Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.
If you were perusing last year’s series, you would have read this:
The Sleeper: Matt Hall, LHP: Hall isn’t your typical sleeper. He’s not toolsy, especially athletic and he doesn’t eye-popping raw stuff. He’s a small-ish lefty start with a fastball that just squeaks into the 90s at times but he still does a number of things well. His curveball is a plus offering and the heater is good enough to keep hitters honest. He also generates a lot of ground balls despite just 6-feet tall. Some deception in his delivery helped him strike out 149 batters in 138.1 innings. Although he could chew up innings as a starter, Hall could really break out for the Tigers if he gets moved to the pen.
Now onto the new stuff:
First Taste of The Show: Christin Stewart, OF: I’ve been pretty critical of Stewart as a prospect over the past few years but I have give credit where credit is due. He became a better all-around hitter in 2018 while trimming his strikeout rate and not losing any of his power in the process. He looks like a pretty decent bet for 20+ homers and a more-than-healthy on-base rate. With that said, he still carries negative value into the field, and on the base paths.
The Draft Pick: Casey Mize, RHP: The first-overall pick in the 2018 draft, Mize has the stuff, build and competitive nature to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. His 16-156 BB-K in his junior year of college hints at the above-average control that he’s shown. He has three potentially plus offerings and could conceivably reach the Majors in 2019. The big concern for me is the injury history as he’s already dealt with an elbow strain.
The Riser: Isaac Paredes, SS: Paredes, 19, showed more consistency with the bat in 2018 and even reached double-A as a teenager. He has a good understanding of the strike zone and posted a solid 51-76 BB-K rate in 2018 while playing at two levels. He’s getting a little thicker around the middle so he’s going to need to watch his conditioning. Currently a shortstop, Paredes future will be at another position and the Tigers even went out and added Willi Castro in a trade with the Indians — who is a better bet to stick at the key position. Paredes might be suited for third base or maybe even the corner outfield if he can show enough range.
The Fallen: Franklin Perez, RHP: It wasn’t really Perez’s performance that’s caused him to slide the lost development time after he made just seven starts in 2018. I’m also a little leery with him moving from an organization with a very strong track record of developing prospects (Astros) to one with a dubious record (Tigers). Still just 21, Perez has the ceiling of a No. 2/3 starter if he can get back on track, given his intriguing four-pitch mix, athleticism and solid control (shown prior to 2018). If healthy in 2019, Perez has a shot at reaching The Show in the second half of the year.
The 2019 Contributor: Matt Manning, RHP: For me, Manning is the Tigers’ top pitching prospect, edging the more polished Mize. The younger hurler is extremely athletic and has an ideal pitcher’s frame. And he flashes two potentially plus offerings and a third respectable one (the change). He’s still in need of polish and has delivery issues but that only makes his 2018 season all the more impressive when you consider he overpowered hitters with his raw stuff (154 Ks in 117.2 innings). After playing at three levels last year, and reaching double-A as a 20 year old, it’s probably best for the Tigers to slow his development down and let him spend a good amount of time back in double-A. He also more than doubled his innings between 2017 and ’18 so that’s something to keep an eye on.
The 2019 Sleeper: Kody Clemens, 2B: I absolutely loved this pick. Clemens is a proven college performer with strong make-up and he’s shown the ability to kick himself into an extra gear in key situations.He’s not the most toolsy player but Clemens is going to squeeze out every ounce of potential. He took to pro ball like a duck to water and should have an excellent on-base presence along with gap pop. I think there is everyday player potential here at second base but he could also be a very good utility player.
The 2019 Lottery Ticket: Wenceel Perez, SS: A rare (successful) foray into the international market, Perez has already shown a strong hit tool. A switch-hitter, he’s shown potential from both sides of the plate but is strong from the left side. Perez, 19, also controls the strike zone well and may develop a good on-base presence. He’s not a huge guy so I don’t think there’s a ton of power potential here but he has some value on the base paths. Perez is a guy to watch for potential breakout in 2019 during his first taste of full-season ball.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.