DETROIT -- The disappointment was evident in Nick Castellanos' voice on the day he was sent out of Major League camp last month. He knew making the Tigers' Opening Day roster was a long shot, even as well as he hit in Spring Training, but he held out just a glimmer of hope.
Still, as well as Castellanos played, he was able to chuckle about it when somebody asked about him not going north.
"Technically, I still am going north," Castellanos said as he cracked a smile, "just not as far north."
Geographically and figuratively, Castellanos isn't far off, either.
Neither, for that matter, is Bruce Rondon, the closer of the future who had a fighting chance to be the closer of the present before his inconsistencies in command led team officials to decide he needed a little bit more seasoning.
where to watch
|4||Danry Vasquez||West Michigan||A|
|9||Jake Thompson||Extended ST|
|10||Austin Schotts||West Michigan||A|
|20||Brenny Paulino||Extended ST|
"As you know, we like him a lot," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last month. "But we just thought he would benefit a little bit more by some more development time. Very similar to guys like, say, [Avisail] Garcia or Castellanos -- premium prospects that we just think would benefit by more time at Triple-A."
For both of them, it's not a matter of if they make it to Detroit, but when. In both cases, it isn't difficult to see it happening soon.
Not since the Toledo Mud Hens boasted Curtis Granderson and Joel Zumaya on their roster in 2005 have the Tigers had an elite-level position and pitching prospect at the highest level of their farm system going into a season with a chance to make an impact in the big leagues by summer. Once Garcia returns from the disabled list, they'll have a third.
Detroit also has another crop of talent coming up in the lower levels, from players like outfielder Tyler Collins and Steven Moya, who opened some eyes in Spring Training, to others like Danry Vasquez and Austin Schotts, who should have an opportunity to do the same sometime soon.
The Tigers will have a chance to add some depth with a full helping of picks in this summer's First-Year Player Draft as well as the international signing market. For now, they have three guys who should help them win later this year and a few others with a chance to make a difference down the road.
Minor League Baseball is under way, and you can keep track of the Tigers' top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of Detroit's Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/tigers.
For top-level talent, the Tigers have the aforementioned trio at Triple-A Toledo, where each of the Tigers' top three prospects open the season. The Mud Hens could soon boast an outfield of the .300-hitting Castellanos, the five-tooled Garcia and last year's Tigers midseason savior, speedy veteran Quintin Berry. Add in left-hander Casey Crosby, likely Detroit's insurance starter after Drew Smyly, and four of the organization's top five prospects open at Triple-A.
The next two prospects after that, Collins and Daniel Fields, are at Double-A Erie, but the story so far has been second baseman Hernan Perez, who opened the season with three straight multihit games against Altoona. For someone who has never hit .265 in the Minor Leagues, an early-season tear could be a big boost for him, and could give the SeaWolves another player to watch.
Keep an eye on low Class A West Michigan, where Schotts and Vasquez could become a nice hitting duo alongside second baseman Devon Travis, who made an impression with team officials during a handful of Spring Training appearances.
Debuts and draftees
As quickly as the Tigers signed their Draft picks last summer, most of them ended up making their debuts last year. Schotts, who cracked MLB.com's Tigers prospect list after Detroit drafted him in the third round last summer, hit so well in the Gulf Coast League that he played two games down the stretch at Class A Lakeland. If the Tigers' history with players out of high school holds, the speedy 19-year-old outfielder will get a full season at West Michigan.
Jake Thompson, the Tigers' top pick in the second round last year, is expected to get a short-season stint after making seven starts in the Gulf Coast League down the stretch last summer. The big right-hander struck out 31 batters over 28 1/3 innings there.
Another 2012 Draft pick, left-hander Joe Rogers, is opening the year in the bullpen at Class A Lakeland after striking out 28 batters over 23 2/3 innings of relief in short-season Connecticut last summer.
Teams on TV
The Toledo Mud Hens and West Michigan Whitecaps are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.