Over the last several years, the Detroit Tigers have constantly ranked near the very bottom of MLB prospect lists. With a productive 2015 draft and a couple smart trades, however, the Tigers farm system is improving.
Detroit Tigers Farm System Is Improving
When the Tigers won four straight Central Division titles from 2011-2014, much of the roster was constructed through genius trades from then-GM Dave Dombrowski. Stars such as Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, David Price, Ian Kinsler, Anibal Sanchez, Jhonny Peralta, Doug Fister, and Jose Iglesias were all products of Dombrowski trades.
Dombrowski never brought a World Series title to Detroit for longtime owner Mike Ilitch, but his trade-the-future-away for instant success established one of the best starting rotations of the decade and a constant winning team. Detroit fans were okay to see the Tigers at the bottom of farm system rankings while they played in three straight American League Championship Series and made World Series appearances in 2006 and 2012.
Much has changed in the Motor City. The Tigers have been mediocre throughout the last two seasons and though they are only 2.5 games back from a Wild Card spot this season, they are 0-9 against first-place Cleveland Indians.
On the plus side, though, the Tigers finally have more than a couple prospects to be excited about. Several of last year’s draft picks are producing solid results for the second straight season, and there appears to be some pitching depth being developed at the lower levels of the system. Here are some players to keep an eye on down in the Detroit farm:
–Joe Jimenez: The 21-year-old flame thrower from Puerto Rico is the closer of the future for Detroit. He has been dominating ever since he was signed and has a career 1.33 ERA in ninety-eight minor league appearances. This season, Jimenez has only given up one run and eleven hits in twenty-seven games. He has fifteen saves and a 46-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go with a 0.66 WHIP between A and AA ball. This is all after he put up a 1.47 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in his first full season of professional ball last year.
–Beau Burrows: Burrows, just 19-years-old, was a first round draft pick last year. He is a power pitcher, sporting a fastball that consistently sits around 95 MPH, and a strong curve. This season in A ball, Burrows has a 2.77 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and a 37-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 10 starts.
–Christin Stewart: Stewart was also a first round draft pick last year. The 22-year-old out of the University of Tennessee is a power-hitting outfielder currently playing in high-A ball. He is leading the Florida State League in home runs this season with eighteen and has a .929 OPS, .397 OBP, and forty-three RBI.
–JaCoby Jones: Jones is looking like a steal from last year’s trade deadline. He was acquired from the Pirates for Joakim Soria and has put up strong numbers in AA and AAA since then. He was suspended for the first fifty games of this year, but the 24-year-old was promoted to AAA after dominating in Erie. He has struggled a bit at the plate lately, but he currently has a .276 average, six home runs, twenty-eight RBI, and a .345 OBP with a .858 OPS in forty games this year.
–Derek Hill: Hill, a first round pick in 2014, is a speedy outfielder that appears to be putting it together at the plate after a sub-par first two seasons. Still only 20-years-old, he is hitting .262 after sitting at .226 in early June. He is a terrific outfielder and has twenty-one stolen bases in A ball this season.
–Matt Hall: Hall was a sixth round pick last year but is quietly looking like he could be one of the draft’s biggest steals. The lefty has below-average velocity, but he has a great curve and slider to go with a decent change-up that leaves hitters off balance. This season in A ball, Hall is 9-0 with a 1.51 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and seventy-five strikeouts in thirteen starts.
–Tyler Alexander: Another lefty pitcher drafted last year, Alexander has also put up dominant numbers since being selected out of TCU in the second round. He has a 1.97 ERA in thirteen starts with a 1.04 WHIP and a 62-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season in A ball.