DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers are a month away from opening their season against the Toronto Blue Jays, but the next four weeks shouldn't be overlooked as young players battle for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Prospects are the centerpiece of the Tigers organization as the team tries to build toward contending once again in the American League Central Division. Earlier this week, MLB.com released its 2019 preseason prospect rankings, including a new top 30 for the Tigers.
Many of the top names are familiar, but there are plenty of guys who recently joined the organization through the draft or trades.
Here's a look at all 30 of Detroit's top prospects.
1. RHP Casey Mize
How he got here: First-round draft pick in 2018
It was a no-brainer for the Tigers to draft Mize No. 1 overall in last year's draft, and he immediately took over the top spot in their farm system.
Mize is considered a polished pitcher who could reach the MLB level in the next couple of seasons. He's the No. 2 right-handed pitching prospect in baseball and the No. 17 prospect overall.
He struggled in a brief five-star cameo in the minor leagues last season, but Mize is expected to move quickly through the system once he adjusts to professional hitters.
2. RHP Matt Manning
How he got here: First-round draft pick in 2016
Manning rose to No. 2 on the list and No. 52 overall with another strong season in the minors. The 6-foot-6 righty is a strikeout machine, whiffing 154 batters in 117.2 innings across three levels last season.
The Tigers loved Manning's strikeout potential when they drafted him No. 9 overall in 2016, and he's rewarded them with consistent strikeout numbers over the last two years. Manning held batters to a .211 average last season and posted a respectable 1.20 WHIP.
Mize is the safer prospect, but Manning has the highest ceiling of any Tigers pitcher.
3. RHP Franklin Perez
How he got here: Justin Verlander trade in 2017
When the Tigers shipped Verlander to Houston, Perez took over as the organizations top prospect. Since then, injuries have dropped him to No. 3 in Detroit and No. 78 overall.
Perez only made seven starts in 2018, and his numbers were ugly. The Tigers are hoping he can rebound with a healthy 2019 season.
Perez has three pitches that grade above-average and a solid slider as a fourth pitch. His fastball and curveball are excellent, and he's got a change-up to deal with left-handed batters.
In 222.1 minor-league innings, Perez owns a 3.60 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and has 228 strikeouts, so the potential is obvious.
4. INF Isaac Paredes
How he got here: Justin Wilson/Alex Avila trade in 2017
Jeimer Candelario was the prized piece of the 2017 trade deadline deal with the Chicago Cubs, but Paredes has risen up the organizational rankings to the No. 4 spot.
Though he's not among the top 100 MLB prospects, Paredes is now the top everyday player prospect for the Tigers at just 20 years old. He could end up at shortstop, third base or second base.
He flourished after a promotion to Double-A Erie last season, batting .321 with 19 walks to go with 22 strikeouts in 39 games. In total, Paredes hit 28 doubles and 15 home runs in the minors last season, finishing with a .456 slugging percentage.
5. OF Daz Cameron
How he got here: Justin Verlander trade in 2017
The second piece of the return for Verlander, Cameron jumped a handful of players to enter the Tigers' top five prospects, and he's among the many players would could debut in 2019.
Cameron isn't much of a home run threat, but he tallied 42 extra-base hits while batting .264 across three minor-league levels in 2018. He also stole 24 basses and finished with a .749 OPS.
The Tigers don't have a true leadoff hitter, so Cameron's speed and on-base ability could make him a good fit for that spot in the future.
6. RHP Beau Burrows
How he got here: First-round draft pick in 2015
Once viewed as a top 100 MLB prospect, Burrows fell from those ranks after an underwhelming 2018 season in Double-A Erie.
In 26 starts, Burrows struck out 127 batters in 134 innings, posting a 1.36 WHIP and a 4.10 ERA. Opponents hit .251 against Burrows, which is much higher than the Tigers would like to see.
At 22 years old, there's still plenty of time for Burrows to improve and regain his previous form. The Tigers hope he can push for a rotation spot in the next couple of seasons.
7. SS Willi Castro
How he got here: Leonys Martin trade in 2018
One of Al Avila's most savvy moves as Tigers general manager was to snag Castro from a division rival for a few months of Martin.
The Tigers revealed they'd been eyeing Castro for years in the Cleveland Indians' organization, and he showed why when he got to Double-A Erie. Castro played 26 games for the SeaWolves, batting .324 with 15 extra-base hits and four steals.
In a minor league system quietly littered with solid middle infield prospects, Castro looks like one of the best.
8. OF Christin Stewart
How he got here: First-round pick in 2015
The Tigers waited too long to give the best left-handed bat in the organization a chance in the majors, but Stewart finally got a taste of the big leagues at the end of 2018.
Stewart won't be on the prospect rankings for long because he's expected to be the everyday left fielder for the Tigers this season. During his 17-game tryout last year, Stewart posted a .792 OPS with two home runs and 10 walks to go with 13 strikeouts.
Defense is a major struggle for Stewart, but the Tigers are hoping he'll hit enough home runs to make up for what he lacks in the field.
9. OF Parker Meadows
How he got here: Second-round pick in 2018
The Tigers got first-round value at the top of the second round last season as Meadows fell to No. 44 overall. They wanted him bad enough to pay $2.5 million to rip him away from Clemson.
Meadows' early returns were positive, as he batted .290 with a .377 on-base percentage and .473 slugging for 28 games in the minors. He's an excellent center fielder with a power-speed profile that's becoming more rare in baseball.
The question for Meadows will be whether he can make enough contact for his power to come to fruition.
10. RHP Alex Faedo
How he got here: First-round pick in 2017
When the Tigers took Faedo at No. 18 overall in 2017, there were questions about his ceiling, but he was considered a fairly safe pick out of Florida.
His first promotion didn't go well, as a move to Double-A Erie resulted in Faedo dropping from the team's No. 4 prospect to No. 10. He also dropped out of the top 100 overall.
Faedo logged 60 innings in Erie, striking out 59 batters but walking 22 and posting a 4.95 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. His strikeout-per-inning pace was encouraging, but the Tigers want to see Faedo be more consistent throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the park.
11. RHP Kyle Funkhouser
How he got here: Fourth-round pick in 2016
Funkhouser was a first-round pick in 2015 before he fell to the Tigers in round four in 2016, so there's a chance they got good value at that spot.
Funkhouser was striking out a batter per inning in 2018 when he received a promotion to Triple-A Toledo. Unfortunately, a freak accident ended his season: Funkhouser broke his foot tripping over an uneven sidewalk.
At 24 years old, Funkhouser is in the range where he could be ready for a shot in the big leagues. He's on the spring training roster, so Ron Gardenhire and his staff are getting a long first-hand look.
12. SS Wenceel Perez
How he got here: Signed out of Dominican Republic in 2016
Most fans probably haven't heard of Perez, who is still only 19 years old and several years away from an MLB debut.
The teenager is a strong defensive shortstop who puts the ball in play but doesn't have much power. Even in today's game, a shortstop with a .791 OPS is very valuable, and that's where Perez finished in 57 games over three low-minor-league levels last year.
Perez racked up 72 hits in 57 games and pitched in 19 walks, 13 steals and 18 extra-base hits. He's a player to watch for when the Tigers are ready to contend again.
13. C Jake Rogers
How he got here: Justin Verlander trade in 2017
At the time of the Verlander trade, Rogers was among the top 10 catching prospects in baseball. He's fallen well out of that range, but there were still positive signs from the 23-year-old in 2018.
Rogers is a great defensive catcher, receiving a 70 ranking from MLB on defense and a 65 ranking in terms of arm strength. There's little question he can handle a pitching staff, but the Tigers need to know if he can handle the bat.
Rogers hit just .219 with 112 strikeouts in 99 games last season, but there were encouraging numbers, too. He smacked 17 home runs and 15 doubles while drawing 41 walks, giving him a near-average .717 OPS.
Those numbers aren't eye-popping, but there's no reason to dismiss the offensive potential of a 23-year-old who's got 38 home runs, 50 doubles and a .763 OPS in 257 minor-league games.
If Rogers is a top-tier defensive catcher, a .240 average, .750 OPS and 20-homer power would be more than adequate at the plate.
14. 2B Kody Clemens
How he got here: Third-round draft pick in 2018
Though he was just drafted last year, it shouldn't take more than a couple of years for Clemens, already 22, to reach the MLB level if he takes care of business in the minors.
He got off to a good start in West Michigan, slugging .477 in 149 at-bats and drawing 21 walks compared to 27 strikeouts in 41 games. His promotion to high-A didn't go smoothly, but he only played 11 games, so 2019 will be a better indicator of his improvement.
Clemens hit .351 with a 1.170 OPS and 24 homers in 56 games his junior season at Texas, so there's elite offensive potential in his bat.
15. SS Sergio Alcantara
How he got here: J.D. Martinez trade in 2017
When the Tigers acquired Alcantara as part of the return for sending Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, they knew he was a defense-first shortstop. That has certainly played out in the minors.
Last season, Alcantara was excellent defensively for the SeaWolves in 120 games, but his bat was quiet. He batted a solid .271 with a .335 on-base percentage, but slugged just .333 with one home run and 24 extra-base hits.
There's always room in an organization for a player with Alcantara's defensive abilities at shortstop, but his offense will determine if he turns into a plus player.
16. RHP Logan Shore
How he got here: Mike Fiers trade in 2018
Shore was an excellent college pitcher and got drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the top 50 picks of the 2016 draft.
The Tigers got him as the player to be named later in the Fiers trade last September. He's been solid at times in the minor leagues, but hasn't been able to get above Double-A due to injuries.
Shore struggled after a promotion from high-A ball, where he was dominant. Opponents hit .306 against the righty in 68.2 innings, giving him a 1.51 WHIP.
17. OF Jake Robson
How he got here: Eighth-round draft pick in 2016
Robson isn't one of the more hyped prospects in the Tigers' farm system, but he enjoyed a strong 2018 in Double-A and Triple-A.
With more than 200 at-bats at both levels, Robson finished with a .295 average, .376 on-base percentage and .440 slugging percentage. He also hit 11 home runs and 29 doubles while stealing 18 bases.
Since he's 24 years old, Robson is a candidate to contribute in Detroit soon if he continues to rake in the minors.
18. 2B Dawel Lugo
How he got here: J.D. Martinez trade in 2017
Lugo was considered the highest-ranked prospect in the return for Martinez, but his first full season in the Tigers organization was a struggle offensively.
In 123 games with Triple-A Toledo, Lugo drew just nine walks while batting .269, giving him a .283 on-base percentage. He hit 26 doubles, but managed only three home runs.
Lugo is a defense-first prospect who can be solid at second or third base. He'll have to improve at the plate to get another chance with the Tigers, though. Lugo hit .213 with a .576 OPS during a short MLB debut late last season.
19. RHP Spencer Turnbull
How he got here: Second-round draft pick in 2014
At 26 years old, it's about time for Turnbull to break the MLB roster. His pure stuff looks ready, but the results during a brief stint last season didn't match the expectations.
Turnbull has logged more than 400 minor-league innings, posting solid numbers: a 3.60 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He whiffed 133 batters in 119.1 innings last season, so there's little left to prove in the minors.
The Tigers' starting rotation appears to be full, but Turnbull could be among the first options called upon if there's an injury or a prolonged slump.
20. LHP Tarik Skubal
How he got here: Ninth-round draft pick in 2018
Despite being a ninth-round pick in last year's draft, Skubal is already the top left-handed pitching prospect in the Tigers organization.
Skubal showed why the Tigers paid a ninth-round pick $350,000 last season, posting a 0.40 ERA in 22.1 innings, striking out 33 batters and walking just four. He didn't give up a home run and held batters to a .192 average while rising three levels to Single-A Connecticut.
Skubal has a great fastball, an above-average curveball and a solid slider, so he could be much higher than No. 20 in future prospect rankings.
21. RHP Bryan Garcia
How he got here: Sixth-round draft pick in 2016
While most of the pitchers ranked above Garcia project as starters, he is a true relief pitcher.
Garcia was perhaps the second-best relief prospect in the organization behind Joe Jimenez before an injury last year forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery. He recorded 43 saves in college and rose all the way through the minors to Triple-A Toledo before the injury.
He struck out 12.8 batters per nine innings in 2017, largely thanks to an electric fastball-slider combination. If that continues post-injury, he could get back on track to join the Tigers' bullpen soon.
22. OF Daniel Woodrow
How he got here: 12th-round draft pick in 2016
Woodrow is a short, 24-year-old former 12th-round pick, but his production forced him into the Tigers' top 30 prospects.
In 97 games between high-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie last season, Woodrow batted .317 with a .371 on-base percentage and only 76 strikeouts. He doesn't have much extra-base power, but he stole 23 bases.
23. OF Brock Deatherage
How he got here: 10th-round draft pick in 2018
Deatherage was an instant sensation in the minor leagues, smacking three homers in his debut in the Gulf Coast League.
He wasn't just a one-hit wonder, either. Deatherage racked up seven homers and 21 extra-base hits, and his high walk rate eased the pain of his 64 strikeouts in 60 games.
On top of posting a .385 on-base percentage and slugging .504, Deatherage also stole 19 bases. For a 10th-round pick, his production was more than encouraging.
24. RHP Anthony Castro
How he got here: Signed out of Venezuela in 2011
Castro finally enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, posting a 2.49 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings over 21 starts. That didn't translate to Double-A Erie last season, though, and he was demoted after three bad starts.
Castro is still a ways from reaching the majors, even after six seasons and one Tommy John surgery.
25. RHP Zac Houston
How he got here: 11th-round draft pick in 2016
The Tigers love hard-throwing right-handed pitchers, and that's what Houston provides out of the bullpen.
He struck out an impressive 80 batters in 55.1 minor-league innings last season, holding opponents to a .150 batting average and posting a 0.96 WHIP.
Houston could be in the Tigers' bullpen soon if his success continues at Triple-A Toledo this season.
26. LHP Gregory Soto
How he got here: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012
Six seasons into his minor-league career, Soto still spent the entire 2018 season at high-A Lakeland.
He had more than a strikeout per inning last season, but walks were a major issue and left him with a 1.51 WHIP. Soto tumbled from the Tigers' top 15 prospects to No. 26 largely as a result of his control issues.
27. RHP Sandy Baez
How he got here: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011
After spending the minor-league season split between the starting rotation and the bullpen, Baez got a chance with the Tigers at the end of the year.
His brief debut was a struggle, as Baez issued nine walks compared to 10 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. He has a good fastball, but the secondary pitches are still a work in progress.
28. LHP Matt Hall
How he got here: Sixth-round draft pick in 2015
The Tigers couldn't help but draft Hall in 2015 after he led Division I in strikeouts. He doesn't throw hard, but he's maintained a high strikeout rate in the minors, including last season, when he whiffed 135 hitters in 114.1 innings.
Hall got a chance with the Tigers late last season, and it was a disaster. He allowed 19 hits and three walks in eight innings. He's been switched between starter and reliever several times in his career, but the Tigers will likely use him in the bullpen.
29. OF Dustin Peterson
How he got here: Claimed off waivers in 2018
Peterson was the No. 11 prospect in the Tigers' organization when they claimed him off waivers from the Braves last year, but he nearly plummeted out of the top 30 in this update.
The former second-round pick was once traded for Justin Upton, and he showed why in 2018, hitting 11 home runs and 23 doubles in Triple-A.
Peterson has solid all-around skills, especially offensively, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him make his way to the Tigers' roster at some point this season.
30. OF Jose Azocar
How he got here: Signed out of Venezuela in 2012
Azocar was an exciting prospect when the Tigers signed him seven years ago, and he's still only 22 years old.
He bounced back from a bad 2017 with 28 extra-base hits and a .710 OPS last season. He's a good fielder with some offensive skills, but his plate discipline needs to improve for him to start moving up the minor leagues.