The Tigers rarely get rave reviews for the talent level in their minor league system, mostly because they’re not afraid to spin off top prospects for major league-ready stars.
See Miguel Cabrera, Doug Fister, etc.
So, today’s unveiling of Keith Law’s organizational rankings by ESPN hardly triggered shockwaves in the Comerica Park front offices. He has Detroit checking in at No. 24, one spot ahead of Philadelphia. (Both of those teams, of course, are sexy picks to make the 2012 World Series.)
The Tigers have less depth than the Phillies, but have two potential stars (Nick Castellanos and Jacob Turner) with pretty good probability up top.
The Tigers never really seem to care much about this stuff. General manager Dave Dombrowski has criticized rankings like this in the past, suggesting analysts rarely get a good look at the entire system before forming their opinions. And he has a point. Few folks, that I can recall, were screaming into the megaphone about the likes of Alex Avila and Brennan Boesch a few years back; now, they are cornerstones of the ballclub.
(For what it’s worth, Dombrowski e-mailed me on this topic today: “I do not have any comments on these rating systems.” Then, he commented — a bit: “We have many quality prospects that we like.”)
Still, it’s worth looking through rankings like this — especially from Law, a widely respected talent evaluator. The Harvard grad used to work for the Blue Jays before landing at ESPN. This offseason, the Astros interviewed him for a front-office job.
There is some good news, here. The Tigers did jump one spot in Law’s rankings, from No. 25 in 2011. He ranked the system No. 17 in 2010, and No. 28 in 2009. In short, he hasn’t though much of the Tigers’ organizational chain lately.
It’s not likely to get much better, at least in the eyes of experts, in the coming years, either. The 2012 draft will be their third in a row without a first-round pick, the price they’ve paid to sign closer Jose Valverde, DH Victor Martinez and first baseman Prince Fielder the last three winters.
That said, Law does like the Tigers’ system better than a pair of their American League Central rivals, including one — the Indians — that surprisingly gave Detroit run for the money much of last season.
The Indians are ranked No. 29 because, Law said, they now have “very little above low Class A,” while the White Sox are dead last at No. 30, “And they’re not particularly close to No. 29, either.” There’s your answer to the question: Why are the White Sox in rebuilding mode?
The Padres, Rays, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Royals are Law’s top five. The other AL Central team, the Twins, are ranked No. 14. Here are Law’s complete rankings (Insider subscription required).
Law’s list of the top 100 prospects is due out Thursday.