Jake Thompson – RHP
Date of Birth: January 31, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’4″/235 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2012 draft
Analysis: Thompson is young 19-year-old, right-handed pitcher out of Texas. He also spent time throwing in West Michigan after Extended Spring Training and Mike Henneman has been coaching him since age 12. His repertoire includes a fastball, curveball, slider and change up with his slider being his go to pitch when he gets into trouble. The Tigers were focusing on him working off of his fastball more during the second half of the season. Thompson tends to be a bit slow to the plate and I would like to see him work on controlling the running game better. I timed him out of the stretch to home at 1.5 seconds this season. Coincidentally, Lansing stole 5 bases on him in a game this year; maybe not so coincidentally, [baserunning instructor] Tim Raines was in attendance when they did that. Some Henneman quotes for you on Thompson: “Jake is having a really good year. . . . He stayed in extended spring at the beginning of April to work on his curveball. He’s got command of it now his slider has always been really good. He has a really nasty slider. We just have to get him throwing the fastball and locating it better. He tends to fall in love with his breaking stuff.”
2014 Prognosis: After a solid season in the Midwest League, Thompson will likely step up to the Florida State League and start the season with Lakeland in 2014.
Corey Knebel – RHP
Date of Birth: November 26, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3″/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (39th overall) of the 2013 draft
Analysis: Knebel is another college guy that the Tigers took in the first round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Texas. He started in Class-A West Michigan and instantly became the closer. He pretty much dominated everyone, picked up 15 saves in 31.0 IP, struck out 41, had a K/BB ratio of 4.1, only allowed 14 hits and had an ERA of 0.87 in basically half a season of work.
I did an interview with [West Michigan pitching coach] Mike Henneman and he had this to say about Knebel: “He’s got a mid-90’s fastball and a hell of a curveball and he has a slider and changeup in his repertoire but he’s closing out games and has pretty much been going fastball, curveball. You know, he’s 13 for 13 in saves since he came here. We moved our other closer up, Jose Valdez. At this stage of the game though, Corey is pretty dang good and doing alright.”
2014 Prognosis: The Tigers have interest in him being a starter but it sounds like he prefers to continue out of the pen. He will start in Double-A Erie regardless and if he stays in the bullpen, he could be in Detroit by the end of the season.
Robbie Ray – LHP
Date of Birth: October 1, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2″/170 lbs
Acquired: Traded to Detroit on December 2, 2013 with two others for Doug Fister; Drafted by Washinton in the 12th round of the 2010 draft
|2013||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AA||WSN||11||5||.688||3.36||27||27||4||1||142.0||116||58||53||13||62||160||10||8||1.254||7.4||0.8||3.9||10.1||2.58|
Analysis: Ray is a newcomer to the Tigers and was the key piece in the Doug Fister deal. I don’t know a tremendous amount about the left hander but he saw a huge improvement in his numbers across the board this season splitting time in High-A Potomac and finishing in Double-A Harrisburg and has a career K/9 of 9.1. From the scouting reports I have seen he has a fastball that sits at 93 but can get it into the mid-90’s and he couples that with a slider and a changeup. It sounds like he can struggle to command his secondary stuff. Baseball America also made note in their 2013 Prospect Handbook that he had improved on some mechanical flaws in his delivery that caused his arm to lag behind.
2014 Prognosis: I have heard rumors that he will start the year in AAA Toledo and while I can see that happening, I think he may start in AA Erie.
Jonathon Crawford – RHP
Date of Birth: November 1, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2″/205 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (20th overall) in the 2013 draft
Analysis: Crawford was drafted by the Tigers in the first round this season out of Florida. Having thrown a full season in college, the Tigers really limited his work as he only threw 19.0 professional innings in Connecticut this year. Still, he struck out 21 in those 19 innings and had an 1.89 ERA. Crawford is a guy that sits in the 92-95 range on his fastball and can add a little bit to it. He also features a plus slider that he can throw in the low to mid 80’s. The question on Crawford will be the development of his change up as his third pitch as it tends to be inconsistent.
2014 Prognosis: I believe he will start the year in High A Lakeland but I expect he will also see time in Double-A Erie at some point. This is the kind of arm that Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers seemingly go after.
Nick Castellanos – 3B
Date of Birth: March 4, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’4″/210 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (44th overall) of the 2010 draft
Analysis: Castellanos, as it sits right now, will be the opening day third baseman for the Tigers which is what they drafted him to be. The problem is that he hasn’t played there in a year and half. After the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and moved Miguel Cabrera to third in 2012, they moved Castellanos to right field for Double-A Erie before moving him to left field in the Arizona Fall League that year. He also played left in Triple-A Toledo this season where I saw him play and, while he had improved, he was never very good. Having Jose Iglesias at short will be of tremendous help for the Tigers. The thing Nick can do is hit and he showed that in the 2012 MLB Futures Game as he was named the MVP going 3-4 with a walk and a three run homer.
2014 Prognosis: His bat is Major League ready and I don’t see him struggling at the plate. He hit .278 while seeing very limited playing time for the Tigers in September. He is going to be a 60-65 grade hitter and should hit with average to slightly-above-average power. He projects to be a middle of the order hitter long term. If the bat plays, I think the Tigers can live with the “on the job” training at third that he will get.