Seven players ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 Detroit Tigers prospects are on the West Michigan Whitecaps roster to start the 2015 season.
That includes outfielder Derek Hill, Detroit’s top draft pick (23rd overall) last year. Baseball America ranks him third among Tigers prospects, saying he is “an explosive, quick-twitch athlete with double-plus speed” and “already a terrific defensive center fielder — the best among 2014 draft picks.” Hill is more a line-drive hitter than a power bat; coupling that fact with his speed, he is expected to hit more doubles and triples than home runs.
The 19-year-old centerfielder is the son of Los Angeles Dodgers scout Orsino Hill (who played Midwest League ball for Cedar Rapids) and a cousin of former MLB outfielder Darryl Strawberry.
Another ranked outfielder, Mike Gerber, returns to West Michigan after playing eight games with the Whitecaps last year. In 65 games last year — he played the other 57 games in the short-season New York-Penn League — Gerber batted .367 with 7 HR, 42 RBI and 9 SB. BA ranks him 19th among Tigers prospects.
Eight pitchers drafted by Detroit last summer will open the season with West Michigan, including No. 18 prospect and second-round pick RHP Spencer Turnbull. The others are right-handers Adam Ravenelle (4th round), Artie Lewicki (8th round), Paul Voelker (10th round), A.J. Ladwig (11th round), Josh Heddinger (14th round) and Gabe Hemmer (24th round), and lefty Trent Szkutnik (20th round).
Another Whitecaps pitcher, hard-throwing righty Joe Jimenez, is ranked No. 14 by Baseball America. Signed out of high school in 2013, the Puerto Rico native has pitched only 45 professional innings so far, but has excelled in them with a 1.81 ERA and 65 strikeouts. BA says his fastball sits at 95-98 mph.
The other three Whitecaps ranked by Baseball America are infielder Zach Shepherd (No. 11), catcher Arvicent Perez (No. 12), and infielder Joey Pankake (No. 30). Shepherd batted .301 with 4 HR and 29 RBI in 51 games in rookie league last year. Perez played 41 games between rookie league and the Whitecaps last year, batting .323 with 3 HR and 26 RBI. Pankake batted .292 with 2 HR and 36 RBI in 64 games with the short-season Connecticut Tigers last year.