Major League Baseball
MLB 26-and-under power rankings: No. 19 Detroit Tigers
Major League Baseball

MLB 26-and-under power rankings: No. 19 Detroit Tigers

Updated Feb. 28, 2023 1:44 p.m. ET

FOX Sports' 26-and-under power rankings are a new spin on the classic prospect rankings. Yes, prospects are important, but with all the game-changing young talent already in the bigs, farm systems alone can’t tell the whole story. So we’re diving deep into every single MLB club, ranking them all by the players in an organization entering their age-26 season or younger — from the bigs to the farm. Each weekday through March 24, we’ll count down from last to first. 

No. 19 Detroit Tigers
26-and-under total score: 15 (out of 30) 

Tied with the Angels for the longest postseason drought in MLB, the Tigers have been desperately trying to get back on track for several years now. After plummeting to embarrassing depths with 114 losses in 2019, a 77-win campaign in 2021 appeared to suggest progress toward competency at the very least. With a new wave of talent scheduled to arrive in 2022, Detroit opted to flex its once-substantial financial might last winter and sign two big-ticket free agents in Javier Báez and Eduardo Rodriguez in an effort to bolster a seemingly up-and-coming roster. The days of the rebuild appeared to be behind them.

Instead, just about everything that could have gone wrong did. A rash of injuries on the mound and some brutal underperformance at the plate combined to send Detroit crashing back down to the basement of the American League. This harsh reality check led in part to a September hiring of new general manager Scott Harris. Harris and his group are now tasked with refreshing an organization that was a powerhouse not long ago but has since fallen behind in many facets of what makes an MLB team successful, from player acquisition to player development to effective implementation of analytics and much, much more. 


Many of the young players we were all sufficiently jazzed about a year ago remain in place, just with far more uncertainty surrounding them. This leaves Detroit roughly in the middle of the pack in terms of under-26 talent. Let’s take a closer look.

Big-league position players: 5 (out of 10)

In addition to the splashy signings of Báez and Rodriguez, much of the promise for Detroit heading into 2022 was rooted in having two consensus top-10 prospects — in all of baseball — seemingly ready to step in and contribute: Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene

Torkelson, a prodigious thumper who torched the collegiate ranks at Arizona State to historic degrees en route to going first overall in the 2020 draft, looked to be as can’t-miss as they come as far as hitting prospects go and broke camp with the team right out of spring training. For the first time in years, Tork suddenly stopped raking, and a .577 OPS come July sent him back to Triple-A for a hard reset. He eventually returned to Detroit for the final stretch, but it was far too late to salvage a dismal rookie year. There’s still hope for Tork, but right-handed hitting first basemen really need to mash right away to stick around in the big leagues — the production better start showing up in Detroit sooner rather than later.

Greene’s big-league debut was delayed by an injury in spring training, but he found more success than Tork as a rookie. No demotion was necessary following his call-up in mid-June, as Greene managed a roughly league-average 99 OPS+ in 418 plate appearances. More importantly — and arguably surprisingly — he played stellar defense in center field, providing more value beyond the bat he’s been known for since his high school days. While his play didn’t generate any Rookie of the Year conversations, it was still a promising showing for someone who was just 21 years old for much of the season. It’s not hard to imagine a big leap for Greene in 2023. 

The Tigers' best hope at a homegrown star position player in the near future still may be Tork or Greene, but they’ve quietly assembled some solid under-26 depth at the big-league level.  One of Harris’ first big moves as GM was swapping All-Star closer Gregory Soto for Matt Vierling and Nick Maton, two key support pieces during the Phillies’ run to the World Series, each of whom could realistically unlock greater offensive production with more consistent playing time.

Keep an eye on outfielder Kerry Carpenter, who zoomed through the minors since being selected in the 19th round in 2019 — his 128 OPS+ was tops among the 16 Tigers hitters who received 100-plus plate appearances in 2022. Akil Baddoo may have crashed back to earth after the sensational start to his career in 2021, but he’s still just 24 and has the physical tools to carve out a bench or platoon role. 

Big-league pitchers: 5 (out of 10)

As they ascended through the minors together, the triumvirate of Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal was hailed by die-hard Tigers fans and neutral observers alike as a burgeoning big three of sorts. In theory, having three supremely talented arms cresting at the same time would at least give you an excellent chance of producing one certified frontline starter. Unfortunately, developing pitching prospects into established big leaguers is never as simple as it sounds, and the Tigers have learned this the hard way. 

The former No. 1 pick Mize went down with Tommy John last June after making just two starts, while the lefty Skubal succumbed to flexor tendon surgery in August after a promising first half. Neither will be available to begin 2023, with both hoping but not guaranteed to return sometime in the second half. 

Manning was reasonably effective in the 12 starts he managed to make in 2022, but he also dealt with on-and-off shoulder trouble throughout the year and struggled mightily to replicate the swing-and-miss stuff he showcased in the minors. This isn’t to say these three arms are doomed to irrelevance; it’s just unclear what to expect moving forward, especially in the near future based on the injury issues. The talent is still there for all three to make an impact, but enthusiasm must be tempered. 

Beyond the oft-discussed trio, Beau Brieske and Joey Wentz each experienced varying degrees of success in starting roles in 2022; the lefty Wentz offers more upside while Brieske projects as a useful depth arm. Mason Englert, a Rule 5 pick from Texas coming off a strong minor-league season, is another under-26 arm to watch. He’ll look to stick in the Tigers bullpen all season as a swingman type who relies more on deception and the depth of his repertoire than any single overpowering pitch. 

Prospect position players: 2 (out of 5)

It wasn’t quite Tork-levels of epic collegiate production, but second baseman Jace Jung’s .328/.468/.647 career line at Texas Tech was just too much for the Tigers to pass up on at pick No. 12 in the 2022 draft. He had a slow start in high-A last year but still offers exciting upside with the bat, especially if he can stick up the middle defensively.

Infielder Colt Keith, Detroit’s fifth-round pick out of high school in 2020, has jumped onto several top-100 prospect lists across the industry after a breakout 2022, even despite missing a huge chunk of the season with a shoulder injury. He’s bulked up considerably since his amateur days, but the bat appears to be the real deal, a fairly stunning development considering many teams were debating whether to take him as a pitcher or hitter coming out of high school. Keith, along with 2021 second-rounder Izaac Pacheco, each offer serious offensive upside, though they are still likely several years from playing at Comerica. 

As for those who could help the Tigers a bit sooner, watch out for Justyn-Henry Malloy, who was acquired from Atlanta this past winter after posting a .862 OPS in 133 MiLB games in 2022 amid reaching Triple-A and following it up with a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League. He’s played third base and outfield in his pro career and could certainly debut in 2023. 

Prospect pitchers: 3 (out of 5)

The Mize/Manning/Skubal trajectories may serve as cautionary tales, but there are some real arms to like in this system from A-ball to Triple-A pitchers knocking on the big-league door. Righty Wilmer Flores — the younger brother of Giants infielder Wilmer Flores — has cruised through the lower minors since signing as an undrafted free agent out of an Arizona junior college following the 2020 draft. He pairs a mid-90s heater with one of the better curveballs in the minors, striking out 130 batters in 103.1 minor-league innings in 2022, mostly in Double-A. He just turned 22 and could be an impact contributor in short order, if even in a multi-inning relief role. Reese Olson, acquired in a savvy swap from Milwaukee for journeyman reliever Daniel Norris, also spent 2022 humbling Double-A hitters with a whopping 168 strikeouts in 119.2 innings for the Erie SeaWolves. 

While Olson and Flores look like big developmental wins out of relative obscurity, the real pitching upside to monitor in 2023 belongs to Detroit’s top two picks from the 2021 draft: righties Jackson Jobe and Ty Madden. Madden performed better in 2022, but he had less of a jump in competition coming from the University of Texas compared to the Oklahoma high school ranks Jobe entered pro ball from. Still, it was a promising debut for the hard-throwing Texan, who fell to the 32nd overall selection after once being a candidate to go in the top 10. Jobe, meanwhile, didn’t light it up in A-ball the way Phillies prospect and fellow first-round high school arm Andrew Painter did, but his athletic delivery and electric arsenal are still plenty to dream on as he enters his age-20 season in 2023.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He has covered baseball for his entire adult life, most notably for, DAZN and The Ringer. He's a Mariners fan living in the Eastern Time Zone, which means he loves a good 10 p.m. first pitch. You can follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_. 

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