DETROIT -- The Tigers felt like they were adding a top talent when they drafted Matt Manning on June 9. As it turns out, they added their new top prospect as well.
Manning, the ninth overall selection in the 2016 Draft, has taken over the No. 1 ranking in MLBPipeline's Tigers Top 30 Prospects list, updated Thursday with midseason rankings. The right-hander takes over the top spot that Michael Fulmer owned going into the season, before Fulmer became a rookie sensation in the Tigers' rotation.
Manning is also the only Detroit farmhand to crack MLBPipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, checking in at No. 81.
The ranking of baseball's top prospects is done by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status are eligible for the list. The rankings follow the Collective Bargaining Agreement guidelines for which players fall under the international pool money rules: Players who were at least 23 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
Manning's ranking is based more on potential than Minor League performance. He has pitched in just four professional games so far, making four starts worth 11 1/3 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Manning has given up seven runs on 14 hits, but he struck out 18 batters against three walks.
Still, the limited numbers provide a glimpse of the pedigree Manning carried into the Draft as one of the top high-school right-handed pitchers available. With a 6-foot-6 frame, a fastball that reached 96-97 mph in high school and the athleticism of a former pro basketball player's son, Manning was a two-sport standout who passed up a chance to play baseball and basketball at Loyola Marymount.
"He's got a great body," Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis said. "He's got a plus arm. There's just a lot of things to like about him. And we'll just see how he develops."
It's far from unprecedented for a Tigers Draft pick to vault toward the top of the prospect rankings before that development begins. Beau Burrows, Detroit's 2015 first-round pick, made the same jump when the club drafted the Texas right-hander out of high school last year. Burrows ranks just behind Manning, as the 19-year-old works and learns through his first full pro season a short drive from Detroit at Class A West Michigan.
Burrows, currently on the disabled list with a blister on his thumb, is 5-4 with a 3.88 ERA in 15 outings (14 starts). He has been more of a sinkerball pitcher, mixing in a two-seam fastball with his mid-90s four-seamer.
"In high school, I threw it by everybody," Burrows told MLB.com in an interview. "And now these guys can hit fastballs here. You have to mix it up. You have to work in and out, up and down. You have to change velocities. It's fun learning how to pitch now, definitely."
Class A Lakeland outfielder Christin Stewart swapped spots with West Michigan center fielder Derek Hill, Detroit's 2014 first-round pick, at third and fourth in the midseason rankings. Joe Jimenez, labeled by many as the Tigers' closer of the future, vaulted from ninth at season's start to fifth at midseason.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.