One went down, a little. The other went up, a lot.
But both of the Tigers’ top two prospects — pitcher Jacob Turner and third baseman Nick Castellanos — had respectable showings Thursday, when ESPN’s Keith Law unveiled his annual top-100 prospects list.
Turner, the favorite to be the Tigers’ fifth starter this season, checked in at No. 29 (down from 22 in 2011).
Castellanos, who’s still a year or two away from the majors, is ranked 37th (a huge rise from 75th last year).
Turner’s drop probably was triggered by a lackluster showing in three starts at the major league level last season. Law cited his inability to get his fastball down, as well as a work-in-process change-up.
Of Turner, the ninth overall pick in 2009, Law wrote:
Turner took a small step backward in 2011, but remains the Tigers’ best prospect and the only potential impact starter in their system. …
Turner won’t turn 21 until May and still has the lightning-fast arm that made him an elite prospect in the first place. He’s nearly a full season removed from forearm tightness that limited his workload in 2010, and there’s a potential top-end starter in here, but he’s got more work to do to reach that point than I thought at this time last season.
Castellanos, 19, who still is considered the Tigers’ third baseman of the future despite Miguel Cabrera’s move back there after the Prince Fielder signing, had a great first full year as a professional. After a slow start, he batted .312 for Class A West Michigan.
Law says Castellanos lacks plate discipline and speed. At least plate discipline, the Tigers can work on.
He still projects to have four plus tools (running is the exception), with strong hands, a simple swing, and the leverage to produce 20-plus home run power when he matures. At third base, his arm is strong but his footwork is poor, getting tangled up to the point where it affects his fielding and throwing; he’s loose and athletic enough to improve, but it’s going to take time, as will improving his pitch recognition.
Turner and Castellanos were the only two Tigers prospects ranked in Law’s top 100 last year, too. For Turner, it’s his third appearance in as many years (he was 80th in 2010).
Topping Law’s list this year, for the second year in a row, is Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore, Orioles shortstop Manny Machado and Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller come in at Nos. 2-5.
Here is Law’s complete top 100 (Insider subscription required).