Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
As someone that picked shortstop Audy Ciriaco as his breakout player multiple times, readers would be well advised to skip my thoughts below and jump down to the rest of the team. That being said, I'm expecting a big year out of right-hander Buck Farmer, last year's sixth round draft pick. Farmer was a relative afterthought in a draft class that featured a number of high-powered arms or devastating breaking balls, but his stuff is nothing to sneeze at, and he's an intense competitor that will get every ounce out of the talent he has. And let's be clear, Farmer isn't a nice story that might make it Double-A before hitting the prospect ceiling - Farmer can chuck it. His fastball reaches 94 MPH, and he mixes a curve, a slider, and a changeup to keep hitters off-balance. He's part of the highly-touted West Michigan rotation, and while not the one many focus on, could be the one that surprises the most.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
I could come up with a healthy list of players that I expect to improve their prospect stock this season, and if asked this question just a couple days ago, I probably wouldn't have gone with this player. Entering the season Willy Adames, ranked 33rd in the TigsTown Top 50, was a guy that was slated to spend the bulk of the season in the GCL or NYPL. He was a guy that could start making a little noise and slide into the Top 30 in the organization by this time next year. Since the start of the season, Adames has hit the cover off the ball in extended spring training and subsequently been promoted to West Michigan when injuries struck at higher levels. As a guy that will play the entire year at just 18-years old in full-season ball, Adames is already ahead of the curve. He is a physical specimen with a mature 6-foot-1, 180 pound frame, and the raw power that such a frame would suggest in a teenager. His defensive skills at shortstop are raw but the tools are there to remain at the position. Adames has developed much quicker over the last two years than most scouts expected, and while he will likely struggled for long stretches of the Midwest League season, his exposure to stiffer competition and the opportunity for scouts to more readily observe his obvious physical gifts, will have him receiving high praise come the end of the season. Adames is a name to watch, and with even modest results at West Michigan this year -- for however long he is at that level -- will result in him moving substantially higher in the TigsTown Top 50.
James Chipman, Senior Lakeland Correspondent
There are a number of candidates that are poised for a potential breakout season this year. Young position players Willy Adames and Javier Betancourt impressed me at Instructs and Spring Training, and both easily come to mind for this year's pick. That being said, I'm going to stay local and pick a Lakeland Flying Tigers pitcher. Right-hander Edgar De La Rosa was tabbed the 32nd best prospect in the Tigers system in the TigsTown Top 50 this year. After observing a couple of DLR's starts this season, I strongly believe he's ready to breakout. Built like an NBA small forward at 6' 6" and a strong 240 pounds, the 23-year-old appears to be more coordinated and comfortable with his massive frame this season. His mechanics have noticeably improved and the results are paying dividends; especially in the command and control department. DLR is armed with a mid-90s fastball that has hit as high as 98 mph this year and an impressive change-up that has nice bite and arm-side fade. The slider is raw and it still lags behind developmentally, but I'm encouraged with the progress I've observed. If he's able to iron everything out Tigers fans could be in for a treat. Regardless, as I've said before, worst case scenario, the mound presence and fastball/change-up combo could be lethal in the late innings as a reliever.
Nick Shlain, Staff Writer
My breakout Tigers prospect is Endrys Briceno, a right-handed pitcher with the Lakeland Flying Tigers. He managed to throw a lot of innings (116 2/3) with mixed results (4.47 ERA 1.50 WHIP) in the Midwest League last year, but it's clear he has upside. He's only 22 years old and a big, projectable kid at 6'5. Briceno has easy velocity and can hit 95 mph and above. He also throws a promising changeup and his breaking ball is still developing, as is his command. In three starts for Lakeland, he has a 3.38 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 16 innings with seven strikeouts and three walks. It's still early to judge his results as it will take time for him to fully develop his delivery and a breaking pitch, but with this kind of upside he's worth the wait.
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