Ranking Detroit Tigers' top 10 starting pitching prospects after trade deadline
Tigers continue to stock up on starting pitchers
DETROIT – With the 2019 trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the best chance for the Detroit Tigers to add talent to the organization has come and gone. General manager Al Avila came away with three pitching prospects and one outfielder.
The Tigers were already stocked up on pitchers in the minor leagues, and now six of the team's top 10 prospects are starting pitchers.
While the shortage of high-end bats is a concern that Avila will have to address in the near future, the Tigers have certainly built a foundation of talented arms to build upon.
Here's our ranking of the top 10 arms in the Tigers' minor leagues.
10. RHP Elvin Rodriguez
How he got here: 2017 Justin Upton trade with Los Angeles Angels.
Rodriguez was the player to be named later who completed the Upton trade in 2017, and he's turned out to be the better of the two prospects -- ahead of Grayson Long -- acquired in the deal.
He was promoted to High-A Lakeland this season after striking out 8.7 batters per nine innings and posting a 3.34 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with the West Michigan Whitecaps last year.
Rodriguez hasn't been quite as dominant with Lakeland, but he's struck out 95 batters in 108.1 innings while maintaining a 3.90 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
He's still only 21 years old, so Rodriguez could develop into a back-end starter for the Tigers at some point.
9. RHP Paul Richan
How he got here: 2019 Nicholas Castellanos trade with Chicago Cubs.
The market for Nicholas Castellanos wasn't strong because he's only under contract for the next three months and struggles in the outfield. Detroit settled for a pair of right-handed pitching prospects, including Richan.
His first start for Single-A Lakeland was a struggle, as Richan allowed five earned runs on nine hits in five innings. He struck out four batters.
As a second-round pick out of San Diego last year, Richan appeared in 10 games with Single-A Eugene in the Cubs' system. He struck out 31 batters in 29.2 innings while posting a 0.81 WHIP, 2.12 ERA and low walk and home run rates.
The 22-year-old is still far from the MLB level, but the Tigers obviously liked the underlying numbers.
8. RHP Beau Burrows
How he got here: First-round pick (No. 22 overall) in 2015 draft.
After dropping off the top 100 prospects list this season due to a rough 2018 in Double-A, Burrows has battled injuries and inconsistency throughout 2019.
This season, Burrows has allowed 30 earned runs in 55 innings at Triple-A Toledo while striking out 50 batters. His strikeout rate is decent, but an 8% swinging strike rate suggests he's not missing many bats.
Burrows does a nice job limiting home runs and his walk rate is manageable, but the underlying numbers don't suggest he's trending toward a frontline starter.
7. RHP Anthony Castro
How he got here: Signed in July 2011.
Castros has been in the Tigers' system for eight years, but he's still only 24 years old.
For most of his long minor league career, Castro has had an average strikeout rate with decent numbers across the board. This year, his whiff rate has gone through the roof, and there's only one glaring weakness in his profile.
In 22 games with Double-A Erie, Castro has averaged nearly six walks per nine innings. The walk rate is nearly two runs higher than his career mark, but it coincides with a dramatic increase in strikeouts.
Castro has struck out 99 batters in 81.2 innings this season and owns a respectable 1.27 WHIP despite the high walk rate. If he can maintain his season numbers and get the walk rate back under control, the Tigers might have another prospect with swing-and-miss stuff who could compete for a rotation spot or become a weapon out of the bullpen.
6. RHP Franklin Perez
How he got here: 2017 Justin Verlander trade with Houston Astros.
Tigers fans have a hard time getting excited about Perez, even though he was a top 40 prospect when he came to Detroit in the Justin Verlander trade.
Despite having one of the best arsenals in the entire organization, Perez has plummeted from the Tigers' No. 1 prospect to No. 6, falling outside the top 100 prospects in baseball.
The reason: Five separate trips to the injured list since he was acquired Aug. 31, 2017. In that time, Perez has only made nine appearances in the organization and pitched a total of 27 innings.
He's only appeared in two games this season for Single-A Lakeland, pitching 7.2 innings between three stints on the injured list.
The talent is there, but it's reasonable for fans to wonder if Perez will ever be healthy enough to reach his potential. He's still only 21 years old, but shoulder issues are devastating for young pitchers.
5. LHP Joey Wentz
How he got here: 2019 Shane Greene trade with Atlanta Braves.
After being selected in the first round of the 2016 draft, Wentz spent some time on top 100 prospects lists before his strikeout rate dropped in 2018. He struck out just 53 batters in 67 innings.
When the Tigers traded for him this season, he owned a decent 8.7 K/9 along with an inflated 4.72 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.
Wentz has solid underlying numbers throughout his minor league career, striking out more than a batter per inning with an average walk rate and low home runs. He excelled in his first start with the Erie SeaWolves, allowing just one run in five innings while inducing 20 swinging strikes.
Wentz has a 16% swinging strike rate since the start of July, so perhaps the 21-year-old is turning a corner.
4. RHP Alex Faedo
How he got here: First-round pick (No. 18 overall) in 2017 draft.
Faedo dropped in the prospect rankings after struggling at Double-A in 2018, but he's been much better in 20 starts this season.
Home runs are still a problem for Faedo. He's allowed 15 long balls in 108.1 innings. But he's also struck out 128 batters for an excellent 10.6 K/9 and maintained the elite walk rate that prompted the Tigers to draft him in the first round out of Florida.
Faedo has a 1.15 WHIP to go with his elite strikeout rate. His 16% whiff rate suggests the strikeout numbers are legitimate.
Faedo will turn 24 years old next season, so he could be the first member of the SeaWolves rotation to reach Detroit. If he gets the home runs under control, the promotion will happen sooner rather than later.
3. LHP Tarik Skubal
How he got here: Ninth-round pick (No. 255 overall) in 2018 draft.
No prospect in the Tigers' system has seen his stock rise more than Skubal this season. He was a ninth-round pick last year and is now the organization's No. 4 overall prospect.
Skubal certainly earned the hype, striking out 97 batters in 80.1 innings with a 2.48 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 15 starts with Single-A Lakeland.
Since getting promoted to Double-A, Skubal has been the best pitcher on the roster, striking out 50 batters in 24 innings while allowing just six earned runs. In five starts, Skubal is getting swings and misses on a fifth of his pitches, which is unheard of, even in the minors.
Double-A batters are hitting just .184 against Skubal with a .600 OPS. His walk rate is a little high, but the strikeouts have more than made up the difference.
Skubal has struck out half the batters he's faced in Double-A -- 50 out of 100 -- while allowing only 29 base runners and six extra-base hits.
This level of dominance obviously can't continue, but Skubal has posted elite strikeout rates at every minor league stop, so the Tigers found a gem in the middle of the draft.
2. RHP Matt Manning
How he got here: First-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 draft.
Manning has long been a member of baseball's top 100 prospects, but he's now crept inside the top 30 and is considered one of the game's top 10 right-handed pitching prospects.
Still just 21 years old, Manning has to be nearing a promotion from Double-A Erie after posting a 2.71 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 9.9 K/9 in 20 starts this season.
While the strikeout rate is strong, it's actually the lowest of Manning's minor league career, other than a short stop in Connecticut in 2017. Manning hasn't been missing bats over his last eight starts, striking out just 36 hitters in 41.2 innings with a 9% swinging strike rate.
He's has single-digit swinging strikes in six of his last eight starts, including back-to-back outings with just two swinging strikes in late July.
This is the first extended drop in Manning's strikeout rate since the 2016 draft, so the Tigers likely aren't overly concerned yet. It's certainly a trend to keep an eye on, though, because the elite bat-missing ability is what made Manning such a special prospect.
1. RHP Casey Mize
How he got here: First-round pick (No. 1 overall) in 2018 draft.
Like Manning, Mize hasn't been nearly as dominant in recent months despite the overall numbers still looking very strong.
The No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft threw a no-hitter in his first Double-A start and was absolutely dominating the league before an injury in mid-June.
Mize allowed just seven earned runs in 52 innings at Double-A before the injury, striking out 50 batters and allowing a .504 opponents' OPS. He also had a strong 14% swinging strike rate.
In three Double-A starts since returning from injury, Mize has allowed 12 earned runs in 10 innings. He's allowed a .954 opponents' OPS, though the swinging strike rate is still at 13%.
Mize is the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball behind Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco. Despite the rocky return from injury, the Tigers expect him to be a future ace of the MLB rotation.
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