Over the years, the Tigers have been considered one of the weaker systems and having been in constant “win now” mode has left it with little depth. With that being said, over the last five years the Tigers have been very well represented in the Futures Game. In honor of the 2017 game and Tigers prospects Beau Burrows and Jairo Labourt being named to the team, I thought it would be fun to look back at Tigers prospects from the last 5 years, what got them there, and where they are now.
Beau Burrows, RHP, AA Erie (US Team)
Burrows is my #5 ranked Tigers prospect. He used his time in Lakeland to land this addition to the roster. In A+ Lakeland, he had a 1.23 ERA over 58.2 innings. He also had 62 strikeouts and a 0.95 WHIP, while holding opposing hitters to a .221 batting average. He was promoted to AA Erie on June 5th and is definitely having some growing pains. In his 5 starts for the SeaWolves, he has a 6.56 ERA, 20 strikeouts, and a 1.89 WHIP over 23.1 innings. His high ERA can be attributed to two starts where he gave up 5 earned and 6 earned, where the rest of his starts have been career average. I would expect him to level out and resume great numbers, just maybe not up to the standard he set for the Flying Tigers. He is definitely a prospect on the rise in the Tigers system and is looking more and more like a potential steal for the Tigers. The big thing to remember, is he is only 20 and should be the first of the next round of starting pitching reinforcements to reach the Tigers.
Jairo Labourt, LHP, AA Erie (World Team)
Labourt is currently my #29 ranked Tigers prospect. He came to the Tigers system from the Blue Jays in the David Price trade. This one is an absolute shock to me and he will definitely be moving up my list of prospects. Earlier this year, I noted that I wanted to see him finally make the jump to AA and he did just that. He is being used in relief and this year in Erie he has pitched in 28.1 innings, with a 2.22 ERA, 55 strikeouts, a 0.953 WHIP, and has 4 holds. This is definitely the type of breakout year I was looking for him to have and he definitely trending towards being a reliever in the big league in a couple of years.
Christin Stewart, OF, A+ Lakeland (US Team)
Stewart is currently my #4 ranked Tigers prospect, but can make a case for being #1 or #2 in my next ratings. The former first round supplemental pick has been fantastic this year and used a fantastic 2016 to snag a spot on the US Team in 2016. He is currently batting .278/.355/.556 for the SeaWolves and has hit 19 home runs and 60 RBIs as of July 4th. He has been battling for the Eastern League home run lead and definitely profiles as a power hitting left fielder and could crack the Tigers as early as next year. I am very high on him and expect big things out of him to finish up this year. I just hope I get a chance to see him in Toledo next year before he makes the bigs. If he is available in your dynasty league and you need a future home run hitter, grab him now.
Joe Jimenez, RHP, AA Erie (World Team 2015, 2016)
Jimenez is rated as my #1 prospect currently. This may change due to others’ performances and trades with my next update after the trade deadline. Joe was the lone Tigers representative in 2015 and also appeared in 2016, both for the World team. Joe has used an impressive array of pitches, mainly relying on his fastball. He has closer-type potential and that is how he is currently being used in AAA Toledo, after a demotion due to early struggles with the big league team. Joe also battled a back injury, that has limited his work in 2017. For the year, he is pitching to a 2.57 ERA in 16 games in the minors, with 4 saves. In his brief stay in Detroit, he pitched in 5 games with a 12.46 ERA. He has lost a tiny bit of luster in my eyes, but with the way he is pitching in Toledo and the recent release of Francisco Rodriguez, I think his time away from Detroit is short. He has the makings to be the next Tigers closer, so he is definitely worth stashing in your dynasty leagues. He could be due a call up as quick as the trade deadline if veteran relief pitchers are dealt. He is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Jake Thompson, RHP, A+ Lakeland (US Team)
Thompson was once one of the higher rated prospects in the Tigers organization. He was a 2nd round pick in 2012 and was lights out until the time of his trading in 2014. In 2014, he was traded to the Rangers, along with current Brewers closer Corey Knebel, for Joakim Soria. He played in the Rangers organization for a year and was later part of the Cole Hamels trade with the Phillies. He has since been splitting time between the Phillies and their AAA team the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He is being used in the minors as a starter, and has been used both as a reliever and starter in the majors. The jury is still out on him, but he can no longer be considered a prospect, so I can’t advise stashing him until he produces on the major league level, something he has not done.
Steven Moya, OF, AA Erie (World Team)
Moya is still with the Tigers organization and funny enough was recently demoted to the AA SeaWolves. He was at one time one of the higher regarded Tigers prospects. He used an incredible 2014 to land on the World roster for the Futures game, batting .276/.306/.555 with 35 home runs. His strikeouts where the big worry, as he did strikeout 161 times. He has since gone on to make appearances in AAA Toledo and in Detroit, but has not stuck with either team. He was designated for assignment after being out of options in spring training this year, where he was later assigned to AAA. His 2017 numbers in Toledo were atrocious, batting .166/.222/.344 with 61 strikeouts and 7 home runs over 151 at bats. This earned him his demotion where he is currently batting .158/.261/.211. I used to be on the Moya train, but I can’t seriously recommend him to any serious fantasy owner. The only saving grace is that he is 25, so he has time to figure it out, but I don’t see him cracking the Tigers roster over the current minor league options including teammates Christin Stewart, Mike Gerber, or Jacoby Jones in Toledo.
Jordan Lennerton, Infielder, AAA Toledo (World Team)
Lennerton used strong numbers in 2013 in AAA Toledo to make the World Team. He would finish 2013 batting .278/.382/.430 with 17 home runs for the Mud Hens. This would be his last good season in the Tigers system, as his number steadily dropped and he was released from the Tigers in 2015. Shortly after he was signed by the Braves but never cracked their big league roster either. He was released in 2016 and is not playing in MLB or MiLB baseball, since returning to his native Canada and playing for Quebec in the Canadian-American Association. He has no value at this time.
James McCann, Catcher, AA Erie (US Team)
McCann is a current catcher with the Tigers. James was a decent player in the Minor Leagues, with career numbers including .265/.315/.374 with 18 home runs over his couple of years. Since moving to the Major Leagues he has a career line of .239/.285/.382. His best season was his rookie season in 2015, but has since battled a couple of injures and his numbers have steadily dropped, while his home run numbers have increased. He is not a first option at catcher in your fantasy league, but does have nice pop for a catcher. He is still young at 27, so I think he has time to get back to a steady .250ish average with 20-25 home runs a year. I think that is his best case, where I think realistically he’ll slide to more of a .235/.240 catcher with 15-20 home runs. That being said, he is set to be the starting catcher for the next couple of years, but the Tigers did draft two catchers with high picks this year that could be his replacement in future years if his numbers do not improve.
Bruce Rondon, RHP, AA Erie (World Team)
Rondon is currently active as part of the Major League team. Bruce has risen through the Tigers system, showing an ability to get his fastball up to 100 MPH. Bruce’s favor has fallen dramatically in Detroit over the years, as he has had a hard time focusing (he was sent home from the team in 2015), and staying consistent. He has had a rough 2017 in the majors, going 1-1, with a 12.46 ERA in a little over 4.1 innings pitched. He’s fared better in the minor leagues, but he is currently only on the major league roster due to the release of Francisco Rodriguez. As of now, he may have some minor fantasy appeal, if he can get back to what he was doing in 2016. He has a chance, barring what happens at the trade deadline, to fight for the closer’s job in 2017 and beyond with current Prospects 1500 #1 prospect Joe Jimenez (this is pending changes after the deadline) and current closer Justin Wilson.
Rob Brantly, Catcher, AAA Toledo (US Team)
Brantly has been a bust on the Major League level since his appearance in the 2012 game. After playing in the Futures Game, he was a big piece in the trade that brought Omar Infante and Anibel Sanchez from the Marlins to the Tigers in 2012, a trade that helped take the Tigers to the World Series. The Marlins were the definite loser on this trade, striking out on Brantly and Jacob Turner, who participated in the 2011 Futures game. Brantly went on to eventually make the Major Leagues with the Marlins, where he posted mediocre numbers. He has since bounced around organizations and is currently playing for the Charlotte Knights, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Since signing a minor league deal with the team on June 29th, he has posted a .250/.250/.625 line, with 1 home run. For the entire year, all in AAA, he has posted a .295/.332/.443 line, with 6 home runs and three stolen bases. He is currently only depth at catcher, so only worth picking up on the waiver wire if he makes the majors leagues this season. He is not worth stashing long term.
Nicholas Castellanos, Infielder, AA Erie (US Team)
Castellanos had a solid minor league career, solid enough to earn him the starting third baseman job with the Tigers since 2014. Entering his fourth full season with the Tigers, Nicholas is batting .247/.313/.438 this year, with 10 home runs. This is down from his career numbers from last year, where he hit .285/.331/.496 with 18 home runs. He plays a decent, but not great third base, but has the position on lockdown as there is not a better third baseman in the system. His bat has always been more of a power bat and playing most of his games in Comerica causes him to hit mostly doubles with the occasional triple. I’d be shocked if he is moved at this year’s trade deadline and I expect him to be the starting third baseman for the next couple of years in Detroit at a minimum. He is definitely worth a place on your roster as he does have solid, but not elite, potential.
Article featured image of Beau Burrows – courtesy TheLedger.com/Pierre DuCharme
Nick Bradford is a writer for Prospects 1500 covering the Detroit Tigers. He resides in southeast Michigan with his wife and daughter. He is an avid fan of the Tigers, the Mudhens, and anything baseball (fantasy or MLB). He is a graduate of Central Michigan University and works as a support manager for a software company. Follow me on Twitter at @firedupchippewa.