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20. Shane Zeile – Catcher
The Tigers fifth round pick last summer, Zeile represents a bit of a project for the Tigers, but one that could pay off in a quality backstop. A polished hitter, Zeile demonstrates good intelligence in the box with a simple swing and an ability to make solid contact to all fields. He is more of a gap hitter that won’t provide much over the fence power, but Zeile has a chance to hit .280+ at the big league level if he makes adjustments. Still new to catching, Zeile’s footwork and framing are raw, but his blocking and arm strength are assets. He is taking to the position quickly thanks to a high baseball IQ and a strong work ethic, but he will need time at multiple levels to polish his game.
19. Endrys Briceno – Right-Handed Pitcher
Derailed by Tommy John surgery this summer, Briceno had a chance to be one of the Tigers breakout prospects in 2014, but that will likely have to wait until 2016 now. When healthy, Briceno can find 95-96 mph from his thin, lanky frame, and sits comfortably in the 91-94 mph range with good sink and an easy, deceptive delivery. Briceno’s curveball and changeup both have spurts where they flash above-average, but he has yet to develop consistency with either offering. If everything comes together after his recovery from surgery, Briceno could still be a mid-rotation starter.
18. Angel Nesbitt – Right-Handed Pitcher
Nesbitt exploded on the scene this summer with a big-time heater and two secondary pitches to keep hitters off balance. A pure reliever with some effort to his delivery and intermittent control issues, Nesbitt can find 97-98 mph at times with his fastball, and will sit at 94-96 nearly every time out. Both his slider and changeup are good enough pitches to be used at high levels, but only the slider offers bat missing potential as an average breaking pitch. Nesbitt could peak as a quality setup man once he puts the finishing touches on his development.
17. Joe Jimenez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Puerto Rico, Jimenez was originally viewed as a potential sinker-slider starting pitcher that could be a #4 in a good rotation. Since that time, Jimenez’s high effort delivery and control issues have pushed him to the bullpen where he has quickly excelled. Pumping 95-97 mph with a very heavy fastball and a slider that varies in shape and velocity, Jimenez could be a candidate to develop into a closer down the line. He pitches with a lot of attitude but must learn to control his emotions on the mound to get the most out of his natural ability.
16. Javier Betancourt – Second Baseman
A consummate grinder that maximizes his tools, Betancourt is a high-IQ player with very good feel for the game. He is a fringe-average runner whose range at second base relies more on instincts and positioning than foot speed, but he has good hands and a solid arm that work well at the keystone. Betancourt has a good feel for the strike zone and a knack for making contact, though that contact is frequently soft and doesn’t project to improve all that much. Betancourt approaches the game with great confidence and could make a living as a hit-tool oriented second baseman.
15. Kevin Ziomek – Left-Handed Pitcher
Ziomek dominated the Midwest League for long stretches of the 2014 season, as he should as an experience college pitcher with a four-pitch mix and some clue how to use it. Ziomek didn’t show the premium velocity he flashed at Vanderbilt, but still working the 88-91 mph range and reached 92-93 on occasion. His ability to consistently throw strikes improved as the season went along and he developed better feel for his deceptive delivery. Ziomek also features a slider, changeup and curveball, of which the slider grades the highest as a possible above-average second pitch. Scouts highest on Ziomek see a potential #4 starter capable of eating innings, while other scouts still project him as a high-leverage lefty reliever.
14. Dixon Machado – Shortstop
All but written off as a prospect at this time last year, Machado vaulted himself back onto the Tigers 40-man roster with a strong showing at Double-A in 2014. Finally healthy after battling multiple injuries the last couple of years, Machado maintained his standing as the best defensive infielder in the system, and added more bat speed and louder contact to his resume. Still not considered a power threat, Machado did drive the ball with greater frequency while maintaining his strong approach at the plate. Though it is still difficult to project Machado to a regular role at the big league level, he has piqued the interest of many scouts with his improvements over the last year.
13. Kyle Lobstein – Left-Handed Pitcher
Lobstein played a pivotal role in the Tigers success down the stretch, doing things as a starter at the big league level that haven’t been envisioned for him for several years. Armed with a fringy fastball, a quality breaking ball, and an inconsistent changeup, Lobstein showed an ability to mix his pitches and pound the strike zone, two traits that could help him survive as a #5 starter. In the bullpen, Lobstein has the potential to contribute as a long man or secondary lefty reliever, with the ability to stretch back out for the rotation at a moment’s notice. Lobstein should see plenty of time in Detroit in 2015.
12. Grayson Greiner – Catcher
Another college catcher, Greiner was a part of several high caliber clubs during his career at South Carolina. For some within the Tigers organization, Greiner earns comparisons to James McCann as a glove-first college catcher with some potential to contribute at the plate. Greiner is a quality bat with some thump to the pull side and a decent approach that will be tested by advanced arms. His glove stands out with good receiving skills and a strong arm, and he could be a plus defender at the highest level. Greiner will move quickly through the system and should profile as at least a good backup catcher with a chance to start at the big league level.
11. Buck Farmer – Right-Handed Pitcher
Farmer’s meteoric rise through the system culminated with his big league debut just over a year after being drafted by the Tigers. Farmer found a bit of the velocity he lost his last year in college, running his fastball up to 92-93 mph consistently and even finding 95 mph on occasion, though his heater flattens out when he reaches back for more. Farmer’s slider and changeup can both flash as average pitches, but neither is of such quality that he can rely heavily on the pitch, relying more on his ability to mix those pitches and keep hitters off balance. Farmer lacks the refined command to make his sort of profile work as a right-handed pitcher, and while he may find success as a #5 starter, there are scouts that think his stuff could play up in a relief role.