Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

2017 TigsTools: Detroit Tigers Best Athlete

One need not be an amazing athlete to succeed in baseball, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Athleticism helps pitchers repeat their mechanics and be more consistent with their stuff, and position players who are good athletes tend to have better bat speed and the ability to contribute on the basepaths and in the field. The Tigers aren’t known for emphasizing athleticism in their player acquisitions, but they do have a few impressive athletes in the minors, including last year’s first-round pick.

Best Athlete

1. JaCoby Jones (OF)

2. Matt Manning (RHP)

3. Derek Hill (OF)

4. Jose Azocar (OF)

5. A.J. Simcox (SS)


Tigers fans have seen JaCoby Jones’ athleticism on display this season, getting a glimpse of at least average raw power, and watching as he uses his above-average speed to glide around the bases and the outfield. He boasts the strong, athletic build of a football player (he played wide receiver and safety in high school) and he’s been versatile enough to play outfield and infield in both college and pro ball.


As the son of a former NBA player, Matt Manning has rare athleticism for a pitcher. The 6’6 righthander was himself a star on the basketball court, averaging 20 points and 6 rebounds per game in his senior season, and before turning pro he earned a scholarship to play both baseball and basketball for Loyola Marymount University.


Hill is a lean athlete blessed with plus-plus speed that helps him track down nearly everything in center field and makes him a terror on the basepaths. He also shows good bat speed, a throwing arm that was at least average before his Tommy John surgery, and both his father Orsino Hill and his cousin Darryl Strawberry were first-round MLB draft picks.


Azocar is the smallest player on this list, but he’s a terrific athlete with a quick swing, the plus speed to capably man center field, and a throwing arm that earns some 70 grades.


Simcox is above-average athlete who spent three years playing shortstop for the Tennessee Volunteers and has the defensive chops and quick-twitch actions to stick at the position in pro ball.


Honorable Mention

Cam Gibson (OF)

Anthony Pereira (IF)

Brady Policelli (C)

Ulrich Bojarski (OF)


Gibson is another prospect with athletic bloodlines and plus-plus speed. He even shows flashes of surprising power, though it’s certainly not on par with his dad Kirk’s pop. He falls behind Manning and Hill because he’s still learning to turn his impressive physical traits into useful baseball skills.


Pereira is more of an average athlete, but he’s got a chance to be average across the board while playing up the middle on defense. His speed is a tick above average, he has some pop in his bat, and while he’s best suited to play second base, he has adequate range and arm strength to fill in at shortstop or third.


The Tigers took Policelli in the 13th round of last year’s draft after he hit .375 with nine home runs and 22 steals for Towson University, where he was primarily a shortstop. He was an all-state quarterback in high school, and the Tigers are betting his strong arm and footwork will help him develop into a good defensive catcher.


Bojarski is raw in many aspects of his game, but he's already an above-average athlete in a grown man’s body. With some development he could be a prototypical right fielder, showing a plus arm and the potential for above-average speed and power.


Projection Kings


Ildemaro Escalona (IF)

Alexis Garcia (IF)

Yerjeni Perez (SS)

Jhon Sandoval (OF)

Escalona has a chance to shoot up this list in the near future if he can translate his raw tools and athleticism into baseball skills. He shows good bat speed, a chance for above-average power, a plus arm that will play at shortstop or third base, and the speed to handle center field.


Garcia has played shortstop, second base, and third base in his first two pro seasons, but the 19-year-old will likely settle in at third once he starts to fill out his athletic frame.

Neither Perez nor Sandoval has played a professional game yet, but they were priority signings for the Tigers on the 2016 International market in part because their impressive bodies give them a chance to be premium athletes as they mature.


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