A season after finishing in the AL Central basement, the Tigers rebounded in a big way, placing second in the division, three games out of a Wild Card spot. Their success came largely from a dominant pair at the top of the rotation: Michael Fulmer, AL Rookie of the Year, and Justin Verlander, AL Cy Young Award
winner runner-up (let’s face it, he should’ve won that award).
The Tigers may be back in the playoff picture next season, but they are undoubtedly in a tough spot moving forward. Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton and JD Martinez are all getting up there in age and the team does not have a deep enough farm system to replace many of those superstars.
This is another one of my ongoing team prospect rankings articles. I have already talked about the top prospects in the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians systems and all the teams in the AL East. Later this week, I will be delving into the systems of the Kansas City Royals.
By the way, if you are interested in more MLB prospects columns, head on over to our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. Throughout the offseason, you will find the rest of our team prospect breakdowns, fantasy baseball prospect rankings, tiered positional rankings, keeper values articles, and more - all in one easy place.
Detroit Tigers Top Prospects for Dynasty Leagues
Top Overall Talent: Matt Manning
Top Prospect who won’t debut in 2017: Matt Manning
Manning is the clear choice for top talent in the Tigers’ system. Manning has size (6’6”, 190 lbs), he has the mid-upper-90s fastball, a sharp, power curveball, an improving changeup and excellent control over all his pitches. Manning was always considered one of the best high school arms in the past draft class and he certainly did not disappoint in his Rookie league appearance with a 37.7% strikeout rate, 5.7% walk rate and 1.90 FIP. He has all the makings of the next Detroit Tigers’ ace.
Top Prospect to Debut in 2017: Christin Stewart
Biggest Boom or Bust: Christin Stewart
There aren’t many prospects in this system who figure to have a role in 2017, but Stewart seems like a guy who could debut late this season. He will likely start at Double-A where he will hope to build off his tenure there last season which was largely disappointing. He slashed only .218/.310/.448 with six home runs and no stolen bases in 100 plate appearances. Why is he also a Boom or Bust? Scouts believe he could potentially cut down on the strikeouts with more development time. A decrease in the strikeouts could make him a legit MLB starting outfielder, especially since he would likely be able to hit for a higher average than .240. If the strikeouts remain for Stewart, he will still provide owners with home runs. But the shortening of his swing could make him a .260 hitter with 30+ home runs, a much better fantasy asset.
Biggest Sleeper: Kyle Funkhouser
Funkhouser’s draft stock took a bit of a hit between his junior and senior season at Louisville. He was drafted 35th overall by the Dodgers in 2015, but opted to return to Louisville where he declined across the board. Then the Tigers took a chance on Funkhouser in the fourth round. At least in his first taste of professional action, he seems to be quickly rebuilding his value. He threw 37.1 innings at Low-A, compiling a 2.65 ERA and 2.18 FIP thanks to a 23.0% strikeout rate and 5.4% walk rate. Funkhouser throws in the mid-90s with his fastball, occasionally touching the upper-90s. He also possesses a high-80s slider that serves as his primary outpitch and a changeup that has made some serious improvements lately. If he can continue to work on reigning in his command, he could be a big league starter with front of the rotation upside.
Top Prospect Hitters
Best Power Hitter: Christin Stewart
Stewart is almost the very definition of a three-true-outcome slugger. He mashes home runs, he takes his walks and he strikes out. Scouts believe he has enough raw power to hit 25-30 home runs per season and he has proven in the minors that he has that pop. Dynasty owners can always use some home run production, but they will have to suffer through the poor batting average.
Most Likely to Hit over .300: Michael Gerber
I’m giving this award to Gerber almost by default. There is likely no one in this system who seems likely to have a shot at hitting .300. Gerber hit .261 last season at Double-A while walking about 11.4% of the time. Scouts have praised his patient approach to the plate, but he still has a bit of a long swing which is why he struck out 23.4% of the time this past season. I wouldn’t want to put my money on him hitting .300, but his discipline certainly gives him a chance.
Best Burner on the Bases: Derek Hill
Hill swiped 35 bags in 93 games one season after stealing 25 in 53 games. So yeah, you could say he’s pretty fast. He is a pure speedster and could probably manage 30-40 stolen bases in the big leagues . . . if he could ever reach base. As of right now, he strikes out over 20% of the time, fails to turn batted balls into hits and has never been one to draw many walks. He is only 21 so he still has plenty of time to improve his on-base skills and if he does, owners could potentially have a dynasty steal.
Top Prospect Pitchers
Strikeout Machine: Matt Manning
Are you surprised by this? You shouldn’t be. Manning is absolutely the swing-and-miss king of this system. He has by far the best stuff of any pitcher in this system and began to show it off at Rookie ball in 2016, striking out 37.7% of batters faced. With his stuff (previously discussed in the top prospect section), Manning should be a strikeout machine as he continues to make his way up to the big leagues.
Best Command: Tyler Alexander
Alexander has never at any level for any amount of time walked more than 4% of opposing batters. And while some may attribute that to a lack of exposure, excellent command and control has always been Alexander’s calling card. Scouts have always praised him for his ability to challenge hitters and attack the zone. Now while he has no problems throwing strikes, he has shown issues missing bats. Alexander might have value if he can continue to generate groundballs in the big leagues, but dynasty owners need to understand his ceiling is that of a four or five starter.
Top 10 Dynasty Prospects for the Detroit Tigers
1. Matt Manning (SP, ROK)
Manning is far and away the best prospect in this system and is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He looks like the next homegrown ace of the Tigers.
2. Christin Stewart (OF, AA)
Though Stewart certainly has the potential to shorten up his swing and be a more consistent middle-of-the-order bat, I doubt he is anything more than a three-true-outcome outfielder.
3. Beau Burrows (SP, A)
Burrows has a great repertoire of pitches and could be a very solid pitcher in the big leagues, but he needs to prove he can generate swings-and-misses at the upper MiLB levels.
4. Michael Gerber (OF, AA)
Gerber has a little bit of pop and might hit for a decent average, but he doesn’t stand out as a real starter in the big leagues.
5. Derek Hill (OF, A)
Like almost everyone other hitter in this system, the swing-and-miss in his game keeps him from being a promising fantasy asset. He has the speed to swipe 30 bags per season, but he struggles immensely to reach base.
6. Kyle Funkhouser (SP, A-)
Funkhouser snuck under the radar in the draft despite a promising array of pitches, but he will need to start commanding the zone more consistently if he is going to reach his full potential.
7. JaCoby Jones (SS/OF, MLB)
Jones once had a great season back in 2014, but he has regressed in a big way since then. He could still be a big league regular for the Tigers and for dynasty owners, though he needs to start turning his career around quick.
8. Tyler Alexander (SP, AA)
You will never see Alexander get into trouble with walks, but without any strikeouts, his upside is very limited.
9. Joe Jimenez (RP, AAA)
There’s no denying Jimenez has electric stuff, but it’s usually not a good bet to bank on someone being a closer unless they’re Zack Burdi-level talented. Jimenez may get a chance to close at some point, but owners should probably wait to see if he can dominate big league hitters first.
10. Steven Moya (OF, MLB)
Moya is more of a two-true-outcome slugger: he either hits home runs or strikes out. It is because of that he is unlikely to ever hold down a regular job in the majors.
I’m not going to beat around the bush; the Detroit Tigers do not have a good farm system. There are several guys in here like Moya and Stewart who look to be some serious power hitters, but they have trouble making consistent contact, limiting their upside. The strength of this system is definitely in the arms as Manning and Burrows both have the potential to reach the front of a big league rotation while Funkhouser and Alexander could potentially sneak up on some people and start in the big leagues. But the Tigers lack that one big impact bat most systems have, which really hurts the dynasty value overall of the system as pitching is a lot easier to come by than star bats. There is a bit of talent to be had here, but this is not a system owners need to be digging too deeply into for talent.