DETROIT -- There's a consistent philosophy about player development among the members of the Tigers front office that they have long since come to accept: Part of their goal is to develop players who are going to end up playing big roles on other clubs.
That's the business of what they do, especially here. It's not just about developing players who can help down the road. It's about developing players who can help them obtain players who can help now.
On both ends, it was a productive July for the Tigers.
When Major League Baseball showcased some of its top prospects in the All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City, the Tigers stole the spotlight like they never have before. Nick Castellanos won MVP honors with a home run to center field at Kauffman Stadium as part of a three-hit performance. Bruce Rondon hit 102 mph on the stadium radar gun in a lights-out inning of relief. Rob Brantly threw out a runner, doubled and scored a key run in an all-around performance that heightened his profile as a catching prospect to watch.
Two weeks later, Brantly's profile paid off for the Tigers in their search for a second baseman and a starting pitcher. They filled both of their pressing needs in one deal by sending Brantly and Jacob Turner, one of baseball's top pitching prospects, to Miami for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez.
It was a costly deal that sapped talent from a system that was just starting to get recognized for some depth. For the Tigers, though, it was what they felt they needed to do to win now.
"We always look to improve," assistant general manager Al Avila said this week. "I think we've done a good job overall. A lot of our players have been traded over the years for Major League talent, which is staying within our philosophy. ...
"I think we feel good with the number of players that have come through the system that have been traded for Major League talent and the players have that come through the system and played for us."
Almost all of the change within MLB.com's Tigers Top Prospects rankings comes from either that trade or the sudden success of Drew Smyly that made the Turner deal reasonable. With Turner gone, Castellanos took the mantle of Tigers top prospect, a jump that might have happened anyway, given how he hit this summer between Class A Advanced Lakeland and Double-A Erie.
tigers' top prospects
Castellanos also represents the lone Tigers prospect on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, jumping 40 spots to claim the number 11 ranking. A .405 average for two months in Lakeland and a .300 clip for his first two months in Erie will do that.
Rondon and Casey Crosby, whose newfound health has allowed him to develop as a power left-handed starter, both jumped three spots to take third and second, respectively, on the Tigers' Top 10. They took the place of Castellanos and Smyly, who has too much Major League time to qualify.
Avisail Garcia not only jumped four spots to fourth, he moved from Class A ball to open the season to the big leagues on August 31 and now, if he plays well down the stretch, a potential opportunity to crack the Tigers outfield next spring.
Garcia and Castellanos became the latest examples of the Tigers' willingness to aggressively move their players through the system at midseason if team officials believe they're ready. Regardless of whether they win a big league spot next year, the extra half season earned them a head start, including Castellanos, despite being left off the September roster.
"I think they benefitted tremendously," Avila said, "because it allowed them to play against tougher competition. That experience was very good for them. We did it because they felt they were ready for it, physically and mentally."
The 20-year-old Castellanos was left out of September callups, Avila said, in order to give him a rest ahead of his scheduled stint in the Arizona Fall League.
"It's actually the longest he's ever played," Avila said. "He was ready for some down time and to regroup. He had a great year. When he got to Erie, he had some success and got some experience. Enough so that people were looking at him to come up here. And then [to be] chosen to be the primary player to go to Arizona is an honor."
Filling out Detroit's top five is left-hander Andy Oliver, who dropped a spot after a befuddling summer at Triple-A Toledo earned him a shift to the bullpen by season's end. His long-term fit is up in the air, but the Tigers are expected to return him to a starting role. He's slated to spend December starting in winter ball in the Puerto Rican League.
Among the biggest jumps in the Tigers' Top 20 from season's start to finish was a seven-spot vault just outside the top 10 for right-hander Marcelo Carreno, whose 9-8 record at Class A West Michigan belied a strong finish and high strikeout total over his final 10 starts.
Adam Wilk, meanwhile, jumped 11 spots to sixth after posting a 2.77 ERA at Triple-A Toledo -- including a 1.77 ERA over his final 10 starts -- and making three fill-in starts in Detroit. He not only improved his command numbers, but bumped up his strikeouts.
Among those who cracked the Top 20 at season's end was outfielder Tyler Collins, who helped lead Lakeland into the Florida State League playoffs. With a compact swing, a near-even walk-to-strikeout ratio, doubles power and 20 stolen bases, the 22-year-old has drawn comparisons to current Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks.
Also making the list for the first time was West Michigan shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who drew raves this summer for his defense and offense at West Michigan. The 21-year-old Venezuelan batted .288 with 34 doubles, five triples, six homers and 67 RBIs with the Whitecaps and earned Midwest League All-Star honors. With his age, he could be the next Tigers prospect to be promoted aggressively, potentially opening next season in Erie, where he would be within reach of a Major League shot by year's end.