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40. Franklin Navarro – Catcher
After bursting on the scene coming out of the Venezuelan Summer League a couple of years ago, Navarro has been slower to develop than many fans would prefer. Despite that slow progression, Navarro still owns the tools to develop into a quality backstop both offensively and defensively. He moves well behind the plate and has a strong arm, but he has to clean up his receiving and footwork. Navarro has raw thump in his bat, but his approach remains aggressive and he is still developing a plan at the plate. Navarro could still take 4-5 years to develop into a viable big league prospect, but with his raw tools, hope should not fade away completely.
39. Connor Harrell – Outfielder
Harrell’s profile has remained unchanged since he was drafted two years in a row by the Tigers out of Vanderbilt. He is still a good runner and quality defender with a weapon for an arm, and his defensive tools alone could earn him a big league opportunity. At the plate, Harrell has raw power in his bat but he struggles with pitch recognition and has yet to lose some of the swing and miss in his game. At this point in his development, Harrell is unlikely to make big strides forward, but he has enough to offer across the board that he could help a Major League team in a reserve outfielder role.
38. Ross Kivett – Outfielder
Drafted out of Kansas State last summer, Kivett carries a difficult profile as a prospect. He didn’t have the defensive chops to stick at second base and while he showed well in center field at times as a pro, he is still a work in progress with the glove. His bat profiles well at second base or in center field, but he will be an offensive liability if he is forced to move to a corner. Kivett has a strong body with a high waist and good athleticism. He moves well on the field as a solid runner and fairly instinctual player. Kivett’s reputation will be built on the sum of the parts rather than any individual standout skills, but that overall ability could make him a decent reserve.
37. Eduardo Jimenez – Right-Handed Pitcher
If not for Tommy John surgery ending his season before it truly began, Jimenez was generating the type of buzz out of extended spring training that could have made him one of the Tigers highest flying prospects. Jimenez was consistently pumping mid-90s heat with excellent life and a surprising feel for throwing strikes before going on the disabled list. His secondary pitches and overall approach to pitching are still evolving, but he shows some feel for spin and is an intelligent kid with a chance to learn the nuances of his craft. Jimenez may not make much of an impact at the minor league level in 2015, but he could be a pop-up prospect in 2016 if he comes back healthy and showing the same caliber stuff.
36. Zach Shepherd – Third Baseman
The Tigers aggressively pursued Shepherd when he turned 16, scouting him heavily in Australia before inking him to a deal that would bring him stateside following high school. Once he arrived, Shepherd demonstrated intriguing ability at the plate with a natural feel for the barrel that generates consistent hard contact to all fields. His swing is geared more toward line drives than true over the fence power, but Shepherd could be the type of offensive weapon that offers strong batting averages, good OBP, and some quality doubles power. Defensively, Shepherd will need to find a home, and that home is not likely to be on the dirt. A move to the outfield is inevitable in the mind of many scouts, and with his arm strength he could be limited to left field. Shepherd’s bat has a chance to cement his status as a prospect, but his defensive game will determine just how much pressure is on the bat to perform.
35. Tyler Gibson – Outfielder
Gibson has been one of the toolsiest prospects in the entire system since the moment he signed out of a Georgia high school and avoided a commitment to Georgia Tech. A capable defender in center field with excellent athleticism, decent instincts, good running ability and an average arm, Gibson has a chance to stick in the middle of the diamond. His bat had struggled throughout his first couple of pro seasons, but he finally came alive and showed some ability to adjust to pitchers and make more – and harder – contact with West Michigan last summer. After coming back from the disabled list, Gibson moved to High-A Lakeland where he struggled with the tougher competition, but even the limited strides he showed in the first half of the season were encouraging enough to re-affirm his prospect status.
34. Sandy Baez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Baez made a name for himself in the GCL this year with a fastball that sits in the low-90s and can reach 95-96 mph in short bursts. The Tigers used him primarily as a starter this summer in an attempt to further develop consistency with his secondary pitches and mechanics, and Baez made legitimate strides in both regards. Most scouts still project Baez to the bullpen long term, a role that could see him move quickly through the system, but the Tigers are likely to give the young arm time to mature as a starter before making such a move. With additional success at either Connecticut or West Michigan in 2014, and added consistency in all phases of his game, Baez could move higher up this list and become a very real prospect to watch.
33. Jose Azocar – Outfielder
Azocar is the latest in a long line of exciting prospects to come out of the Tigers Venezuelan program, breaking onto the scene with a monster showing last summer. Azocar is a multi-tooled player capable of being one of the more exciting and dynamic players in the entire system if he can pull things together. A plus runner, Azocar has the chops to stay in center field long term, and his average arm will play well at that position. With a mature and strong body, Azocar has excellent bat speed and plenty of raw power, and while his approach in the box needs to develop, he has shown an aptitude for making contact and adjusting to opposing pitchers. Azocar is still a long way from the big leagues, but he could quickly become one of the most promising players in the system with a strong stateside showing in 2015.
32. Artie Lewicki – Right-Handed Pitcher
On the surface Lewicki may look like just another inexpensive senior sign by the Tigers, but what he offers could be far more intriguing than that. After missing the 2013 season with Tommy John surgery, Lewicki returned for the 2014 campaign and showed dramatic progress throughout the season as he completed his recover. With a strong, sturdy frame that hints at a potential inning eater, Lewicki pounded low-90s fastballs with good movement, and even found an extra gear at times reaching 95 mph with his fastball. With an array of secondary pitches, Lewicki is able to attack with a four-pitch mix that can keep hitters off balance. Lewicki is mature and poised on the mound and could move quickly through the system with a fifth starter ceiling, and some scouts believe he could succeed as a setup reliever.
31. Josh Laxer – Right-Handed Pitcher
Laxer did everything you would expect from an experienced college reliever in short-season ball, flashing premium stuff and an aggressive mentality on the mound. With a high-three quarters delivery that adds excellent angle to his high-octane fastball, Laxer can pump 94-96 mph heat past opposing hitters and frequently induces weak contact when hitters do find the ball with the barrel. His breaking ball mixes between a classic curveball and classic slider, but at best it shows solid rotation and decent movement, enough that some scouts felt it could be an average second pitch. Laxer needs to work on finding the strike zone with greater frequency, a difficult task with his high-effort delivery, but if he can throw more strikes down in the zone, he could be a high leverage reliever worth watching as he moves through the system.