“We’re on the upswing. We’re not rebuilding anymore. We’re building.”
Detroit Tigers fans hesitantly praised general manager Al Avila for his statement above in July 2021. After years of mismanagement, it seems the brain-trust on Woodward Avenue has recently made solid, positive personnel moves. Add those decisions to an above-average 2021 MLB Draft and increased player development under both AJ Hinch’s managing and Chris Fetter’s coaching, and one can conclude 2022 will become the final transitional year out of AL Central mediocrity.
Many 2021 Top 50 prospects graduated from the prospect pool (Casey Mize, Akil Baddoo, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Daz Cameron, Derek Hill, etc.), causing the 2022 class to not be as deep as previous years. Even so, the 2022 Detroit Tigers farm system is still one of the best in all Major League Baseball.
The organization is led by arguably the best 1-2 combination of prospects in all baseball: Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. Also helping the Tigers maintain their prospect talent pool was the backfill from the 2021 MLB Draft. Headlined by #3 pick Jackson Jobe, the Tigers had what many experts consider to be a fantastic draft. They added proven college arms and high-ceiling youth talent.
Here is the Prospects1500 tier system explained.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster
Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2021.
1. Riley Greene, OF, 21, AAA
Greene has a smooth swing that features effortless power to all fields. Add in the speed and intelligence to cover the outfield quickly and efficiently, and Greene is MLB-ready immediately. One area to watch for in Spring Training is his strikeout rate (27.4%). It is too high for comfort. I expect Riley to begin the 2022 season in Toledo, then have a mid-year callup to Detroit; similar to how Wander Franco was promoted in 2021 for Tampa Bay.
— Toledo Mud Hens (@MudHens) October 2, 2021
2. Spencer Torkelson, 1B/3B, 22, AAA
Torkelson is the top prospect in many publications, and for good reason. Torkelson has incredible power, while also hitting for average. He improved power numbers to the opposite field in 2021 and identified pitches after his promotion to AAA well. So why have Torkelson behind Greene? Torkelson shifted from third base to first base in 2021, with AJ Hinch stating that Spencer is their future at first. This shift from the “hot corner” to the “power corner” adds some unknown to Torkelson’s potential dominance. It’s usually a crowded and popular MVP and All-Star ballot at first base. Unlike Greene, Torkelson has a solid chance to be on the Opening Day roster at first base.
Spencer Torkelson now has THREE multi-homer games this season. pic.twitter.com/vagjXgMhGb
— Detroit Tigers Player Development (@RoadtoDetroit) September 2, 2021
3. Dillon Dingler, C, 23, AA
The 38th overall pick in 2020 (from some school south of Michigan), Dingler had an encouraging 2021. Dingler saw games at three different levels, being promoted for stellar defense and offense each time. The team signing Tucker Barnhart to be the everyday catcher in Detroit should not impact Dingler’s continued climb through the organization.
4. Jackson Jobe, RHP, 19, High School
The #3 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, Jobe has a fastball and slider that keeps hitters off-balance. Jobe was the highest high school player selected, ahead of big names prospects Mayer and Lawler. The arm slot and spin rate of Jobe’s four pitches is incredible. That potential that has pitching coach Chris Fetter excited for Spring Training.
Jackson Jobe: The “Spin Monster.” pic.twitter.com/iwjlxDedu9
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) July 12, 2021
5. Roberto Campos, OF, 18, Rookie (Florida Complex League)
It only takes a first glance to see why the Tigers brass is so high on Campos. At only 18 years, his powerful frame is 6’3”/200 but with speed, quickness, and range. Detroit doesn’t have a good history of high-risk international signings, but Campos promises to change that. In Campos’s first season of professional baseball, he showed above-average power. Campos projects to be breaking into the MLB roster just as Greene and Torkelson hit their prime.
6. Ty Madden, RHP, 21, College
After being selected out of high school in the 34th round of the 2018 MLB Draft, Madden pitched his way to being the 32nd pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. Madden has three above-average pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) and loves to attack hitters with consistent zone pounding. Expect quick promotions through MiLB in 2022.
another sensational outing for @TexasBaseball RHP Ty Madden, one of the top pitchers in the 2021 Draft
last week vs. BYU: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
tonight vs. Houston: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 K
all 14 strikeouts, for your viewing pleasure: pic.twitter.com/I2CkVbDq3X
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) March 6, 2021
7. Cristian Santana, SS, 18, Rookie (DSL)
Santana got a $2.95M signing bonus from Detroit, leading to high expectations for the teenager with an impressive approach and raw talent. Santana had an impressive .940 OPS in the 54 games played in the DSL in 2021.
8. Izaac Pacheco, SS/3B, 19, Rookie (FCL)
The #39 overall pick in the second round of the 2021 MLB Draft, Pacheco has incredible athleticism and raw power from the left side. Although he had 43 strikeouts in 30 games in the FCL in 2021, Pacheco was also on base 42 times via hit or walk.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 20, 2021
9. Reese Olson, RHP, 22, AA
Olson has an above-average slider and change-up combo. In 2021, Olson had 114 strikeouts in 104.2 innings pitched. He avoids the big innings, only allowing six home runs in those same 104+ innings of work.
10. Ryan Kreidler, SS, 24, AAA
Kreidler is the biggest mover from the 2021 rankings. He has shown incredible development since Detroit drafted him in the 4th round of 2019. Kreidler improved his power and patience at the plate in 2021, taking advantage of a lineup featuring Torkelson and Greene’s on-base ability.
11. Dylan Smith, RHP, 21, College
One of the “under-the-radar” selections in the 2021 MLB Draft, Smith’s athletic 6’2” frame allow him to produce above-average pitches from minimal body movement. Finding repetition in his mechanics and arm slot will help confuse opposing hitters with downward and outward tails on his fastball and slider.
12. Joey Wentz, LHP, 24, AA
Wentz is still not at 100% after Tommy John Surgery in 2020, pitching only 73.0 innings in 2021 compared to 128.2 in pre-injury 2019. Wentz’s mid-3 ERA in AA Erie is promising, but the WHIP of 1.46 is too high.
13. Gage Workman, SS/3B, 22, High-A
Workman has good power for a switch-hitting infielder. Consistent average and fewer strikeouts need to be the focus of the 2022 season. Workman hit only .246 in 2021, while striking out 157 times in 118 games.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 9, 2021
14. Colt Keith, 3B, 20, High-A
Keith had a great start to 2021 in Lakeland, hitting .320 with 30 walks in 44 games. Those results earned him a promotion to West Michigan where he struggled to hit .162 with only 8 walks and 27 strikeouts. Colt continues to develop into his 6’3”/210 frame which will add more power.
15. Daniel Cabrera, OF, 23, High-A
Detroit hurt themselves by leaving Cabrera off the Summer Camp in 2020 and Spring Training in 2021. Cabrera took those decisions and turned it into an impressive start to the 2021 MiLB season. Although his average was lower in the second half of the year, 38% of his hits were extra base hits.
16. Kody Clemens, 2B, 25, AAA
The oldest Tiger in the top tiers of the organization, Clemens continues to show improvement each year since being drafted in 2018. Compared to the last full MiLB season in 2019, Clemens increased his home runs, average, and OPS in 2021. At the same time, Kody decreased his strikeout rate.
17. Parker Meadows, OF, 22, High-A
Meadows, like Keith, struggled after being promoted to High-A West Michigan. He has the natural talent to project into a solid overall player but needs to develop into a more consistent hitter. Finding gap power and increasing his walk rate will put Meadows’ above-average speed into more impactful positions.
18. Beau Brieske, RHP, 23, AA
19. Trei Cruz, SS, 23, Low-A
20. Alex Faedo, RHP, 26, DNP
21. Andre Lipcius, 3B/2B, 23, AA
22. Jose De La Cruz, OF, 19, Low-A
23. Garrett Hill, RHP, 25, AA
24. Bryant Packard, OF, 24, High-A
25. Adinso Reyes, SS, 20, Rookie (FCL)
26. Abel Bastidas, SS, 18, Rookie (FCL)
27. Paul Richan, RHP, 24, AA
28. Jason Foley, RHP, 26, MLB
29. Alex Lange, RHP, 26, MLB
30. Keider Montero, RHP, 21, High-A
31. Tanner Kohlhepp, RHP, 22, College
32. Wenceel Perez, SS, 22, High-A
33. Zack Hess, RHP, 24, AA
34. Jacob Robson, OF, 27, MLB
35. Rony Garcia, RHP, 24, MLB
36. Cooper Johnson, C, 23, High-A
37. Nivaldo Rodriguez, RHP, 24, MLB (Houston Astros)
38. Miguel Del Pozo, LHP, 29, MLB
Brieske, the Detroit Tigers MiLB Pitcher of the Year in 2021, should continue to build confidence and pitch deception into 2022. It will be interesting to watch the development of three key international signings, De La Cruz, Reyes, and Bastidas, as they get their first full MiLB seasons in their career. There are a few MLB bullpen arms who will once again see time in Comerica Park. Out of the threesome of Foley, Lange, and Garcia, there will be one or possibly two that contribute pivotal holds and stranded runners for the big league club.
The wild cards within this tier are Alex Faedo and Trei Cruz. Can the 1st round pick of 2017 return to have any potential of the prospect Faedo was coming out of college? I am not ready to give up all hope but may be blinded by homer bias and the high-quality human Alex is off the mound. Cruz struggled through injuries and poor play in his first full MiLB season, hitting only .161 in 63 games. The 3rd round pick in 2020 has the talent and pedigree to be better. Look for Trei to improve greatly in 2022.
39. Elvin Rodriguez, RHP, 23, AAA
40. Eliezer Alfonzo, C, 22, High-A
41. Kingston Liniak, OF, 22, Low-A
42. Austin Murr, OF, 22, High-A
43. Ulrich Bojarski, OF, 23, AA
44. Wladimir Pinto, RHP, 23, AAA
45. Tyler Mattison, RHP, 21, College
46. Franklin Perez, RHP, 24, DNP
47. Gerson Moreno, RHP, 26, AAA
48. Max Green, LHP, 25, AA
49. Carlos Guzman, RHP, 23, Low-A
50. Brant Hurter, LHP, 23, College
Rodriguez was added to the MLB 40-man roster to avoid him becoming a free agent. Look for him to be given both starting and relief opportunities in Spring Training. Elvin was the centerpiece in the Justin Upton trade with the Angels way back in 2017. In this tier are four 2021 MLB Draft selections: Murr, Mattison, Hurter, and Schultz. Murr hit .344 and reached base 41 times in only 24 games at West Michigan.
Perez continues his freefall through the Tigers’ prospect rankings. Once the headline player coming to Detroit in the Justin Verlander trade, Franklin has struggled with injuries and went unclaimed off waivers in 2021. Unlike Faedo, I am not optimistic that Perez has much more time in the Detroit farm system.
Aligning with purely personal bias, Liniak continues to be a fan favorite in Lakeland. From his hustle on the field to his interaction with fans off the field, it is easy to look past the .193 average and 121 strikeouts.