30. Melvin Mercedes – Right-handed Pitcher
A year removed from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for much of 2010, Mercedes showed some the promise that had him ranked so highly entering that season. Though his command remained poor, Mercedes still showed a 92-94 mph fastball with heavy sink and a slider that flashed potential. In his second season post surgery it won’t be unreasonable to expect Mercedes to take a big step forward and garner attention as a potential late inning reliever down the line.
29. Dixon Machado – Shortstop
A slick fielder Venezuelan shortstop, Machado has the glove and arm to get to the big leagues. He makes all the plays, from the flashy to the routine and leaves scouts buzzing with his glove work. His offensive game has a lot of questions though, as he is absolutely tiny and lacks the strength to drive the ball over the infielder’s heads. Unless he adds strength and more bat speed, Machado may be hard pressed to surpass a utility profile.
28. Harold Castro – Second Baseman
An aggressive ranking for a relatively unknown player with one year in the VSL, Castro’s natural hitting ability gives him a chance to vault onto the larger prospect landscape in 2012. He is a smooth hitter with excellent bat to ball skills and good bat speed. His size also gives some scouts cause to think he could have fringe-average power down the line and be an offensive minded second baseman.
27. Cale Iorg – Shortstop
The entire 2011 season was a struggle for Iorg, with the year culminating in surgery to repair significant damage to his throwing shoulder. While he is ahead of schedule in his rehab there is still a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day. Whenever he steps back on the field, his brilliant defensive abilities won’t be enough any longer as scouts must see improvement with the bat before truly moving on to other prospects.
26. Adelyn Santa – Third Baseman
The Tigers spent big in Latin America again in 2011, a year after giving more than $1 million to outfielder Danry Vasquez. Santa was handed a $750,000 signing bonus when the July 2 signing period opened last year, almost purely on the back of his potential plus raw power and arm strength. It is doubtful the beefy Santa will stay at third base but he has the power in his game to craft himself into a prospect at first base as well.
25. Steven Moya – Outfielder
When West Michigan needed an outfielder last year the Tigers were very aggressive with Moya, despite a horrific debut in the GCL in 2010. Moya’s strikeout problems continued with the Whitecaps but he also showed the tremendous raw power he possesses, blasting 13 home runs in just 86 games despite hitting only .204 and striking out 127 times. There is no doubt Moya is still raw but his power potential is almost off the charts, making him one of the club’s most intriguing prospects.
24. Hernan Perez – Second Baseman
In a surprise move the Tigers added Perez to the 40-man roster in November, largely because they believe in his glove and his somewhat surprising bat. Perez has the ability to play shortstop but moved to second base last year in deference to the elite glove of Dixon Machado. Along with his glove he offers more offensive potential than Machado, with a quick bat, simple swing and surprising pop for his size.
23. Aaron Westlake – First Baseman
A big time college slugger, the Tigers popped Westlake in the third round of last year’s draft. While he struggled to a modest .264/.328/.377 line with only seven extra-base hits in 27 games, Westlake still offers a patient approach and plenty of raw power. He can drive the ball out to all fields with wood bats and just needs to prove he can make enough contact to let the power play to its max. He is a below-average defender at first base and walks the line of being a bat-only prospect.
22. Austin Wood – Left-handed Pitcher
Wood is probably best known for his epic performance with Texas in the NCAA regional in 2009 when he threw a ridiculous number of innings and pitches to help the Longhorns advance. Though that may be his current legacy, Wood put together an impressive year at Double-A Erie in 2011, positioning himself for a chance to establish a legacy in the big leagues down the line. Wood profiles as a solid lefty reliever that can get both right-handed and left-handed hitters out in the later innings.
21. Duane Below – Left-handed Pitcher
A local product from Britton, Michigan, Below got his first taste of the big leagues in 2011 as he posted a 4.34 ERA in 14 games (two starts) for the Tigers. Below doesn’t have dominating stuff but his fastball and curveball are both above-average pitches that should work at the MLB level. Below has a chance to be a versatile arm that could work as anything from a fifth starter to a long reliever or lefty specialist, depending on the needs of the big club. With a projection for a crowded pitching staff in Detroit to start the year, Below appears destined for the Toledo rotation in April.