The most exciting thing about the Detroit Tigers these days are discussions surrounding their talent in the minor leagues. Every fan continues to spout the common refrain that, “this team is going to lose 100 games this season,” or even worse, “I can’t wait to watch the Triple-A Detroit Tigers take the field this season.” While expectations are low, the future is bright.
Detroit Sports Nation was lucky enough to get in contact with The Athletic Detroit‘s contributor, Emily Waldon, who is as good as they come in all matters regarding the Detroit Tigers farm system. She helped to shine some light on where the prospects land, what the plans are moving forward, and how the farm system (and organization overall) is on the right track.
Here is the Detroit Tigers “State of the Farm System”:
DSN: Given the current rebuild, and knowing the Tigers have been in the bottom third of farm systems for a decade, how would you claim the “State of the Farm System” is going into 2018?
EW: Progressing. I know it’s not where the Tigers’ fan base would like it to be, but it’s trending in a good direction. Outside of the obvious stockpile of arms, there’s still a lack of impact bats that will need to eventually be added, but overall the trend of the organization is finally taking a turn in the right direction.
DSN: Speaking of a stockpile of arms, Detroit has this good-looking core of pitching prospects headlining their farm system right now (Perez, Manning, Faedo, Burrows, Funkhouser). Who is the closest to reaching the big leagues right now, and who do you project as having the highest ceiling?
EW: Out of the top arms, I believe we’re likely to see Franklin Perez land in Detroit first. With how well he’s handled his promotions thus far and factoring in the feel he has at such a young age, he’s developing into a real force. The others won’t be far behind, but I don’t expect the Tigers to rush any of them.
DSN: It seems there has been a trend with the prospects Detroit has acquired this past season through trades – guys who are defensive-minded, perhaps versatile position wise, good bat-to-ball skills, disciplined hitters, bringing an element of speed. Was that calculated on the part of Avila and his brass and if so, what’s the reasoning for those specific moves, in your best judgment?
EW: I think it’s what the Tigers know they need during the rebuild. They lost some key names from their infield especially and with that, some obvious gaps were left to fill. I don’t view the names that Detroit signed this offseason as long-term investments, but they should hopefully be able to do a decent job in helping get the Tigers back on track during the rebuild campaign.
DSN: Moving Miguel Cabrera to DH seems inevitable after 2018, which leaves a huge hole at first base moving forward. What are the Tigers’ options for that? Slide Jeimer Candelario over there? Move Nick Castellanos there, with the wave of outfielders coming through the minors? What about Edwin Espinal or Dominic Ficociello down in Toledo, two young, solid, two-way guys in their careers thus far? Or do they go shopping for a first baseman?
EW: For now, I feel that the Tigers hope to keep Candelario at third. He could shift to first later on, especially when some of the younger infield names make their way further up the pipeline. In Ficociello’s case, he has to show he can stay consistent in Triple-A first. The Tigers have continued to invest in him because they still like what he brings to the table, but his ability to translate that to the regular season on a consistent basis has been the biggest challenge. He’ll need to use this season to show a shift in the right direction on both sides of the ball before he’ll be in consideration for a regular slot in Detroit.
DSN: I read a tweet from you the other day about starting a support group with the Cubs twitter because of Front Office decisions. My question is about the last part of that tweet where you said, “this is going to be a long #rebuild.” How long do you project until the Tigers are back to winning again? Seems most guys are projected to hit between 2018-2020, so is 2021 a realistic timeline? Or is 2022 better?
EW: I’m estimating we’re going to have to wait until at least 2020 before we see a consistently good team at the Major League level. That allows the younger names in the system a chance to develop and get their feet wet in Detroit. The Tigers front office will need to be very purposeful with how their build their priority list to hopefully fill the remaining gaps in preparation for getting back where they want to be as an organization.
The future of the club is in the hands of young players, and that’s not a bad thing. With the proper development and the right guy at the helm –thank you Ron Gardenhire — this team will make a turn around. However, ships turn slowly and so do ballclubs, so patience is the key word. Bring on 2018!