DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers are desperately trying to climb back into the ranks of competitive MLB teams, and according to both major prospect lists that came out last week, the organization is on the right track with pitching.
Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline released their top 100 prospect rankings last week. BA has five Tigers players in the top 100 -- Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Riley Greene and Isaac Paredes -- while MLB excluded Paredes.
Both lists agree, however, that the Tigers have some of the best young pitching talent in the pipeline. In fact, only one team has done a better job stockpiling pitching prospects than the Tigers.
Top 100 lists
MLB Pipeline believes the Tigers have the best pitching in the minors, ranking Mize as the No. 7 overall prospect, Manning No. 24 and Skubal No. 46. The Tampa Bay Rays -- the only other team with three pitchers ranked in the top 100 -- have Brendan McKay at No. 15, Shane Baz at No. 90 and Brent Honeywell at No. 91.
Obviously, MLB Pipeline believes the Tigers have the best high-end pitchers in the minors. Baseball America doesn’t quite agree, though.
While the Tigers have three players ranked in the top 40 -- Mize at No. 13, Manning at No. 17 and Skubal at No. 34 -- the Rays have five pitchers ranked in BA’s top 100. McKay tops the group at No. 14, with Baz at No. 71, Honeywell at No. 80, Shane McClanahan at No. 83 and Joe Ryan at No. 98.
Detroit has three pitchers ranked well ahead of Tampa Bay’s second-highest pitching prospect, but the sheer number of top prospects gives the Rays an edge.
Beyond that, though, no other team can really challenge the Tigers.
San Diego, Toronto, Oakland, Miami, Baltimore, Atlanta, Seattle, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Minnesota, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers each have two pitching prospects in MLB Pipeline’s top 100. San Francisco, Houston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and both Chicago teams each have one pitching prospect ranked.
Baseball America definitely went pitcher heavy in its rankings. After the Ray’s mark of five ranked pitching prospects, the Tigers, Padres, Dodgers and Twins each have three.
The Padres, like the Tigers, have two pitching prospects ranked in the top 20 of BA’s list and the top 30 of MLB Pipeline’s list.
If you just look at the top 100 lists, it’s clear the Tigers have one of the two best arsenals of pitching talent in baseball.
Another factor working in Detroit’s favor: Its minor league pitching depth goes well beyond the top 100 prospects.
Sure, Mize and Manning have been the talk of the franchise for years, and Skubal is the most notable riser in all of baseball. But there are a handful of pitchers beyond the top tier that are a big part of the team’s future.
Alex Faedo was named the Tigers’ top prospect outside the top 100 by Baseball America. He was a top 100 prospect after the Tigers picked him 18th overall in the 2017 draft but fell off the list after an uninspiring 2018.
Well, Faedo stormed back into the picture last season by striking out 10.5 batters per nine innings and generating whiffs on 15% of his pitches. His 3.90 ERA and 1.118 WHIP were respectable, especially considering he served up 17 home runs in 115.1 innings.
Mize, Manning and Faedo aren’t the only first-round pitchers in the organization, either. Beau Burrows, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, is one step away from the big leagues at Triple-A. Joey Wentz, acquired in the Shane Greene trade with Atlanta last season, is a former first-rounder who struck out 37 batters in 25.2 innings in Erie with a 17% swinging strike rate.
The Tigers certainly haven’t given up on Franklin Perez, either, despite is alarming injury history. Still just 22, Perez was the centerpiece of the Justin Verlander trade in 2017, and at the time he was a consensus top 40 prospect in baseball.
Baseball America still ranks Perez as the team’s No. 8 prospect. At the end of last season, he was No. 6 in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline.
Al Avila’s plan starts to come more into focus in terms of stockpiling pitchers. He’s got Mize, Manning, Skubal, Perez, Faedo, Wentz and Burrows waiting in the wing. That doesn’t even include the likes of Elvin Rodriguez, Anthony Castro and Kyle Funkhouser, who all have good raw stuff and show flashes of MLB potential.
Right now, the major league roster doesn’t have much beyond Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris, but there are at least seven players with high upside in the minors. The Tigers are banking on some of that talent translating to the top level.