10. JaCoby Jones – Utility
Jones remains one of the best athletes in the Tigers system, and after serving the remainder of his suspension for a positive recreational drug test, he returned to the field and quickly earn a promotion to Triple-A. Though he has stumbled at the highest rung of the minor league ladder, Jones has demonstrated his versatility, playing all across the infield and even in center field during his return to the diamond this summer. In addition, he still shows good speed and thump in his bat, both of which make him an enticing utility option. Jones should see big league time in 2017 and could be a versatile fixture on the Tigers roster for several years.
9. Kyle Funkhouser – Right-Handed Pitcher
Detroit’s fourth round pick this summer, Funkhouser signed for $750,000 and has pitched well (3.13 ERA through eight starts) in the New York-Penn League. During his brief stint as a professional, Funkhouser has predominantly shown a low-90s fastball that will dip to 89-90 mph and reach as high as 94 mph at times. His breaking ball and changeup have both flashed in the above-average range, but both remain inconsistent. Scouts that have seen him both during the college season and this summer with Connecticut suggest he’s throwing more strikes and moving his fastball around the strike zone more effectively, which is a positive development. With continued progress and an adjustment to the pro schedule, Funkhouser could develop as a solid back of the rotation starter with solid stuff, or some scouts believe he could see an uptick in his fastball if he were used in short stints late in games out of the bullpen.
8. Tyler Alexander – Left-Handed Pitcher
Not the overpowering pitching prospect many have come to expect from the Tigers, Alexander is a classic finesse lefty with strong command of a broad arsenal, and innate feel for pitching. With an upper-80s fastball that will scrape the low-90s at times, Alexander moves the ball around the zone and keeps hitters off balance by adding and subtracting and moving the pitch off the edges of the strike zone. His breaking ball and changeup are both solid offerings that can induce weak contact and miss some barrels. He fills up the strike zone with his entire arsenal and should be a competent back-end starter at the big league level.
7. Dixon Machado – Shortstop
Machado has continued to show an improved offensive game over the last couple of years, giving some in the scouting community hope that he could fill a second division role as an everyday shortstop. A more likely scenario involves Machado finding room on a big league bench where his exceptional defensive skills will be a welcome addition to any team, and his approach and ability to make contact will put him in a position to use his above-average speed on the bases. Machado isn’t a premium prospect, but he is capable of contributing at the big league level.
6. Christin Stewart – Outfielder
One of the rising stars of the Tigers system this season, Stewart has shown that he clearly has above-average to plus raw power in his bat, blasting doubles and home runs from the minute he stepped foot in the Florida State League. Stewart’s approach appeared to have improved this summer, but in reality more teams were pitching around him in the Lakeland lineup, leaving some question as to how he will handle being challenged at upper levels. If Stewart continues to work counts and find pitches he can drive, his bat has a chance to compensate for his poor defensive profile that is limited to left field. If the bat materializes as many project, Stewart could be a solid to above-average left fielder that hits in the middle of the order.
5. Joe Jimenez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Jimenez has climbed from High-A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo on the back of an exceptional season that includes few hits, fewer runs, and lots of strikeouts. He has been able to mask his control and command challenges with dominating stuff and an attacking style, allowing him to continue getting outs even without a true feel for where the ball is going. Stewart’s fastball and slider can both be weapons against any hitter, and he will flash a changeup at times, giving him a third pitch that hitters must at least acknowledge. At his best, Jimenez looks the part of a dominating closer. When his command falters, he looks more like the setup reliever that many scouts believe is his ultimate outcome. While fans continue to clamor for Jimenez to arrive in Detroit before season’s end, they could have to wait until 2017 when the Tigers can manipulate their 40-man roster in a better manner to make it work.
4. Steven Moya – Outfielder
Despite all the naysayers trumpeting last season’s Triple-A struggles as the evidence that Steven Moya’s approach had finally cost him every bit of his prospect status, Moya managed to come back this year and show considerable improvement yet again. Though he still has robust swing and miss in his game, Moya curtailed his strikeouts for much of the season and worked more counts in his favor on a consistent basis. This development again allowed his elite raw power to manifest in game situations. All that said, Moya must make similar adjustments against big league arms that exploited him during his brief Detroit cameo this season, and he must get his defensive game back on track if he wants to be a big league regular down the line.
3. Matt Manning – Right-Handed Pitcher
The Tigers top pick this summer, Manning could shoot to the top of this list in short order. An exceptional athlete with projection galore, Manning has the potential to become a frontline starting pitching prospect. In his admittedly brief pro career leading up to the finalization of this list, Manning’s raw stuff was down a tick across the board from where pre-draft reports placed him, leaving some pause before shooting him too far up the list. At his best, Manning can sit in the 93-95 mph range and will touch as high as 98 mph with his fastball, while flashing some feel for both a curveball and changeup that could be weapons down the line. Manning is very raw and will take time to develop, but the payoff could be huge for the Tigers.
2. Beau Burrows – Right-Handed Pitcher
Burrows has done his part on the field to justify his first-round pedigree by performing in the Midwest League as a teenager this year, though he has only logged 79 innings due to both injury and strict pitch counts managing his workload. When he’s right, Burrows can work in the 93-95 mph range and will scrape higher, but all too often this season scouts have been reporting his fastball in the 90-92 range with life, rather than the higher velocity bands. He will combine his fastball with a potential plus curveball and potential average changeup, giving him a well-rounded arsenal that can be mixed and matched against hitters. Burrows must miss more bats to reach his pure ceiling as a number two or three starter, otherwise he profiles more as a number four starter with quality stuff and an ability to eat innings.
1. Derek Hill – Outfielder
The stat page hasn’t always been kind to Hill in his pro career and it is easy to look at this ranking and think us crazy. That said, when a player’s evaluation includes double-plus speed, a potential double-plus glove in center field that could play in the big leagues immediately, and an average arm, that’s an awfully impressive resume right out of the gate. Add on top of that premium athleticism, instincts for the game, exceptional makeup, and plus bat speed, and you have the ingredients for a potential first division player that impacts the game on both sides of the ball. Hill has work to do at the plate, but with his defensive and base running skill set, all he will have to do in order to justify a spot in the everyday lineup is hit .250-.260 with gap power. Hill has a chance to exceed that type of production pretty easily, which gives him the best chance of any player in this system to become a true above-average to plus regular.