#20 – Edgar De La Rosa – Right-Handed Pitcher
“De La” endured a rough season in 2015 thanks to a torn lat muscle that hurt his velocity and ultimately kept him on the shelf of most of the season. When healthy, the mammoth De La Rosa pumps fastballs that sit comfortably in the 97-99 mph range and have reached as high as 101 mph on my own radar gun. Both the slider and changeup remain unrefined, but now in pitching in relief, De La Rosa has a big league future as a potential 7th or 8th inning arm.
#19 – Anthony Castro – Right-Handed Pitcher
Another pitcher with a 2015 season derailed by injury, Castro went under the knife for Tommy John surgery early in the season. At his best, Castro can pitch in the low-90s with life and improving command, all with a bit of swagger and confidence that allows him to challenge hitters with his best stuff in any count. Castro’s changeup and breaking ball are coming along nicely and could round out a quality three-pitch mix that will compliment a fastball that many scouts expect to take a step forward once healthy. Castro remains a long shot given his distance from the big leagues, but if things break well, he could be a mid-rotation starter.
#18 – Anthony Pereira – Infielder
Pereira exploded at the end of the 2014 season and after beginning last season in Venezuela, he was brought stateside for a trial by fire debut in the Gulf Coast League. Loaded with tools and a decent feel for the game, Pereira has a chance to be an impact offensive player with an ability to drive the ball to all fields. His defense must continue to develop and most scouts question whether or not he can stay at shortstop long term, leaving him in need of a position on either side of short, and forcing his bat to play to a higher degree.
#17 – Kevin Ziomek – Left-Handed Pitcher
The numbers are there and if that’s all you look at, Ziomek looks like a legitimate top prospect. Unfortunately, Ziomek’s raw stuff has backed up since college and it no longer matches the impressive results he has generated to date. Throughout his season at High-A, Ziomek showed a below-average to fringe fastball that peaked at 92 mph when he reached back for more and his command was off all season. Though mixes in three secondary pitches, none of them rates above-average, leaving Ziomek without a pitch to fool high-level hitters, and with a projection in the swingman or low-level fifth starter range.
#16 – Drew VerHagen – Right-Handed Pitcher
After looking as though he may just stick as a starting pitcher despite amateur reports to the contrary, VerHagen finally shifted to the bullpen in 2015 and he reached the big leagues as a result. Armed with a sinking fastball in the low-90s and a decent changeup, VerHagen has the ingredients to be a quality middle reliever with peak seasons as a 7th inning arm that can handle multiple innings. Because he lacks the raw stuff to miss bats consistently, VerHagen will have to prove himself continuously without a guaranteed spot in the Tigers bullpen.
#15 – Drew Smith – Right-Handed Pitcher
One of the Tigers high-round draft choices in 2015, Smith looks like a fast moving reliever with two easy plus pitches that can dominate in the late innings. To get Smith the Tigers tapped back into familiar breeding grounds as they popped him out of Dallas Baptist with a fastball that works 95-plus and a slider that can be devastating at times. The only drawback to Smith at this point is the minor elbow soreness that ended his 2015 debut campaign.
#14 – AJ Simcox – Shortstop
When Tigers seventh round pick Nick Shumpert shifted gears and backed away from a tentative signing agreement the Tigers flipped and focused their attention on Tennessee shortstop AJ Simcox as they went over slot to sign him. A no-doubt shortstop that will stay at the position in pro ball, Simcox carries a good approach into the batter’s box and has a knack for contact. Some scouts give him a chance to be an above-average hitter with an above-average glove, resulting in a solid regular ceiling.
#13 – Zach Shepherd – Third Baseman
Still young and adjusting to life and baseball in the United States, Shepherd impressed scouts in the Midwest League in 2015. With a natural feel for his offensive game, including an ability to make contact consistently, scouts that favor Shepherd see a player with the potential to hit .275-.280 with 15-18 home runs when he matures. Defensively there are still significant questions about Shepherd’s projection. He has already moved off shortstop and didn’t look good at third base last summer, leaving most observers to project him as a left fielder with a fringe to below-average arm; ultimately putting immense pressure on his bat to develop.
#12 – Michael Gerber – Outfielder
One of the Tigers most improved prospects in 2015, Gerber put up impressive numbers in the Midwest League, though he was a tad old for the level. Known for his long swing and strikeouts in college, Gerber has shorted his stroke without sacrificing his above-average raw power, leading to a well-rounded offensive game. Gerber still owns an aggressive approach and remains susceptible to quality breaking balls, causing his offensive projection to come up a touch short. Suited for a corner slot defensively, Gerber’s bat being a little light results in a fourth outfield projection, but one that could come quickly as he is expected to start the 2016 season in Double-A.
#11 – Jairo Labourt – Left-Handed Pitcher
The “third” piece in the package that sent David Price to Toronto at the trade deadline, Labourt was added to the 40-man roster last month and projects as a potentially dominating late inning left-handed reliever. At his best, Labourt can push 95-96 mph with his fastball, showing outstanding late life, and his slider will flash in the above-average range. Labourt’s lack of a changeup and underdeveloped command leave him without the potential to pitch in the rotation or true high-leverage situations, but that doesn’t mean he is without value.