While that trend holds true as the Tigers continue to covet velocity, the upper-90 to 100 mph heat shown by the likes of Joel Zumaya and Bruce Rondon in the past, isn’t as prevalent in the system today.
1. Jose Valdez (RHP)
2. Corey Knebel (RHP)
3. Jonathon Crawford (RHP)
4. Melvin Mercedes (RHP)
5. Edgar De La Rosa (RHP)
Jose Valdez made “the leap” as a prospect in 2013, jumping from Low-A to High-A at mid-season while continuing to show big raw stuff and the ability to pitch at the back end of games. At his best Valdez can run his fastball into the 97-98 mph range and will touch higher on rare occasions. He sits at 95-96 mph throughout his outings and with improved control in 2013, his high-powered fastball became that much more devastating.
Two new additions to the system, Knebel and Crawford, wasted little time flashing serious velocity in their professional debuts. Working out of the bullpen with West Michigan, scouts reported Knebel reaching 97 mph and he can work at 94-95 mph over longer stints as well. Crawford reached back for 98 mph in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, and he routinely sat in the 94-95 mph range with Connecticut last summer.
With Tommy John surgery now well behind him, Melvin Mercedes reached Double-A last summer and continued to show 94-95 mph heat with his heavy fastball. Edgar De La Rosa has reached 97-98 mph in the past and still has it in the tank, but in an effort to locate his fastball better, he dialed things back to 92-94 mph for much of the 2013 season with West Michigan.
Endrys Briceno (RHP)
Jose Ortega (RHP)
Montreal Robertson (RHP)
De La Rosa’s teammate the last two years in Connecticut and West Michigan, Endrys Briceno has what can be referred to as “easy cheese.” Even with his slight frame, Briceno pumps fastballs that can reach 95-96 mph without looking like he’s adding any extra effort to his delivery.
An undersized reliever, Ortega offers mid-90s heat and has shown better in the past, but didn’t have the same 97-98 mph burst in 2013. If he can regain that form, he could be a candidate to help the Tigers bullpen in 2014.
A sleeper prospect in the system, Montreal Robertson has been stretched out as a starter by the Tigers and his velocity has dipped to the low-90s with a few 94s and 95s mixed in. When he works in short bursts and lets it all hang out, he can reach 97-98 mph and could be an intriguing fit as a setup reliever.
Anthony Castro (RHP)
Luis Ledezma (RHP)
Angel Vazquez (RHP)
The Tigers have had little trouble finding talent in Venezuela in recent years and all three Venezuelan pitchers listed here offer the type of projection that could make them very interesting arms over the next few years. Castro is ready for the jump to the Gulf Coast League in 2014, and his fastball has been reported in the 94-95 mph range consistently, with some scouts believing there is more in the tank as he matures.
Ledezma is a new international signing that will be just 17-years old next season and has the arm speed and present velocity to really blossom as he exits his teen years. Vazquez has been on the radar for a while, and though he still struggles to harness his raw stuff, he offers a fastball that reaches 95 mph and could rest there at his peak.