Tigers' farm system stacked with pitching

Tigers' farm system stacked with pitching

Tigers' farm system stacked with pitching
LAKELAND, Fla. -- How confident do the Tigers feel about the young pitching coming up through their farm system? They went into Spring Training with at least five candidates for the open spot in their rotation, and none had spent time in another organization.

Drew Smyly won the spot and will get his first shot in the big leagues. The others will spend the start of the season trying to prove they're ready should the Tigers need help midseason, or worthy of a midsummer trade if and when the Tigers look to upgrade somewhere else.

That's what happens when a team with a pretty well set rotation at the top level starts seeing five years of investments in young pitching develop around the same time. It won't result in a new wave of Tigers starters, not for a team built to win now. Even multiple Major League starters out of the group would be against the odds of recent history. But it gives the Tigers options to fill that spot around the starting core they already have, acquire help needed at other positions later and maybe look at other options the next couple years.

where to watch
A look at where the Tigers' Top 20 prospects are starting the 2012 season:
No. Player Club Level
1 Jacob Turner Toledo AAA
2 Nick Castellanos Lakeland A+
3 Drew Smyly Toledo AAA
4 Andy Oliver Toledo AAA
5 Casey Crosby Toledo AAA
6 Bruce Rondon Lakeland A+
7 Daniel Fields Lakeland A+
8 Avisail Garcia Lakeland A+
9 Jose Ortega Toledo AAA
10 Brenny Paulino West Michigan A
11 Danry Vasquez West Michigan A
12 Alex Burgos Lakeland A+
13 Kevin Eichhorn Lakeland A+
14 Matt Hoffman Toledo AAA
15 Kenny Faulk Erie AA
16 Rob Brantly Lakeland A+
17 Adam Wilk Toledo AAA
18 Josue Carreno Lakeland A+
19 Aaron Westlake West Michigan A
20 James McCann West Michigan A
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.

Those possibilities won't play out until at least this summer. In the meantime, the upper levels of the farm system have their greatest depth in pitching in years, starting with Jacob Turner atop the rotation at Triple-A Toledo.

Turner was the Tigers' top Draft pick in 2009. Casey Crosby, who rode shotgun with Turner atop the rotation at Double-A Erie last summer and should do the same this spring with the Mud Hens, was a Draft coup for the Tigers in '07, the same year Detroit drafted Rick Porcello. Smyly, the reigning Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year, is entering his second pro season after Detroit drafted him in the second round in '10. Tyler Stohr, an up-and-coming starter after Tommy John surgery two years ago, was a second-day Draft pick in '08.

Get the idea? The pieces came together over years, but they seem to be emerging around the same time. Now is when the Tigers begin to benefit.

With the Minor League season getting under way, fans can keep track of the Tigers' top prospects throughout the year on Prospect Watch. And get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Tigers' Minor League teams on the Tigers' affiliates page.

Stacked squads
The Tigers have a deep rotation at Triple-A Toledo, encompassing several of their top five prospects. Mud Hens fans will have Turner aiming to put himself in position for a big league shot if Detroit needs to make a move, as well as Crosby, finesse southpaw Adam Wilk and Andy Oliver. After that, the talent spreads out, though Class A Advanced Lakeland has some offensive potential with Avisail Garcia and Daniel Fields return, joining the organization's top position prospect, Nick Castellanos.

Debuts and Draftees
James McCann signed with enough time to make a late August stretch in the Gulf Coast League and Class A West Michigan, but this will mark the talented catcher's first full pro season. Former University of Texas outfielder Brandon Loy impressed in Spring Training games with the big club and will start out at West Michigan. Highly touted athletic outfielder Tyler Gibson will start out his pro career after four games last year in the Gulf Coast League.

Teams on TV
The Toledo Mud Hens are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion. For Tigers and Hens fans, the package provides a chance to watch some of Detroit's top pitching prospects try to line up for a midseason shot at the big leagues.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.