2020 Prospect Opportunities — Tigers

Today, we continue with the American League Central teams in our 2020 Prospect Opportunities series, as I move along to the Tigers. This is not a good offense, and by projected WAR, I could have listed every single position (I generally only consider players projected below 2.0 WAR as “at risk”, and no one on the team exceeds 1.7). But some hitters were just signed as free agents, so I doubt their jobs are at risk, unless they significantly underperform their already meh projections.

At Risk: Austin Romine
Replacement: Jake Rogers

The 31-year-old Austin Romine has never recorded more than 265 plate appearances in a season. Seems silly to suddenly allow him to set a new record when they should be letting their young guys play. That said, he has been suddenly respectable the last two seasons, finally getting his wOBA over .300.

Jake Rogers is the team’s 19th best prospect and for good reason. He earned strong defensive grades, has posted ISO marks around or above .200 since 2017, and can take a walk. He also hits tons of flies, which is good for his home run power, though not so much for his BABIP and batting average. I’m a fan here in OBP leagues.

At Risk: Niko Goodrum
Replacement: Willi Castro

Niko Goodrum was actually decent again last year, though projections have him nearly halving his WAR in more plate appearances. His ability to play multiple positions means the starting shortstop job could open at any time, especially if Goodrum has to fill another position due to an incumbent’s injury.

Willi Castro got his feet wet last season, recording 110 plate appearances, but flailing to just a .270 wOBA. He has shown a touch of power in the minors, along with some speed, and has generally only struck out in the low-20% range. He has also posted elite BABIP marks in two of his last three minor league stops, thanks to a solid line drive rate. He’s unlikely to stand out anywhere, but a little bit of this and a little bit of that is enough to earn some value at shortstop.

At Risk: Jeimer Candelario
Replacement: Isaac Paredes

Jeimer Candelario lost his starting third base job last year, but then dominated at Triple-A before returning to the Majors. The strong Triple-A performance gives us hope he still has the potential to contribute, but there’s risk he fails again.

Isaac Paredes hasn’t appeared in Triple-A yet, and it ain’t easy to succeed jumping straight to the Majors from Double-A. However, his skills are intriguing, if only because of his elite contact ability. He nearly walked as often as he struck out last year, and only struck out 11.1% of the time. More impressively, he posted just a 4.6% SwStk%, so his low strikeout rate isn’t because he swings at everything, it’s because he rarely misses when he swings. He has no speed and has only shown league average power, but with that contact ability, that should still easily result in double digit homers over a full season.

At Risk: Christin Stewart, JaCoby Jones, Cameron Maybin
Replacement: Travis Demeritte, Troy Stokes Jr., Daz Cameron

Yikes, this outfield is a mess, with any one of these players at risk of losing their starting jobs.

Travis Demeritte earned an opportunity last year, but fumbled it, striking out a ton en route to a .272 wOBA. Still, he’s displayed solid to elite power in the minors, is willing to take a walk, and even though he has struck out a lot at times, it hasn’t typically come with an inflated SwStk%. So his strikeouts look more the result of being too passive at the plate, rather than an inability to make contact.

We all love power/speed threats and Troy Stokes Jr. owns both skills. He has shown good power at times in the minor, stolen as many as 30 bases in a season, and has walked at or near double digit rates at every stop. He’ll need to get his BABIP up though or he’ll be a real drain in batting average.

Daz Cameron is the team’s ninth best prospect and another power/speed combo. However, he hasn’t exactly earned a promotion, as he posted just a .316 wOBA at Triple-A last year. He’s seemingly been too passive as his SwStk% is fine, but he stuck out too often, especially given his middling power.

At Risk: Daniel Norris & Spencer Turnbull
Replacement: Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning, Casey Mize

Daniel Norris rebounded from 5.00+ ERAs in 2017 and 2018, but still was barely better than league average. He could pitch himself out of a job or get injured again. Spencer Turnbull wasn’t horrible during his first full season, but a 4.61 ERA/4.62 SIERA, with similar 2020 projections means he’s at major risk of losing a rotation spot.

Tarik Skubal struck out a whopping 48.2% of the batters he faced in 42.1 innings at Double-A last year, supported by an absurd 21.5% SwStk%. While I’d like to see him perform at Triple-A, this kind of Double-A dominance is enough to follow him closely.

Alex Faedo also hasn’t pitched at Triple-A and is an extreme fly ball pitcher. The last issue could result in too many home runs, but it should suppress his BABIP. He owns a 60 grade slider that drove a 28.3% strikeout rate at Double-A and has shown fantastic control.

Matt Manning is the team’s top prospect and 12th overall prospect, and comes armed with a 60 grade fastball and curveball. His strikeout rates have sat in the high-20% to low-30% range, though his SwStk% marks have been a bit less impressive. He’s another who hasn’t tasted Triple-A action yet.

I included Casey Mize here only so I’m not questioned about him missing. He’s the team’s second best prospect and baseball’s 16th overall, but a 23.5% strikeout rate at Double-A just isn’t anything special. I like the 14.1% SwStk% mark much better, so it appears he didn’t have issues inducing whiffs, but instead generating called and/or foul strikes. That’s good, but still, you need better from the seventh best pitching prospect in baseball. Perhaps 2019’s shoulder injury is partly to blame for the disappointing strikeouts, so we’ll see if he can recover when games get going again.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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2 years ago

What about Reyes in the outfield mix? Had a decent end to 2019, shouldn’t he get a chance given the lack of clear contributors?

2 years ago
Reply to  machewbunn

Victor Reyes could be counted as one that is “at risk” since he is no longer a prospect and is currently slated to platoon in the OF according to Roster Resource. But, he’s probably the best of the bunch and least at risk with his defense, contact ability (81.7% last season), speed and extra base ability (doubles and triples).