The arrival of the offseason means that it's time to rank stuff. Already this winter, we've sized up the 60 best free agents, both on an overall and positional basis. There's no law that prevents us from ranking minor-league players in addition to their big-league counterparts. As such, we're going to spend the winter evaluating every team's farm system.
The lack of a minor-league season makes that more of a challenge this year. It doesn't help that some teams opted against sharing video and data from their alternate-site camps with the rest of the league. As such, we've opted against overthinking this. Our rankings will essentially be the same as they were last winter with a few changes. First, we'll exclude anyone who graduated by exhausting their rookie eligibility; second, we'll replace them with draftees or other worthy prospects; and third, and lastly, we'll present the information in a new format.
In every article in this series, you'll find a team's top five prospects as well as five others we felt like including, either because of their promise or some other reason. For those top five prospects, you'll find a quick summation of their pros (their saving grace, if one will) and their cons (their fault line), as well as beefier report and our attempt to peg their "likeliest outcome."
These rankings were compiled by talking to industry folks -- scouts, analysts, and other evaluators -- and include a touch of our own evaluative biases. Remember, that this is more of an art than a science, and that the write-ups matter more than the rankings themselves.
Now, let's get on to the top five prospects in the Detroit Tigers system.
1. Spencer Torkelson, 1B
Age (as of 4/1/2021): 21
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 220 pounds
Acquired: No. 1 pick in 2020 draft (Arizona State)
Highest level: NCAA
Saving grace: Well-rounded bat
Fault line: Right-handed first baseman
Scouting report: Torkelson became the first collegiate first baseman to ever go No. 1 when the Tigers popped him out of Arizona State (they announced him as a third baseman at the time). While it's fair to have reservations about almost any and every right-handed first baseman, there's a lot to like here. He has the bat speed, strength, and barrel control to hit balls long and hard; the approach to accept walks and keep his strikeout rate in check; and the mind to make on-the-fly adjustments to his swing or gameplan. Torkelson probably won't add a ton of value positionally or on the basepaths; he won't have to in order to be a quality part of a lineup.
Likeliest outcome: Quick-moving, middle-of-the-order hitter
2. Casey Mize, RHP
Age (as of 4/1/2021): 23
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 220 pounds
Acquired: No. 1 pick in 2018 draft (Auburn)
Highest level: MLB
Saving grace: Polish
Fault line: Injury history
Scouting report: Mize's first tour of duty in the majors didn't go as well as expected. The Tigers limited him to 20 batters or fewer in all but one of his seven outings, yet he still accumulated a 6.99 ERA with suboptimal peripherals to match. Mize's splitter, his signature offering, wasn't all that effective as an out pitch: opponents hit .313 against it and by year's end he was throwing it less and less frequently. There's no sense overreacting to a small sample during a plague year, but it's fair to write that Mize disappointed. He'll get another shot in '21.
Likeliest outcome: No. 2 starter, maybe?
3. Matt Manning, RHP
Age (as of 4/1/2021): 23
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 195 pounds
Acquired: Ninth pick in the 2016 draft (Sheldon High School, California)
Highest level: Double-A
Saving grace: Athleticism, fastball-curveball combination
Fault line: Injury
Scouting report: There was an argument to be made last winter that Manning should have been the No. 1 prospect in Detroit's system based on his cleaner bill of health. Naturally, what with the law of attraction and whatnot, Manning missed his chance at debuting this season because he was sidelined by a strained forearm -- often a precursor to Tommy John surgery. If Manning can avoid surgery or a prolonged setback, he ought to plant his flag in the majors in 2021. He has a good fastball-curveball combination and he has made strides with his changeup. Add in his frame and athleticism, and maybe he'll end up being better than Mize after all.
Likeliest outcome: Mid-rotation starter
4. Riley Greene, OF
Age (as of 4/1/2021): 20
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds
Acquired: No. 5 pick in the 2019 draft (Paul J. Hagerty High School, Florida)
Highest level: A-ball
Saving grace: Offensive potential
Fault line: Limited secondary value
Scouting report: Greene became the second prep player off the board in '19 (behind only Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.) on the strength of his bat. He isn't going to stick in center field and he doesn't have the arm for right, but there's a chance he becomes a plus hitter who contributes solid to good marks in average, on-base, and slugging. There's also a chance he's the only member of Detroit's top five who will retain his rookie eligibility heading into 2022.
Likeliest outcome: Bat-heavy left fielder
5. Tarik Skubal, LHP
Age (as of 4/1/2021): 24
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 215 pounds
Acquired: Ninth-round pick in 2018 draft (Seattle University)
Highest level: MLB
Saving grace: Potent fastball
Fault line: Developing secondaries
Scouting report: Skubal was one of the biggest pop-up successes of the 2019 minor-league season, posting a 2.42 ERA and striking out more than 13 batters per nine against Double- and Triple-A competition. Predictably, Skubal made his big-league debut this year, showing off a mid-90s fastball with good carry that serves as the best pitch in his arsenal, as well as three others that could be average or better. Skubal is already responsible for seven of the nine starts taken by Seattle University pitchers; he's going to continue to expand his share of that total.
Likeliest outcome: No. 4 starter
Five others to know
Isaac Paredes, 3B
Someone had to lose their spot in the top five to make room for Torkelson. Unfortunately for Paredes, he was that someone. He received exactly 100 at-bats down the stretch for the Tigers, and in those he showcased the disciplined and contact-heavy approach that he used to great effect in the minors. He didn't have quite as much fun in the majors, as he seldom made impactful contact. Paredes deserves a longer look, obviously, but he's going to have to hit to make it work since he doesn't have the kind of tools that would make him a standout defender at any position, including third.
Dillon Dingler, C
The Tigers had a pair of second-round picks. They used the first one on Dingler, a converted outfielder who improved his stock with a strong 13-game run for Ohio State before the pandemic ended the college season. Scouts believe Dingler has the requisite athleticism and arm strength to stick behind the plate. His exit velocities weren't as impressive as his raw line, however, and his lack of a real track record makes him more of a risk-reward play than he might seem to be.
Daniel Cabrera, OF
Detroit's other second-round pick, Cabrera, is the latest Tiger to migrate from LSU to Comerica, following in the paw prints of JaCoby Jones and Mikie Mahtook. (Both Jones and Mahtook were originally acquired in trades.) Cabrera is a low-frills contact hitter whose best-case scenario entails him performing as he did in the 2019 Cape Cod League (.287/.369/.400). If he can walk and hit gaps against pro pitching, he could develop into a second-division left fielder.
Joey Wentz, LHP
Wentz underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring, meaning he's likely to miss the start of the season. Were it not for the injury, he probably would've made his big-league debut already. Wentz spent all of 2019 in Double-A, and saw both his strikeout and walk rates improve after shipping to Detroit as part of the Shane Greene trade. He profiles as a back-end starter whose three-pitch arsenal may lack a surefire plus offering.
Alex Faedo, RHP
Faedo too could have debuted in the majors in 2020 were it not for his own health woes. He missed the onset of camp after testing positive for COVID-19, and then he was shut down to end the year because of a strained forearm. Faedo seems destined for the bullpen. He has a good slider and a solid enough fastball, but his changeup lags and he's proven to be homer-prone -- and that's without considering the potential competition he'll be facing for starts in Detroit.