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Detroit Tigers 2012 Top 10 Prospects List

It’s the time of the off season when Baseball Instinct goes from Club to Club and we take a look at the Top 10 prospects from each team before opening it up to our Top 21s later in the winter. This year we’re working with some other sites that share a more focused view of particular clubs.  We’re going to stay in house today with our own Dave Reiffer, who follows the Tigers closely, especially the West Michigan WhiteCaps who are basically in his own backyard.  So here we go with the Detroit Tigers Top 10!

Detroit Tigers


Jacob Turner, SP Tigers

1.  Jacob Turner RHP 5/21/1991 H:  6’5″ W:  210 – The young Turner is unquestionably the top pitcher in the Tiger farm organization.  He throws all his pitches for strikes.  Has elite make-up at such a young age, something, that in my opinion, isn’t talked about enough concerning him.   He throws mid-90s heat with a terrific 12-to-6 curveball along with a change-up.  The only question, right now, is when he will arrive to the big leagues to stay.  In 2011, he got a taste of the majors with mixed results.  Some say the 5th spot in the 2012 is his to lose.

Our Instinct:  He needs more work in the minors.  He needs to be given the chance to dominate which he definitely has the skills to do.  With only 30 innings above Double-A and being rushed through 4 levels of professional ball in two seasons,  Detroit risks stunting his development.  The names Jeremy Bonderman and Rick Porcello should immediately come to mind.  That said, if there is a kid who can succeed despite mismanagement, this may be him.  Definitely one cool customer.  Check out our Jacob Turner Prospect Instinct article for analysis and video.

2.  Nick Castellanos 3B 3/04/1992 H:  6’4″ W:  195 – Selected in the first round in 2010 out of Archbishop McCarthy High School in Davie, Florida, Nick put together some solid numbers in his first full season of pro ball.  At Low-A West Michigan, he hit .314 with 159 hits, 36 doubles, and 8 homeruns with 45 walks and 129 strikeouts in 507 at bats.  The strikeouts are a concern but not troubling at this point because he makes terrific contact.  The most often heard quibbles involve a lack of power (.130 ISOP), but this is a tall rangy kid whose body will fill out some more yet.

Our Instinct:  It’s way too early to worry about his power outage.  Through conditioning and coaching more of those 36 doubles are bound to start clearing the fences.  The more important question is whether, once his body matures, he will be able to stay at 3B or be forced to move to a corner outfield position.  Casty’s bat should take him to Advanced A Lakeland next year where Tom Belmont will be able to follow his development in the FSL.  Also, check out Nick Castellanos’ very own Prospect instinct article right here for a closer look a the young Tiger slugger.

3.  Drew Smyly LHP 6/13/1989 H:  6’3″ W:  1990 – A 2nd round pick in the 2010 Amateur Draft out of Arkansas, Smyly wasted no time in proving that he belonged.  He started his season at Advanced-A Lakeland, but ended the season in Double-A Erie sporting a 1.18 ERA, giving up 6 earned runs and walking 15 and striking out 53 hitters in 45 innings pitched.  He got it done with a low-90s fastball and advanced command and control of his curveball and change-up.  Due to this season’s efforts Smyly was named Tigers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Our Instinct:  He’ll need more time in the minors, probably a return to Erie to start next season, but the argument could be made that Smyly is just as ready to hold down the Tigers 5th rotation spot as Turner.  The question will be whether Smyly’s stuff will translate well at higher levels without a power arsenal like Turner’s.  Keep an eye on him.  He knows how to pitch.

Eugenio Suarez, SS Tigers

4. Eugenio Suarez SS 7/18/1991 H:  5’11” W: 155 – Suarez signed as an undrafted free agent from Puerto Ordaz, Edo Bolivar, Venezuela as an 18-year-old. In 2011, after a short stay tearing up the Gulf Coast League, hitting .341 and scoring a .295 ISOP, Suarez was moved to the NYPenn League and finished the season there hitting .250 with 51 hits, 11 doubles, 5 triples, and 5 homeruns in 204 at bats, along with 9 stolen bases.  He’s also a slick fielder at shortstop with good speed on the basepaths.

Our Instinct:  Eugenio is the rare Tiger middle infield prospect that currently shows average to better pop (.176 ISOP in NYP).  Right now he’ll just need time to get his feet wet at higher levels.  Low-A West Michigan should be his next destination, where there should be a good deal of excitement surrounding this kid.  There, we’ll be able to get some first hand analysis and video for next year’s list.

5.  Brenny Paulino RHP 2/21/93 H:  6’3″ W:  170 – Another international signing lighting up the prospect list.  Paulino came to the club in late 2009 out of Nizao, Dominican Republic.  The slender Paulino has plenty more projection left in his body to add even more velocity to his mid-90s fastball.  He also throws a curve and a change-up, but both offerings are said to be under-used and undeveloped at this point.  Brenny has been living on the explosive velocity and movement of his heater so far, resulting in a 2.36 ERA on 34 hits, 12 earned runs, 18 walks, and 45 strikeouts in 45.2 innings.

Our Instinct:  To stay in the rotation, he’ll definitely need to develop the curve and change-up to at least a league average offering, since he’ll have a more difficult time over-matching more advanced hitters as he gets promoted.  Until then, with the only the effectiveness of his fastball, we have to look at Paulino as more of a closer option going forward.  As an 18-year-old, who may start full season ball at Low-A West Michigan, he’ll have plenty of time to refine those secondaries.

6.  Aaron Westlake 1B 12/27/1988 H:  6″4″ W:  235 – Taken in the 3rd round of the 2011 Amateur Draft, Westlake did little to earn his draft position in the NYPenn League where the highly touted Vanderbilt power bat showed a dismal .113 ISOP in 106 at bats.  So, looking past his Short Season League performance, Westlake has shown above average bat speed and control at the dish and also an advanced approach in making adjustments.  At Vandy, he hit .349 with 14 homeruns, and .466 OBP and slugged at a .616 clip.  He also plays a very good first base.

Our Instinct:  At age 23, at the beginning of 2012 season, Westlake won’t have the luxury of adjustment time that most new draftees have.  He’s been selected to move fast.  So look for him to be immediately challenged with promotion to High-A Lakeland with the hope of moving him to Double-A Erie later on the same season.  He’s had success against similar talent levels, so look for him to prove last year’s NYPenn League stats to be just a bad run.

Danry Vasquez, OF Tigers

7.  Danry Vasquez OF 1/8/1994 H:  6’3″ W:  169 – Only 16 years old when the Tigers ponied up 1 million dollars to this Venezuelan outfielder, now he’s still just 17, but has completed his first year of professional baseball with a .272 batting average, 56 hits, 8 doubles, and 2 homeruns to go with 7 walk and 34 strikeouts in 206 at bats.  Sure the only 7 walks is a problem and the .306/.350/.655 in nothing to write home about, but the kid shows some strong discipline by limiting his strikeouts to 34 in 206 at bats while making good contact with a 17% line drive rate.  That said, Vasquez has a long road to the majors yet.  Detroit shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to move him.

Our Instinct:  Tigers international scouting director Tom Moore said about Danry, “We’ve seen him use the whole field, not just in tryouts but in games as well,” said Detroit’s director of international operations. “He’s not just a guy who can put it to left field but hit it to left field with authority. Right now it’s line-drive power. He does have ability to generate some loft in the ball, but right now it’s more consistent line-drive power. With more strength, those balls in the gap are going to be going over the fence.”  Just can’t say it much better than that.

8.  Andrew Oliver LHP 12/3/87 H:  6’3″ W:  210 –  A 2nd round selection out of Oklahoma State in 2009, there was much discussion about Oliver’s role with Detroit.  Rotation or bullpen.  Though it hasn’t been bandied about publicly by Tiger officials, it probably should happen soon.  Posting a 4.71 ERA with 149 hits, 77 earned runs, and 15 homeruns to go with 80 walks and 143 strikeouts, should push him toward late inning duty, but then only if he can improve his command enough to keep the ball toward the bottom of the strike zone with his electric 94-96 mph fastball.

Our Instinct:  He’ll probably have another year in the rotation to work out of the control troubles.  If he ever gets his game tightened up, not many hitters will want to face his filthy heater coming out of the bullpen.

9.  Casey Crosby LHP 9/17/88 H:  6’5″ W:  200 – Much like Oliver, Crosby has suffered set-backs with is command, but most of that may be due to having more time on the DL than the mound.  A towering lefty arm with a mid-90s fastball, above average curve, and work-in-progress change, he’s pitched a total of 122 innings prior to 2011.  This past season, he’s exceeded those career innings numbers putting up a 4.10 ERA giving up 122 hits, 60 earned runs, and 11 homeruns with 77 walks and 121 strikeouts in 131.2 innings at Double-A Erie.

Our Instinct:  One wonders if Crosby can eventually overcome the injury bug and handle the workload that comes with being a reliable part of a big league rotation.  2011 was a positive step, but he still has to deal with his shoddy command.  Like Oliver, a move to the bullpen may be a faster path to the majors.

10.  Alex Burgos LHP 12/1/1990 H:  5’11” W:  170 – Selected in the 5th round in 2010 out of the State College of Florida, Burgos became the West Michigan WhiteCaps best starter in 2011.  Burgos used his four-pitch mix (two-seam FB, curve, change and slider) to maintain a 2.19 ERA on 63 hits, 23 earned runs, 33 walks and 89 strikeouts in 94.2 innings.  His fastball velocity tops out at about 91, but his curveball and change-up are above average offerings.  Alex keeps the ball on the ground and in the park with a 55% groundball rate and  giving up only 5 total homeruns in 106.1 innings of professional ball.

Our Instinct:  Burgos is the very definition of the “crafty lefty”.  If his stuff plays as well in Lakeland next season, he could be on his way to someday possibly fill in the back of a major league rotation.  Maintaining that groundball rate will be the key.

All in all, this is a depleted Detroit Tiger system with plenty of movement from the previous year lists you may have seen.  The most notable moves involve Andy Oliver and Casey Crosby descent to the bottom half of the list and Drew Smyly’s ascension to the upper ranks.  Check back later this winter to see who missed the top ten and who has a good chance of breaking through in 2012 with our rundown of each organization’s  Top 21 prospects.

Check back soon as we profile many more Top MLB Prospects and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at our recent article in our top 10 series: St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects List and be a step ahead of the game. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at


I live in Wyoming, Michigan. I have a wife and 3 kids. Been part of the Baseball Tonight league since 2004. An aspiring writer, I enjoy writing short stories, mostly horror/suspense. Anyone can check out my stuff at


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