As part of the new rules for the 2020 Major League season, each of the 30 organizations will maintain a 60-man player pool for the duration of the campaign. Some members of the player pool will feature on the active Major League roster while others will work out at an alternate training site in the hopes of staying fresh for a potential callup or getting in much-needed development time.
The MiLB.com staff is rounding up the notable prospects in each organization’s 60-man player pool and analyzing what the new system will mean for their 2020 seasons.
As the Tigers prepare for the 2020 season during their Summer Camp workouts, plenty of attention will be given to this year’s top Draft pick Spencer Torkelson, who was added to the 60-man player pool after signing his contract at the start of July. He dazzled in his first batting practice appearance by sending multiple balls over the fence.
But while Torkelson inevitably will get much of the spotlight, he’s not the only Detroit youngster with the chance to flourish this summer. Nine of the Tigers’ top 10 prospects -- according to MLB.com -- are part of the team’s pool, with the lone exception being No. 9 Joey Wentz, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March.
They’ll battle for the right to compete with the big league club, and if they don’t make the final cut, they will head an hour down the road to the team’s alternate site in Toledo. But since the Tigers are unlikely to be in the hunt for a pennant any time soon, ia handful of these guys probably will get a look in Detroit during this unusual season.
Spencer Torkelson, 3B: Torkelson hasn’t even appeared in an official pro game yet, but it makes sense that the Tigers want him in the mix this summer. First of all, he’s clearly talented enough to hang -- over his two-plus seasons at Arizona State, he hit .337/.463/.729 with 54 homers in 129 games, and he was batting .340/.598/.780 with six big flies over 17 games before the 2020 season was canceled. But more importantly, it’ll be crucial to his development to be able to see live pitching and stay fresh until he’s able to suit up and play in the Minors. So while he probably won’t be batting behind Miguel Cabrera any time soon, he’s taking the right steps in that direction.
Casey Mize, RHP: Mize’s title of Detroit’s top prospect may not last much longer now that Torkelson is on the scene, but that’s really more of a compliment to the newcomer than anything. Mize, MLB.com’s No. 7 overall prospect, proved to be one of the best pitchers in all of the Minor Leagues last season as he put together a 2.55 ERA between two levels. He was exceptional with Class A Advanced Lakeland to start the year, allowing just three runs over nine starts while striking out 30 batters in 30 2/3 innings. He moved up to Double-A Erie and stood out there too, logging a 3.20 ERA and fanning 76 across 78 2/3 frames. He’s likely bound for Toledo to start the year, but if everything goes well, he could find his way onto the 30-man roster by the end of the 60-game sprint.
Matt Manning, RHP: When Mize arrived in Erie last season, waiting for him was another elite pitching prospect in Manning. Rated as the No. 24 overall prospect, the 6-foot-6 right-hander posted a 2.56 ERA over 24 starts with the SeaWolves while striking out 148 batters across 133 2/3 innings. He was just as special in 2018, when he soared up three levels en route to a 3.29 composite ERA and 154 strikeouts over 117 2/3 frames. He also was expected to potentially premiere in the big leagues in 2020, and while it’s less likely given the season’s length, it’s also not out of the question he takes the mound at Comerica Park this year.
Riley Greene, OF: Greene hasn’t had much time to prove himself as a pro since the Tigers drafted him fifth overall in 2019, but he’s done a pretty good job of it thus far. He appeared at three different levels last season, starting in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before joining Class A Short Season Connecticut and compiling a .295/.380/.386 slash line over 24 games. He then finished the year with Class A West Michigan, ending his rookie campaign with a combined line of .271/.347/.403. Having been drafted out of high school, Greene is unlikely to see big league reps in 2020, but while he may be destined to stay in Toledo for the time being, the experience he gains there will be pivotal to maintaining the momentum he established in his first year in the organization.
Tarik Skubal, LHP: If one were discussing the biggest surprises in the Minors of last season, Skubal might be at the top of the list. Unranked in MLB.com’s final evaluation of the Detroit system in 2018, the ninth-round pick that summer soared all the way to No. 4 in the system and No. 46 overall heading into 2020 after an elite pro debut. He began with Lakeland, where he logged a 2.58 ERA and struck out 97 batters over 80 1/3 innings while pitching as a full-time starter for the first time. He jumped to Erie, where he shrunk the ERA clip to 2.13 and fanned a whopping 82 opponents over 42 1/3 frames. He seems to be a bit behind Mize and Manning in terms of when he’ll make his big league debut, but after his performance last year, it may be foolish to cast any sort of doubt on what he can do.
Isaac Paredes, IF: Paredes has steadily improved his numbers since the Tigers acquired him from the Cubs in a Trade Deadline deal in 2017. He split time between Lakeland and Erie the following season, batting .259/.338/.455 with 12 homers with the Flying Tigers before boosting those numbers to .321/.406/.458 with three long balls for the SeaWolves. He continued that success last season, finishing with a .278/.359/.456 line, 13 homers and 66 RBIs in a full season’s work in the Eastern League. He’s currently on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, so a big league debut during the shortened season wouldn’t come as a surprise at all.
Dillon Dingler, C: Detroit snagged Dingler in the second round of this year’s Draft as part of its effort to load up on offensive talent. He was a bit of a late bloomer at Ohio State. After a lackluster freshman year, he hit .291/.392/.424 as a sophomore and was batting .340/.404/.760 as a junior before the season was halted. His defense is rather eye-catching; MLB Pipeline graded his glove as a 55 and his arm at a 65, making him one of a few elite catching prospects in the class. He’ll be a Toledo resident all year, but being able to stay fresh while continuing to grow as a player will pay dividends when he sees live games next season.
Willi Castro, SS: Castro is another guy on the 40-man roster and he has some experience in The Show under his belt already. He appeared in 30 games with the Tigers last season, batting .230/.284/.340 with one homer. He was much better with the Mud Hens, putting together a line of .301/.366/.467 with 11 long balls, 75 runs and 62 RBIs in the International League before earning his late-season callup. Current Detroit shortstop Niko Goodrum has the ability to play all over the field, so it’s possible there could be a window for Castro to get some serious playing time in the Major Leagues this season.
Daz Cameron, OF: After the Tigers acquired him in the trade that sent Justin Verlander to Houston in 2017, Cameron turned in an impressive 2018 campaign in which he rose three levels from Lakeland to Toledo. His momentum stalled once he got there; over 120 games last season with the Mud Hens, Cameron hit just .214/.330/.377 and struck out 152 times in 528 trips to the plate -- 28.8 percent of the time. He did rack up 13 homers though, and his defensive ability in center field is a tremendous asset. One should consider that his drop-off in offensive production may have been natural regression to the mean, as many players don’t experience something like his meteoric rise in 2018. A 2020 arrival in Detroit certainly seems possible, but the Tigers will likely want to work on a few things with his bat before he jets across the Michigan/Ohio border.
Alex Faedo, RHP: Detroit took Faedo with its first pick in the 2017 Draft, and he quickly made himself look like a steal after leading the University of Florida to a College World Series title and earning Most Outstanding Player honors in the process. That notion faded a bit after he struggled as a rookie, but a solid 2019 campaign helped restore his luster as he logged a 3.90 ERA and struck out 134 batters over 115 1/3 innings with Erie. His improvement came as a result of improved mechanics and a refined delivery, something he will continue to work on with the Tigers in Toledo this summer to keep him moving toward a spot in the big league rotation.
Jake Rogers, C: Rogers was also part of the Verlander package, and like Cameron, he’s struggled offensively since arriving in Detroit. He hit just .219/.305/.412 with Erie in 2018, but began the next year batting a strong .302/.429/.535 with the SeaWolves to earn a promotion to Toledo. His numbers regressed there to .223/.321/.458, but the Tigers still brought him to the big leagues at the end of July. He performed even worse there, batting .125/.222/.259 over 35 games. His defense has been elite from the beginning, so if Detroit can sort out what’s holding him back offensively, he could be a real difference-maker behind the plate. Whether that happens in 2020 or not remains to be seen, but the fact that he’s on the 40-man roster is encouraging.
Other notables: No. 12 Franklin Perez was the final piece of the Verlander trade, but his time with the Tigers has been hampered by injuries. Spending time in Toledo will be crucial for his development … No. 13 Beau Burrows is a former first-round pick who dealt with injuries last year as well. He could figure in for a bullpen or late-rotation role in 2020 … No. 15 Bryan Garcia is a strong bullpen prospect who could play a key role there this year … No. 16 Anthony Castro was added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft last season. He has a strong fastball and slider that may carry him to The Show in 2020 … No. 25 Rony Garcia was poached from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft, so expect him to stay in Detroit all season in a relief role … No. 26 Kyle Funkhouser has battled several injuries throughout his career but still has the chance to be a back-end starter. If that fails, he could still be a solid reliever … No. 30 Derek Hill was a first-rounder in 2014 who made strides offensively last year and is lightning-fast with good defensive instincts. He could carve out a role as the Tigers’ fourth outfielder this season.
Jordan Wolf is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter: @byjordanwolf.