Soto, Gerber named Tigers' Prospects of the Year

Soto, Gerber named Tigers' Prospects of the Year

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Gerber has quietly produced offense in the Tigers farm system for four years without much fanfare. Gregory Soto burst out of obscurity this year with a breakout season at Class A West Michigan. They have two different track records, but they share Tigers Prospect of the Year honors from MLB Pipeline.

It's the second end-of-season honor for Soto, who was named Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year by the club last week.

Tigers Prospects of the Year
2017 Mike Gerber Gregory Soto
2016 Christin Stewart Joe Jimenez
2015 Mike Gerber Kevin Ziomek
Year Hitter Pitcher

MLB Pipeline staffers select the Prospects of the Year winners. Players must have spent the entire year in the same organization, spent at least half the season in the Minor Leagues, and appeared on the team's top 30 prospects list in order to be considered.

Soto, an international signing out of the Dominican Republic five years ago, wasn't even ranked among the Tigers top 30 prospects when the season began, but vaulted to No. 12 by the end of summer. The 22-year-old rose up the rankings by going 10-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 18 starts for West Michigan, striking out 116 batters over 96 innings. He finished the season at Class A Advanced Lakeland, going 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts for the Flying Tigers.

Soto said through translator Bryan Loor-Almonte that he worked on controlling his fastball better as well as improving his slider to the point where he felt confident throwing it for strikes. The result was an overpowering package for A-ball hitters, who hit just .204 against him at West Michigan.

"It just shows the benefit of hard work," Soto said. "I want to thank my coaches, especially [West Michigan pitching] coach [Jorge] Cordova, who consistently worked with me since I arrived in January. Although I had my ups and downs this year, I thank God that I was able to finish strong."

Gerber actually dropped down the Tigers rankings from No. 7 to No. 10, but that was a product of Detroit's prospect infusion from their second-half trades of Justin Verlander, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. On the field, Gerber's fortunes rose, as he spent the majority of his strong season with Double-A Erie. The 25-year-old batted .304 (117-for-385) with 26 doubles, 14 home runs, 50 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and an .869 OPS between Erie, Lakeland and Triple-A Toledo.

The multi-tooled offensive skill set, combined with his defensive versatility across the outfield, helped boost his value beyond the numbers. He has become the unusual case of a four-year college player and third-day Draft pick getting a boost with time in the Minor Leagues.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.