20. Drew Smith – Right-Handed Pitcher
The Tigers third round pick last summer, Smith has potential as a late inning reliever, if he can stay healthy and on the mound. He was shut down last year with soreness in his throwing arm, and he’s missed some time in 2016 with arm trouble as well, leaving lingering concerns that surgery may be a “when” rather than an “if.” When on the mound, Smith shows mid-90s heat with a potential plus curveball to back it up. Where Smith has struggled, particularly this season, is keeping his pitches in or near the strike zone, walking over five batters per nine innings; a rate that will not work against more advanced hitters. Most scouts see Smith as a potential setup reliever down the line, and if his control rounds into form, he could reach the big leagues quickly in that capacity.
19. Gerson Moreno – Right-Handed Pitcher
After exploding on the scene last year with triple-digit heat, Moreno has continued his development in 2016, blowing away hitters in both the Low-A and now High-A leagues. Despite his fast-rising stock, Moreno has considerable development remaining before he is ready to tackle big league hitters. Though he can run his fastball up to a reported 101 mph when he needs extra, and sits in the 96-98 mph range, he struggles to command the ball and his secondary offerings lack consistency. There’s closer potential here, but Moreno must develop his ability to locate the fastball if he is to reach such a lofty ceiling.
18. Mark Ecker – Right-Handed Pitcher
Another reliever with late inning potential for the Tigers, Ecker was the club’s fifth round pick this summer out of Texas A&M. On the smaller side for projectable right-handers, Ecker still pumps 94-96 mph fastballs and has reached 100 mph at times in the past, though he rarely ramps his heater up to that level. Ecker’s fastball has natural life that precludes hitters from barreling him consistently, and his plus changeup is a weapon against hitters gearing up for high-end velocity. Ecker’s best attribute is arguably his command of his fastball-changeup combination, with an ability to locate both pitches to the edges and an ability to elevate the fastball for swings and misses. Ecker should fly through the system thanks to his advanced command, and he could reach Double-A in 2017.
17. Jose Azocar – Outfielder
One of the Tigers emerging prospects, Azocar remains raw but displays considerable potential in all phases of the game. An athletic outfielder, Azocar possesses center field tools despite playing many games on the corners this year in deference to top prospect Derek Hill. Azocar’s double-plus arm fits well in right field and he shows plenty of accuracy and a quick release, making his throwing ability a true deterrent for base runners. Offensively, Azocar must improve his approach, but his natural contact ability and quick bat suggest he could be an average hitter with some pop to the gaps as he matures.
16. Adam Ravanelle – Right-Handed Pitcher
Popped out of one of the Tigers favorite SEC schools, Vanderbilt, Ravanelle appeared on the verge of washing out and drifting off into the land of org prospects as his velocity fell off and injuries mounted. Then, all of a sudden, Ravanelle was healthy and pumping upper-90s fastballs with extreme life that put him back on the prospect map. When healthy, Ravanelle can dominate hitters with his fastball and a slider that shows plus on a consistent basis. Though his control and command are still rough, Ravanelle represents yet another potential setup reliever, and one that could be ready for prime time during the 2017 season.
15. Anthony Castro – Right-Handed Pitcher
Now bigger and stronger than his listed 6-foot, 175 pounds, Castro is healthy and back on the bump in the GCL after missing the 2015 season following Tommy John surgery. Though his 5.28 ERA and over a hit allowed per inning don’t jump off the page, Castro is a prospect on the rise. Though still continuing his recovery, Castro is sitting 93-94 mph with heavy life, and touching 97 mph with his four-seamer at times. His curveball is back to flashing in the plus range with hard bite that is too much for rookie-league hitters, and he’s even showing occasional feel for his changeup. As Castro completes his recovery and gets back to full strength, consistency should develop and he could emerge as a potential mid-rotation starter prospect.
14. Kade Scivicque – Catcher
A fourth round pick in 2015 out of LSU, Scivicque has emerged as the club’s top catching prospect thanks to a quality season in the offensively-challenging Florida State League. Known as a gap hitter with a good approach, Scivicque has posted a .279/.324/.365 line this year while also showing off solid all-around defensive tools. While he will never be a stalwart or standout on either side of the ball, he has a chance to be a quality all-around contributor in the mold of a second division starter or part-time catcher at the big league level. Scivicque should continue to push Grayson Greiner as he moves up the ladder and would justifiably take time away from Greiner if they end up on the same roster in 2017.
13. Anthony Pereira – Infielder
Still just 19-years old, Pereira has seen time in short-season, Low-A, High-A, and Double-A this season, bouncing between a variety of rosters for short stints. When he’s been on the field, and wherever he’s been on the field, Pereira has provided glimpses of his potential. A physically mature teenager, Pereira has good strength that helps generate a loose swing with plus bat speed. He can put a charge in the ball when he makes contact and his approach is solid despite his young age. Even in games against advanced arms much older than him, Pereira showed an ability to work counts and find pitches he could try to drive. Pereira is tough to profile at shortstop and could easily slide to second base down the line. He is a volatile prospect, but one Tiger fans should watch closely this year and next.
12. AJ Simcox – Shortstop
Signed for $600,000 in the 14th round in 2015, Simcox is the type of player the Tigers have long coveted; a true shortstop with offensive potential. Just an average runner underway, Simcox has quick feet and good reactions off the bat, making him an above-average defender at the six, including soft hands, good instincts, and an above-average to plus arm that fits the position. A contact-oriented hitter, Simcox has an aggressive approach with good bat-to-ball skills and some potential to find the gaps as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. The Tigers have been aggressive with Simcox, and he should be the primary shortstop at Double-A next year, putting him right on the heels of long-time prospect Dixon Machado.
11. Michael Gerber – Outfielder
Gerber was a 15th round selection in 2014 and has quickly made a name for himself after performing at every level the Tigers have tested him at since he turned pro. The 24-year old Gerber’s calling card is above-average raw power that plays from line to line, and while he feasted on Midwest League pitching in 2014 and 2015, High-A and Double-A hitters are having more luck sequencing against him and inducing swings and misses. Gerber is slowly developing some balance in his approach and has the potential to be a below-average hitter with average in-game power, netting a .250 average and 15-20 home runs with regular playing time. Gerber is a quality defender in right field, showing a plus arm that has good carry and potential to gun down runners. Most scouts believer Gerber projects best as a part-time or reserve outfielder.