thompson RHP West Michigan Whitecaps (A)
Thompson was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the third round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Louisville. He was named 2013 Big East Conference Pitcher of the Year and a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist after going 11-2 with a 2.19 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 17 starts. The 6’6″ 245 pounder had a 3.80 ERA in 45 innings pitched with West Michigan.
14. Austin Schotts CF Connecticut Tigers (A)
Schotts was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the third round of the 2012 FYPD out of Centennial High School in Frisco, Texas. In 2012, Schotts hit .310 with the Tigers rookie team, the GCL Tigers. Austin was named Gulf Coast League Tigers Player of the Year in 2012. In 2013, Schotts hit .315 with runners in scoring position, driving in 30 runs. However, Schotts hit just .195 without men on base. He finished 2013 with a .212 average and 31 stolen bases.
13. Tyler Collins OF Erie SeaWolves (AA)
Collins was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the sixth round of the 2011 FYPD out of Howard College. In 2012, Collins hit .290, 7 HR, 66 RBIs, and stole 20 bases with the Tigers Single-A team, the Lakeland Tigers. Tyler also finished second in the Florida State League in 2012 with 35 doubles, and finished fourth with 137 hits. Collins just .240 in 2013 with the SeaWolves, but hit 21 homers and drove in 79 runs. Strikeouts were a big problem for Collins, as he struck out 122 times in 129 games.12. Kyle Lobstein SP Erie SeaWolves (AA), Toledo Mudhens (AAA)
Lobstein was acquired by the Detroit Tigers from the New York Mets in exchange for cash considerations on Dec. 6, 2012. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the second round (47th overall) of the 2008 FYPD. The 23 year old posted a 13-7 record in 28 starts, a 3.27 ERA, 148 Ks, and 2 CG, in 167 innings pitched with the SeaWolves and Mudhens in 2013.
11. Eugenio Suarez SS Erie SeaWolves (AA)
Suarez was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent on Oct. 9, 2008. In 2012, Suarez hit .288, 6 HR, and drove in 66 runs with the West Michigan Whitecaps. He was named West Michigan Player of the Year for 2012. In 2013, the Venezuelan product hit .264 with 10 homers and 57 RBIs.
10. James McCann C Erie SeaWolves (AA)
McCann was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the 2011 FYPD out of the University of Arkansas. James hit .306 with 14 doubles, a triple, six home runs, 38 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 61 games during his junior season at the University of Arkansas in 2011. He hit .277, 8 HR, and drove in 58 runs with the SeaWolves in 2013.
9. Jose Valdez RP West Michigan Whitecaps (A), Lakeland Flying Tigers (A)
Valdez was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent on June 4, 2009. He posted a 2.74 ERA in 49 innings pitched. The Dominican also struck out 67 batters and his opposing hitters hit .186 off him. He was added to the Tigers 40-man roster on November 20, 2013.
8. Hernan Perez 2B Erie SeaWolves (AA), Toledo MudHens (AAA)
Perez was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2007. The Venezuelan hit .310 with 4 HR and 39 RBIs and stole 28 bases in 2013 with the Tigers Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.
7. Corey Knebel RP West Michigan Whitecaps (A)
Knebel was Selected by the Detroit Tigers in the first round (39th overall) of the 2013 Draft. He posted a 0.87 in 31 innings pitched in 2013. He also had 14 saves and his opponents his just .133 against him.
6. Jake Thompson SP West Michigan Whitecaps (A)
Thompson was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the second round (91st overall) of the 2012 Amateur Draft. In 16 starts, Thompson went 3-3 3 with a 3.13 ERA in 83 innings pitched with West Michigan.
5. Robbie Ray SP Erie SeaWolves (AA)
Ray was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the trade that sent Doug Fister to Washington. In 2013, Ray went 11-5 in 27 starts with a 3.36 ERA, 4 CG, and 160 Ks in 142 IP with the Potomac Nationals and the Harrisburg Senators, the Washinton Nationals double and triple-a affiliates.
4. Jonathan Crawford SP Connecticut Tigers (A)
Crawford was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the first round (20th overall) of the 2013 Draft out of the University of Florida. He put up a 1.89 ERA in 8 starts. He also struck out 21 batters in 19 innings pitched.
3. Bruce Rondon RP Toledo Mudhens (AAA), Detroit Tigers (MLB)
Rondon was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent on Sept. 12, 2007. The 6’3″ 275 pounder out of Venezuela posted a 1.53 ERA in 53 IP. He also had 14 saves and opposing hitters hit just .139 off him. Rondon even saw action in a shaky Detroit bullpen. He had a 3.45 ERA and even a save in 28 innings pitched.
2. Devon Travis 2B West Michigan Whitecaps (A), Lakeland Flying Tigers (A)
Travis was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 13th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft out of Florida State University. Travis hit .351 with 16 HR and 76 RBI in 2013. He also stole 20 bases and had a .418 OBP. His outstanding play rewarded him, as he was named the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year.
1. Nick Castellanos OF/3B Toledo Mud Hens (AAA), Detroit Tigers (MLB)
Castellanos was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the first round (44th overall) of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Archbishop McCarthy High School in Davie, Fla. In 2012, Castellanos hit .320 with 10 HR and 57 RBI with the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Castellanos, who stands 6’4″, had another impressive season with the Toledo Mudhens in 2013. Even though his average dropped to .276, his HR numbers went up (21) and his RBI numbers also (76). Castellanos was called up to the big leagues when major league rosters expanded on September 1, 2013. He went 5-13 (.278) in 18 at bats. Castellanos will be Tigers starting third baseman in 2014, according to Jim Leyland.
Adrian Beltre, a future HOF 3rd basemen, has already come out and told the media that Prince Fielder, whom the Rangers acquired early in the offseason, would win the 2014 MVP. Although Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis are still out there and should produce, Fielder has a good chance of an MVP. The reason? Adrian Beltre. You have to pitch to Fielder with Beltre behind him.
Cabrera (DET) has Torii Hunter to back him up. The reason you can’t use the same argument for Cabrera is that Hunter doesn’t have the same power as Beltre, so you could intentionally walk Cabrera, back the infield up, then let Hunter hit.
While Davis has Jones behind him, we don’t know if last season was just a fluke or not. He was not a headlined player before 2013, but quickly became a household name. You don’t know ifhis performance last season was a fluke or if Davis really has improved that much.
Fielder, we know, puts up big numbers. In his eight year career, he average 35 home runs, 107 RBIs, and a slash line of .286/.389/.587 a season. Fielder will likely continue to produce at this same consistency, with the addition of Shin-Soo Choo in front of him and Adrian Beltre behind him. Could this be a title year for the Rangers?