2014 TigsTown Top 50 Tigers Prospects: 20-11

Continuing to countdown the top 50 prospects in the organization, we dive into those who fall inside the top 20. The prospects ranked in the teens are highlighted by a number of middle infield prospects as well as a few power relievers.

20. Melvin Mercedes – Right-Handed Pitcher
Now nearly three full seasons removed from Tommy John surgery, Mercedes is on the verge of the big leagues and should arrive in Detroit at some point in 2014. Armed with a heavy fastball that sits in the 93-95 mph range and a four-seam heater that he can ramp up to 97-98 mph when he needs it. His slider hovers in the average range and doesn't miss enough bats to help him profile in the ninth inning, but if his command comes around, he could help in a setup role.

19. Kyle Lobstein – Left-Handed Pitcher
After Lobstein missed the Tigers 25-man roster as a Rule 5 pick last spring, the club traded catcher Curt Casali to Tampa Bay to keep him around. In a season split between Erie and Toledo, Lobstein tallied a 3.27 ERA in 28 starts and a 13-7 record. With a below-average fastball, quality changeup and two breaking pitches, Lobstein has a deep enough arsenal to work as a swingman or fifth starter in the big leagues

18. Will Clinard – Right-Handed Pitcher
Drafted in the 19th round in 2012, Clinard is on the fast track to the big leaguers after tossing 34-1/3 innings in Double-A during his first full season. Though he struggled with a 5.50 ERA and 20 walks in that span, Clinard has the raw stuff to contribute in the seventh or eighth inning. His fastball can reach 92-94 mph and his cutter can be a dominating pitch at times, giving him two above-average to plus weapons he can rely on, in addition to a solid slider and occasionally interesting changeup.

17. Jose Valdez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Valdez thoroughly dominated both Low- and High-A in 2013, posting a cumulative 2.74 ERA and 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 49-1/3 innings of work. On the back of a fastball that sits comfortably in the 95-96 mph range and reaches 98, Valdez can blow the ball past hitters with ease. His command and control lag behind significantly but he has been able to adjust when his command is off and still finds a way to get outs. Valdez has the raw stuff to work as a closer, but may fit better in the eighth inning thanks to his control problems.

16. Joe Jimenez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Despite being a non-drafted free agent, Jimenez is a very real prospect. Projected as a fourth or fifth round talent by some scouts heading into the June draft, Jimenez refused to come off his reported $500,000 bonus demands and was not picked by any club. The Tigers signed him in late June and he posted a 0.50 ERA while allowing nine hits and six walks in 18 innings, and struck out 24 batters. A physically mature 6-foot-3, 220 pound right-hander, Jimenez lacks projection but he already owns a low-90s fastball and promising secondary arsenal.

15. Kevin Ziomek – Left-Handed Pitcher
The Tigers second round pick in June, Ziomek pitched just eight innings across four starts after signing or just under $1 million. A well built 6-foot-3, 200 pound lefty, Ziomek's fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range and has reached as high as 93-94 mph when he digs for more in tight spots. Ziomek mixes a changeup and slider that both have average to solid-average potential, and his delivery has enough deception to help his pitches play up a half-grade in many cases. Though some scouts are skeptical of his future and project him as a lefty reliever, Ziomek has a chance to develop into a fourth starter.

14. Tyler Collins – Outfielder
What looks like a lost season on the surface actually included some signs of progress for Collins. His power finally began to arrive in game situations, but it came at the expense of frequent contact as his strikeout rate spiked against advanced competition in Double-A. Despite being an average runner and playing the game hard at all times, Collins poor defensive instincts and below-average arm will limit him to left field, meaning his contact rate will have to return as his in-game power stays if he wants to profile as an everyday player. In a more likely scenario, Collins profiles as a decent left-handed bench bat.

13. Devon Travis – Second Baseman
The Tigers gave Travis $200,000 as a 13th round pick in 2012 and he has more than lived up to that bonus by hitting a combined .340 in his first 157 professional games. Travis is an undersized grinder that gets the most out of his limited tools. He has a keen eye at the plate, enters each at-bat with a plan and has a good feel for the barrel. He has some line-drive pop to all fields but generally offers below-average power from his small frame. Travis was slowed by a sports hernia in 2012 and his average speed has returned since that time, also allowing his range at second base to improve. He profiles as a second division player that could peak with some solid Major League seasons.

12. Harold Castro – Second Baseman
At 19-years old, Castro held his own in a 21-game cameo in the High-A Florida State League, hitting .274/.316/.329 before going down to Low-A West Michigan. In the Midwest League Castro tried to do too much and got away from his natural feel for hitting. He has a gift at the plate and enough strength to drive the ball to the gaps with some regularity. A plus runner, Castro can steal bases and shows good range in the field to go along with a strong arm. Though he carries much higher risk than Devon Travis, Castro's ceiling is superior and he could max out as an above-average everyday player.

11. Eugenio Suarez – Shortstop
Suarez is a good bet to have an extended Major League career but he may never be an impact player at that level. With solid tools across the board, Suarez does a lot of things well, but doesn't excel in any one area. His glove may be his best asset as he can pick it at shortstop and has shown proficiency at second base, third base and in the outfield. He doesn't project to hit a ton at the big league level, but he can do enough with the bat to aid his profile as a quality utility player at the highest level.

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