#10 – Tyler Alexander – Left-Handed Pitcher
The Tigers drew considerable criticism for popping Alexander in the second round of last year’s draft, and that criticism will likely continue – warranted or not – until Alexander performs at the big league level. Blessed with excellent command of a broad arsenal, and a high IQ on the mound, Alexander has the potential to be a #4 starter at the big league level, in spite of pedestrian fastball velocity. Alexander’s polish was too much for NYPL hitters in 2015 and he could move quickly to High-A in 2016 if the Tigers want to get aggressive.
#9 – JaCoby Jones – Shortstop
Currently staring the remainder of a drug suspension in the face to start the 2016 season, Jones will need to make up for lost time when he gets on the field in May. The scouting community is often split on Jones’ potential, with some believing he could become a quality everyday player at third base, second base, or even center field, while others firmly believe he lacks the ability to play every day and is better suited to a utility role. Jones has the tools to play many positions, including shortstop on a limited basis, and his athleticism and strength play well on offense where he can drive the ball with ease. There’s still some crudeness in his game that gives evaluators pause in his projection, but Jones could be a valuable piece thanks to his pop and versatility.
#8 – Dixon Machado – Shortstop
Machado has been around for what seems like an eternity and he just made his MLB debut in 2015. Always known for his defensive gifts that include a plus glove and borderline elite arm strength, Machado has made a little noise with the bat over the last two years; a welcome development. Machado’s offensive strength has long been his approach in the box, leading to deep counts and more walks than strikeouts on many occasions. What has lacked has been consistently hard contact; a trait that has seen a slight uptick in the last two years. Machado is never going to be an offensive stalwart, but he may be flashing enough to eclipse the utility profile that has plagued him and reach a second division shortstop level.
#7 – Steven Moya – Outfielder
Moya continues to hang around on prospect lists thanks in large part to his ridiculous raw power. The warts in Moya’s game are well documented, including difficulty recognizing pitches and discerning balls from strikes, as well as a swing that can get long at times. What is often overlooked is the progress Moya has made to even be successful at the upper levels of the minor leagues. With a reasonable defensive profile in right field, and top of the scale raw power, Moya still has a chance to contribute in the big leagues. His role will hinge on his ability to make his contact count with extra-base hits, and if he is able to continue to slug in spite of contact issues, he will have a role in Detroit or elsewhere.
#6 – Spencer Turnbull – Right-Handed Pitcher
Turnbull was a dominating force at times for West Michigan in 2015, and while many feel he should have been promoted to High-A at some point given his college pedigree, Turnbull is poised to begin a rapid ascent through the system in 2016. Armed with a fastball that can reach 98-99 mph late in games, a slider that can be above-average to plus at times, and an improving changeup, Turnbull has the ingredients to max out as a #3 starter. Even if his control and the changeup stagnate in their development, he can still hang as a back-end starter, or he could excel unleashing his top two pitches in short bursts and high leverage situations.
#5 – Joe Jimenez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Another high octane right-hander that found success in West Michigan in 2015, Jimenez works from a low-3/4 arm slot with a fastball that registers 95-98 mph on the radar gun. His heater has good life and will show some sinking action at times. Though he has both a slider and changeup in his back pocket, the slider is the secondary pitch with a chance to miss bats at the highest level. Jimenez is an aggressive and emotional pitcher on the mound, two traits that can both be positives and negatives for him during games. With maturity, Jimenez could become a shutdown closer or strong setup reliever once he completes his development.
#4 – Christin Stewart – Outfielder
The Tigers supplemental first round pick in the 2015 draft, Stewart is a bat-first prospect with potential for both an above-average hit tool and above-average in-game power. Stewart is an aggressive hitter that likes to swing the bat and displays good bat speed. When he connects, the ball can jump to all fields and he could pop 18-22 home runs a season at his peak. Defensively, he is limited to left field thanks to suspect reads/routes and a weak throwing arm, but if his bat develops the way some scouts expect, his glove won’t matter much. After finding success in Low-A after the draft, Stewart should head to High-A and possibly Double-A during the 2016 season.
#3 – Derek Hill – Outfielder
Hill’s numbers during the 2015 season were nothing short of atrocious, but few scouts wavered in their support of him as a future big league regular. Hill’s prospect stock starts with his standout defensive potential. A 70-grade runner that uses his speed on the bases and in the outfield, Hill can chase balls into the gaps and shows potential as a 70 glove in center field with a 50 arm. That type of defensive profile is rare in today’s game and will give Hill every chance he needs for his bat to catch up to his glove. Offensively, Hill has a good approach for a player his age, good instincts for the game, and excellent bat speed. Hill was hampered by injury last year and most observers believe that impacted his ability to get his bat going. The Tigers – and the industry – are still high on Hill and he could be a breakout candidate at High-A in 2016.
#2 – Beau Burrows – Right-Handed Pitcher
The Tigers first round pick in 2015, Burrows deviates from what many perceive as the Tigers conventional high-round pitcher selections; lacking the significant physical presence and command problems, but still possessing the power arsenal. Burrows has an easy plus fastball that could still tick higher as he reaches physical maturity, and his breaking ball and changeup both flash as quality pitches that he can rely on at higher levels. The command must develop and Burrows will need to advance his ability to sequence his arsenal, but he has all the ingredients necessary to become a very good #3 starter at the big league level.
#1 – Michael Fulmer – Right-Handed Pitcher
Acquired at the trade deadline as part of the package coming to the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes, Fulmer has revamped his prospect stock from likely future reliever to high-end #3 starter that could reach the big leagues in 2016. Following the trade, Fulmer showed mid-90s gas with sink and reached 97 mph on occasion in the starts I saw firsthand. He compliments his fastball with a devastating slider and potentially average changeup, giving him a well-rounded, and well-commanded arsenal that can devour hitters. Fulmer’s biggest hurdle at this point is consistency, something he began to turn the corner with in 2015.