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Top-5 Check In: Detroit Tigers

May 15, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Avisail Garcia (34) hits a three run home run in the third inning against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’re more than a month in to the 2013 minor league season, it’s a good time to check in on how the top prospects in each of the organizations are faring. It is way too early to get overly excited or overly depressed about anyone’s performance thus far, but it’s never too early to dig into the data and results that each prospect has added to their resume. For the purposes of these check-ins we will be using Baseball America’s rankings unless otherwise noted. (The Tigers list below is my own; consider this otherwise noted.) The Detroit Tigers have very few holes on their major league roster thanks, in part, to some shrewd moves involving some of their bigger name prospects. No, Detroit didn’t suddenly start developing their own talent (at least not often), but they have used some of the more highly-regarded players in their system as trade fodder, and done so effectively. GM Dave Dombrowski has never been one to over-value prospects like some other GMs and isn’t afraid to deal away potential stars to add established big leaguers. It’s a formula that landed Doug Fister from Seattle, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, and Miguel Cabrera, for whom the Tigers parted with their top two prospects, and a package of others, at the time. Detroit’s system has seemingly never been deep in elite talent, and the forfeiture of three consecutive first-round picks didn’t do anything to help that problem. A strong group of toolsy international signees make the organization more interesting, but there is a lot of boom-or-bust in this talent pool. 1. OF/3B- Nick Castellanos(21)

Toledo (AAA) .253/.319/.419 14 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 1 SB, 19 BB, 41 K in 207 plate appearances

The Tigers have a history of aggressively pushing their top prospects and that’s no different from how they’ve handled Castellanos.  Opening the season at Triple-A having just turned 21-years-old, the slow start at Toledo probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but Castellanos is coming around quite nicely. Over his past 15 games he has produced a .310/.412/.500 line with 10 walks against 13 strikeouts.

With Cabrera anchored at third base, the Tigers moved Castellanos to the outfield full time this year and he’s made a smooth transition. At the plate, Castellanos is the best pure hitter that the Tigers have developed in recent memory and while his home run power has yet to fully develop, he’s expected to be a guy who can routinely post 25-30 home runs per season as he matures.

2. OF- Avisail Garcia(21)

Lakeland (A+) .417/.500/.708 2 3B, 1 HR, 2 SB, 4 BB, 1 K in 28 plate appearances

Toledo (AAA) .432/.447/.541 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 10 K in 38 plate appearances

Detroit (MLB) .220/.200/.500 1 HR, 4 K in 10 plate appearances

Garcia began the season on the disabled list but since his return has done nothing but hit. A massive player at 6’4″ and 240 lbs, Garcia has yet to grow into his raw power, though he has had success finding the gaps at times. Garcia possesses an elite arm in the outfield and profiles as the prototypical right fielder, though he covers enough ground to play center.

Like many young hitters, Garcia can struggle with strikeouts, but he’s also worked to develop as a hitter who used the whole field, Taken under the wing of countryman Cabrera, Garcia not only resembles the AL MVP in appearance, but ever more so in approach at the plate. He’s still a bit raw, but Garcia has come a long way already from the player he was just a couple seasons ago.

3. RHP- Bruce Rondon(22)

Toledo (AAA) 0.54 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 7 HA, 0 HRA, 6 BB, 19 K in 16.2 innings pitched

Detroit (MLB) 11.57 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 5 HA, 0 HRA, 2 BB, 1 K in 2.1 innings pitched

By now, everyone is familiar with the story. Rondon was all but handed the closer’s job for the Tigers in the off-season, only to lose it during the Spring thanks to wildness. He started the year inn Toledo and pitched very well, which earned him a trip to the big club for a stint in late-April. As soon as he saw the bright lights, however, the command issues returned and Rondon found himself pitching from behind and paying for it. Since his return to Triple-A, Rondon has allowed one earned run with 10 strikeouts and four walks in nine innings of work.

Rondon’s fastball routinely reaches 100 mph or more and his off-speed offerings are good enough (though not elite) to get hitters out at any level. When you throw as hard as he does, you don’t need pinpoint command, but you have to be able to miss the heart of the plate with consistency. As soon as Rondon can iron out that part of his game, he’ll have a successful run at the end of gmes in the big leagues.

4. LHP- Casey Crosby(24)

Toledo (AAA) 5.30 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 39 HA, 2 HRA, 28 BB, 39 K in 37.1 innings (8 starts)

Crosby was placed on the disabled list last week with a shoulder impingement. Prior to the injury, he was ineffectively wild, as evidenced by those 28 walks in 39 innings of work. Crosby has dealt with injuries in the past, missing the bulk of two full seasons during his career, but had gotten through the past two years healthy. He’s never been a control artist, but has worked in the zone far more effectively than what he’s shown this year. It will be interesting to see how he pitches once the current ailment has been cleared up.

5. OF- Steven Moya(21)

Lakeland (A+) .308/.308/.308 7 K in 26 plate appearances

Moya managed to play in only five games before landing on the disabled list with an injured arm after a hard fall in the outfield. The injury is a concern for a guy who missed a good portion of 2012 when he underwent Tommy John surgery, but Moya returned to the lineup on Wednesday with a three-hit performace. I have Moya rated higher than a lot of people and in order for him to justify my praise he’ll have to find a way to stay on the field more consistently. When he does play, however, Moya is an intriguing athlete who stands at 6’7″ tall and possesses great raw power from the left side.

Topics: Avisail Gracia, Bruce Rondon, Casey Crosby, Detroit Tigers, Nick Castellanos, Steven Moya

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