7/27/2014 9:00 P.M. ET
Tigers draftee Hill atop updated Top 20 list
By Jim Callis / MLB.com
With the passing of the Draft signing deadline, teams have had a recent influx of talent into their farm systems, and with that, we've updated the Top 20 Prospects lists of all 30 teams.
To be on a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Check out all 30 team Top 20 lists and the Top 100 on Prospect Watch.
1. Derek Hill, OF
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting rades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 70 | Arm: 50 | Field: 65 | Overall: 55
Hill had as much helium as any position player in the last couple of weeks before the 2014 Draft. The Tigers felt fortunate to get him with the 23rd overall pick in June and signed him for $2 million. Now he'll try to go one step further than his father Orsino, who topped out in Triple-A as an outfielder and now scouts for the Dodgers.
Derek stands out most with his plus-plus speed. He can run the 60-yard dash in less than 6.4 second, and his quickness gives him tremendous range in center field and allows him to be a disruptive force on the bases.
Hill has some offensive potential to go with his speed. He has the bat speed and strike-zone discipline to hit for average, and he should have solid gap power once he fills out. As a bonus, he throws better than most center fielders.
2. Robbie Ray, LHP
MLB Top 100 rank: None (Preseason: 97)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
After a disappointing 2012, repeating the Carolina League turned out pretty well for Ray. He pitched his way to Double-A Harrisburg and led all Nationals Minor Leaguers with 160 strikeouts. He then was traded to the Tigers in December in the Doug Fister deal. Ray beat the Astros in his first big league start on May 6, then shut out the Twins for six innings in his second.
Ray throws his fastball in the low-90s and can reach back for a tick more velocity when he needs it. His slider can look slurvy at times, but the best ones have good depth. He has a good feel for his changeup, which is a more consistent offering. His command has improved, but he would benefit from further refinement.
Ray is a good athlete and has proven to be durable. He relies more on pitchability than overpowering stuff to get outs, but he has what it takes to succeed as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
3. Willy Adames, SS
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
The Tigers' most expensive pickup during the 2012-13 international signing period, Adames received a $420,000 bonus to turn pro out of the Dominican Republic. Though he didn't tear it up in his professional debut in 2013, his advanced feel for the game made Detroit comfortable enough to send him to low Class A this season as an 18-year-old, and he has held his own.
The youngest everyday player in the Midwest League, Adames has maintained his patient approach at the plate. His bat speed portends average power once he adds more strength, and he could be a solid hitter once he makes more consistent contact.
After seeing time at third base in 2013, Adames has played exclusively at shortstop this year. He has the hands and arm strength to remain at shortstop, though he lacks the quickness desired at the position and could move to second or third base down the road.
4. Jonathon Crawford, RHP
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
Recruited by most colleges as an outfielder, Crawford blossomed into a first-round pick as a pitcher during three years at Florida. He went 20th overall in the 2013 Draft, making him the Tigers' highest selection since they took Jacob Turner at No. 9 in 2009, and signed for $2,001,700.
Crawford has a live arm, usually working at 93-94 mph and touching 96 with heavy sink on his fastball. When he stays on top of his slider, it's an above-average pitch in the low 80s. He also throws a changeup, though it lags behind his other two offerings.
Crawford battles his delivery and release point, so he lacks consistency with his secondary pitches and command. His ability to throw quality strikes on a regular basis ultimately will determine whether he's a frontline starter or a late-inning reliever.
5. Devon Travis, 2B
Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
A 13th-round pick in 2012, Travis was one of the biggest surprises in the Minor Leagues in 2013. He finished second in the Minor Leagues with a .351 batting average and third with 177 hits.
Travis has proven he simply knows how to put the bat on the ball. He has an advanced approach at the plate and uses his quick, compact swing to make hard contact. He showed some surprising power as a professional, but he's more of a gap hitter than a slugger. He's a heady player, allowing his average speed to play up on the basepaths.
Travis is a solid defender at second base. His tools aren't the loudest, but he has the potential to be an everyday second baseman in the big leagues.
6. Kevin Ziomek, LHP
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
The Tigers have signed seven players out of Vanderbilt in the last four years, including Ziomek for $956,600 as a second-rounder in 2013. He reminds them of another former Southeastern Conference southpaw, Drew Smyly, with less command but a better slider at the same stage of their careers.
Ziomek lacks a true plus pitch but he throws strikes with three average or better offerings. His fastball usually sits around 90 but can reach 94 at times, and he'll also shows signs of a plus changeup on occasion. His slider can get sweepy but is effective against lefthanders.
Scouts don't love Ziomek's arm action and he throws across his body somewhat, but that provides some deception without compromising his ability to find the strike zone. He has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.
7. Austin Kubitza, RHP
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
A seventh-round pick by the Pirates out of a Texas high school in 2010, Kubitza opted to attend Rice instead. He ranked seventh in NCAA Division I with 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings in 2013 -- one spot ahead of No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel -- but Kubitza lasted until the fourth round because scouts were concerned that his over-reliance on his slider had sapped his velocity.
Kubitza's slider still is his best pitch, a mid-80s breaker with a lot of bite. The Tigers are calling for his slider a lot less than Rice did, and his fastball has perked up. He's working in the low 90s with good sink that induces a lot of groundouts.
The brother of Braves third-base prospect Kyle Kubitza, Austin has a rudimentary changeup. He shows the control and command to remain in the rotation, though some scouts worry that his crossfire delivery puts too much stress on his shoulder and believe he'd last longer as a sinker/slider reliever.
8. Steven Moya, OF
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 60 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45
Moya has an impressive package of tools -- perhaps the most impressive in Detroit's system -- but he has had trouble turning them into baseball skills. Tommy John surgery in 2012 and a strained left (non-throwing) shoulder in 2013 cost him valuable playing time, which he needs to refine his exceedingly raw instincts. He has stayed healthy this year and played well enough to earn a spot in the Futures Game.
Moya is loaded with raw power, owns a strong arm and runs very well for a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder. He looks the part of a prototype right fielder, but whether he plays that role for the Tigers depends on how much polish he can add. He has a long swing and gets himself way too often by chasing pitches out of the strike zone, repeatedly looking foolish against offspeed stuff.
Though he moves well, Moya isn't a basestealing threat and can look rough in the outfield. He often gets poor jumps, making fly balls an adventure.
9. Buck Farmer, RHP
Preseason rank:None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Farmer could have gone in the top three or four rounds of the 2013 Draft, but signability concerns drove him down to the 15th round, where the Brewers took him. He returned to Georgia Tech rather than signing with Milwaukee and became one of the top college seniors in the 2014 Draft, going in the fifth round for $225,000. So for, has looked like a bargain.
Farmer hit 95 mph at times with the Yellow Jackets but usually pitched with an average fastball in college. As a pro, he has operated at 92-94 mph. His slider also has gotten harder and more consistent, giving him a second weapon.
He has made some progress as well, increasing Farmer's chances of developing into a No. 3 or 4 starter. He does a good job of throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone, which helps his cause.
10. Domingo Leyba, 2B
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Signed for $400,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, Leyba had a spectacular pro debut the following summer. He led the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in batting (.348), slugging (.577) and OPS (1.023), creating plenty of anticipation for his arrival in the United States in 2014.
Leyba has an advanced approach for such a young player, showing deft control of the strike zone and ability to hit line drives all over the field. As a bonus, he's a switch-hitter, and he has the potential to produce double-figure home run power once he adds strength.
An average runner, Leyba fits best at second base but also saw action at shortstop in the DSL. He has good defensive instincts and reliable hands to go with average arm strength and range.
11. Hernan Perez, SS/2B
Scouting rades: Hit: 50 | Power: 35 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
After hitting just .233 in his first three pro seasons, Perez has steadily raised his batting average in each of his four years in full-season ball. He hit a career-high .301 in the Minors in 2013, which earned him a September callup and a spot on Detroit's postseason roster.
Perez makes consistent line-drive contact to all fields, though he's so good at putting the bat on the ball that he rarely walks. He has occasional pop and runs the bases with average speed and keen instincts. Unless he develops more patience, he probably fits toward the bottom of a big league batting order.
After playing mostly second base in 2011-13, Perez has seen most of his action at shortstop this season. He has average arm strength and range, and he can make a flashy play now and then.
12. Jose Valdez, RHP
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 75 | Slider: 60 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
Valdez has taken an unusual career path. He didn't sign out of the Dominican Republic until the relatively advanced age of 19, and he spent three seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before coming over to the United States. Since then, he has led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with 15 saves in 2012 and ranked second in the Minors with 33 saves between two Class A stops in 2013.
Valdez has enough stuff to keep closing games as he climbs through the Detroit system. He regularly climbs into the upper 90s with his fastball and occasionally reaches triple digits, and his heater has heavy sink that makes it that much more difficult to hit. He can overpower batters with his mid-80s slider as well.
To become a big league closer, Valdez will have to throw more strikes. He has averaged 5.7 walks per nine innings in the first five years of his career, and an upright finish to his delivery may be partly to blame.
13. Spencer Turnbull, RHP
Preseason rank:None (2014 Draft)
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
At Alabama, Turnbull sliced his ERA from 5.60 as a freshman to 3.70 as a sophomore to 2.22 as a junior this spring. He cleaned up his delivery, improved his velocity and control and pitched himself into the second round of the Draft, where he signed with the Tigers for $900,600.
After peaking at 94 mph with his fastball in 2013, Turnbull now works at 92-94 and tops out at 98. The life on his fastball also has gotten better, and he uses his size and high-three-quarters delivery to throw it on a downhill plane. His slider has taken a step forward as well and shows signs of becoming a plus pitch.
With the makings of an average changeup and a strong build, Turnbull projects as a possible mid-rotation starter. His command isn't nearly as strong as his control, however, so it's possible he could wind up as a late-inning reliever.
14. James McCann, C
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 40 | Run: 30 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
The Tigers went three straight Drafts from 2010-12 where they gave up their first-round pick as free-agent compensation. McCann was their top choice in 2011, when he went 76th overall. He reached Double-A in his first full pro season and struggled there offensively, but hit much better when he returned to that level in 2013.
McCann's calling card remains his defense, however. He has solid catch-and-throw skills, soft hands and the leadership to run a pitching staff. He has thrown out 39 percent of basestealers during his first three years as a pro.
McCann's bat will determine whether he's a big league regular. He has some pop but his swing gets long and he will chase pitches out of the strike zone. At worst, he should be a defensive-minded backup.
15. Drew VerHagen, RHP
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
VerHagen pitched at three colleges in three years, winning the Junior College World Series at Navarro (Texas) JC between stints at Oklahoma and Vanderbilt. Scouts always have liked his big frame and his arm strength, which is what led the Tigers to draft him in the fourth round in 2012.
VerHagen throws 91-95 mph fastballs on a steep downhill plane, and his heater tends to sink. He lacked a consistent breaking ball as an amateur, but he made progress in 2013, flashing a plus curveball at times. He also can show a decent changeup that bottoms out at the plate.
Once he got to Double-A in the second half last year, VerHagen started throwing a lot more strikes. If he can keep doing that and continue to refine his curve, he could be a No. 3 or 4 starter and he could help Detroit in 2014.
16. Tyler Collins, OF
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Collins has a history of hitting wherever he has gone. He batted .404 playing part-time as a Baylor freshman in 2010, then won national junior college player of the year honors after hitting .488 at Howard (Texas) JC in 2011. He batted .296 in his first two pro seasons -- then noticeably changed his approach in 2013.
Collins' batting average tumbled to .240 in Double-A, but he also bashed 21 homers. He got too power-conscious and tried to pull too many pitches, but there's a happy medium where he can use his formerly shorter stroke and the whole field, and be a solid hitter with average power.
Though he's a below-average runner, Collins shows good instincts on the bases and the outfield. He has a decent arm and has played on both corners, seeing the majority of his time in left field.
17. Melvin Mercedes, RHP
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 60 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
The Tigers introduced one hefty, hard-throwing reliever to the big leagues last season in Bruce Rondon, and they have another on the way. Mercedes has lowered his ERA in each of his four years in full-season ball, dropping it to a miniscule 1.19 in 2013.
Mercedes' main pitch is a fastball that usually operates in the mid-90s and has reached 99 mph. He gets good sink on his heater when he throws it more at 93-95. His slider lacks consistency but can hit the upper 80s and is a plus pitch when it's on.
For someone with his power stuff, Mercedes doesn't miss as many bats as he should. He doesn't have any problem finding the strike zone, but his long arm action enables hitters to see the ball and he has averaged just 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings during his first six pro seasons. He might fit as more of a middle reliever in the Major Leagues.
18. Grayson Greiner, C
Preseason rank:None (2014 Draft)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 45 | Run: 30 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
The Tigers hope Greiner will buck history after they signed him for $529,400 as their third-round pick in June.He stands 6-foot-5, which would match the tallest height ever for a regular catcher in the Major Leagues. Scouts often are wary of big backstops because they have longer releases and tend not to move well behind the plate, but they actually rate his defense more highly than his offense.
Greiner has a strong, accurate arm. He's surprisingly agile for his size, receives the ball well and exhibits fine leaderships skills. His defensive ability and makeup were major reasons why he made the U.S. collegiate national team in each of the previous two summers (though he missed out in 2012 because of a knee injury).
Ultimately, Greiner's bat will determine whether he's an everyday player or a backup at the big league level. His size and strength give him plenty of raw power, but his right-handed swing can get long and he has yet to fully tap into his pop in game situations.
19. Angel Nesbitt, RHP
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
The Tigers left Nesbitt unprotected in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft but were able to sneak him through in part because he hadn't pitched above the Midwest League. That likely won't be the case again this fall, as he has made significant strides this season and advanced to Double-A Erie.
Nesbitt stands out most for his fastball, which sits in the mid 90s and touches 98 mph. He's made improvements to both his slider and changeup, which are now good enough to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. Though there is a lot of effort to his delivery, he throws his whole arsenal for strikes and doesn't back down from hitters.
The Tigers have become adept at developing hard-throwing relievers, and Nesbitt could eventually join that group in Detroit.
20. Endrys Briceno, RHP
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 35 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
Briceno didn't reach a full-season league until 2013, his fifth year as a professional, and hasn't had much success. Yet the Tigers believe his slow progress and so-so stats belie the life in his right arm and the projection remaining in his skinny 6-foot-5 frame. Unfortunately for him, he blew out his elbow three starts into the 2014 season, had Tommy John surgery and won't return to the mound until mid-2015.
Briceno's best pitch is a 92-94 mph fastball, and while it doesn't have a lot of life, he does a good job of using his height to leverage it down in the strike zone and get groundouts. He could throw harder as his body physically matures, though his fastball already qualifies as a plus pitch.
To make it as a starter, Briceno will have to improve the rest of his repertoire, as well as his control and command. He'll flash some solid curveballs but his changeup is little more than a batting-practice fastball. He falls behind in counts to often, allowing hitters to sit on his heater.