There is only one clear cut, top flight prospect in this year's list; and as you might guess, that prospect is 19-year old hurler Rick Porcello. The Tigers #1 pick in the 2007 draft is the clear number one on this list, and the only prospect to not only receive an ‘A' rating, but the only prospect in the entire ‘A' to ‘B' grade range. Calm down, that's not quite as bad as it sounds. This ranking system is notoriously hard on players, and C+ level prospects should still be considered viable Major League prospects.
Beyond Porcello, there are very defined stratifications within the rankings. In the #2 through #7 range, there are several players with very clear Major League aspirations, and these players should be deemed very legitimate threats to compete for roles in Detroit in the coming seasons.
The precipitous fall in the rankings comes beyond this point. Instead of prospects with those one or two things that stand out to make them MLB prospects, we dive into a list of 10-15 prospects that all have interesting skill sets, or strong performance backgrounds, but enough remaining questions that there is concern about their Major League future. Common questions among this group include; Can they overcome a lack of tools? Will they be able to maintain strong performances beyond the lower rungs of the minor league system? Will the tools make a strong transition to in-game, usable skills? These questions and more plague the players filling out the top twenty-five prospects in the organization.
The remainder of the Top 50 prospects carries many of the same questions outlined above, only to a larger degree. Additional questions plaguing this group of players might include; Do they simply have enough tools to be more than a fourth outfielder, reserve infielder, or swingman on the pitching staff? Does this skill set max out against stiffer competition, or do they have enough baseball IQ to get over the hump and knock on the big league door? These types of questions are very difficult to answer, and questions that can easily prevent a player from ranking more highly on any list.
The Tigers have a glut of players that fall in the last two ranges of prospects. Many players listed between twenty-five and fifty could easily move up or down dramatically by the mid-point of next season; based simply on their performance, slight tweaks to the scouting reports, or any positive or negative change in their metrics.
Players in the back of the Top 50 are just as easily interchangeable with those prospects ranking out to about eighty-five on the list. When you land squarely in the ‘C' to ‘C-‘ level of prospect, your ranking is susceptible to wild fluctuations from one year to the next. Once the prospect rankings move into the eighties and beyond, we enter the realm of ‘D' level prospects; those prospects with enough holes, questions, or those that are so far away from translating raw talent to baseball skills, that it becomes difficult to take them seriously as prospects.
With the tweaks made to the system to further refine the ability to generate logical rankings, the list has taken on a justifiable blend of raw talent and production, pure arm strength and moxie, and atmospheric ceilings and plain old good bets. These rankings reflect not just the views of the TigsTown staff, but the compilation of views from many throughout the baseball community; including numerous coaches and scouts. With that in tow, look towards the future of Tiger baseball, and look toward the upper reaches of the TigsTown Top 50 for what might be there to help in Detroit in the coming years.