2014 TigsTools: Best Hitter

With the graduation of last year’s top rated hitting prospect, Nick Castellanos, the Best Hitter list will take on a new face for the first time in a couple of years. The Tigers’ system currently lacks a high-end hitter of his caliber, but there are still several prospects that deserve mention and discussion as potentially dangerous Major League hitters. Check inside to see who took the top spot.

Best Hitter
1. 2B Devon Travis
2. IF Javier Betancourt
3. 3B Joey Pankake
4. IF Domingo Leyba
5. C James McCann

All Travis has done since arriving in pro ball is hit the cover off the baseball. He has an extreme knack for getting the barrel on the ball and driving it to all fields. Travis will get overly aggressive at times and that leads to him ending up out on his front foot without an ability to adjust to quality secondary pitches, but even with that flaw, he still manages to find ways to drive the ball. Travis has the potential to hit at an above-average level at the next level and could be an ideal two-hole hitter when all is said and done.

Betancourt has many similarities in his game to those shown by Travis at the same stage of their development. His preternatural feel for contact is matched only by his uncanny sense of the strike zone at such a young age. Betancourt, much like Domingo Leyba behind him on this list, could be another strong hitting second baseman for the Tigers once he reaches the upper levels.

Joey Pankake represents the newest addition to this list but he showed off his feel for the strike zone and ability to barrel the ball in his professional debut. Pankake is the only hitter ranked on this list with ability to add substantial power to the equation, and that could make him a dynamic offensive player at hi speak.

McCann’s inclusion on this list may come as a surprise to some, but he has a very natural swing with a strong ability to get the bat head to the zone on time and adjust to the movement of the pitch to make quality contact. McCann isn’t going to be a premium hitter at the highest level, but he could hit .270-.280 as a regular catcher, and that makes him an extremely valuable player.

Honorable Mention
2B Harold Castro
DH/1B Dean Green
IF Hernan Perez

Dean Green and Hernan Perez have demonstrated an ability to post quality batting averages at the upper levels of the minor leagues, but scouts still question the ability of both to truly handle Major League caliber stuff on an everyday basis, leaving both a little short of the necessary projection to make this list. Harold Castro could vault himself into the ranked portion of the list with another strong showing with the bat similar to what he did in Lakeland in 2014. Castro will need to temper his aggressive approach and prove he can handle premium velocity and top flight spin with regularity.

Projection Kings
OF Derek Hill
3B Zach Shepherd

Two young players with very strong upside, Shepherd is a natural hitter that impressed GCL scouts this summer with his ability to consistently drive the ball with authority. He could be a player that raises some eyebrows with a strong showing at Connecticut or West Michigan in 2015. The Tigers top pick in 2014, Hill is a raw player but he has premium bat speed, a good early feel for the strike zone and finding the ball, and the ability to use the entire field that could make him a high-end hitting prospect as he matures.

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