So yesterday's mock depth chart covered position players- the offensive cogs that the Tigers can call up in case of injury or ineffectiveness. To be honest, we probably won't see many of those players with Detroit before rosters expand in September. Most of the guys on this list, on the other hand, are almost a lock to appear in Detroit. We always need pitching.
What follows are 12 pitchers that might make an appearance in Detroit- 5 starters (listed 1-5 in the order of ability, confidence and likelihood that they'll be called up) and 7 relievers (listed by role).
#1 Starting Pitcher: RHP Rick Porcello, AAA Toledo
Should he be called up? No. Is he first in line if injury or ineffectiveness take place? Yes. The reason that Porcello belongs in the minor leagues is due to his lack of strikeouts at the big league level. The grounders are great (he's currently got 64% in Toledo) but he's got to strike more people out if he ever wants to hit his ace ceiling. The good news is that he's making progress- he's striking out almost 6 per 9 in AAA, and if that rate can translate to the majors, then he's golden. But he absolutely needs more time to sort out those breaking pitches. Unfortunately, with this front office, he won't get it. Get used to Porcello the innings eater- he won't make the steps forward he needs at the major league level.
#2 Starting Pitcher: RHP Alfredo Figaro, AAA Toledo
Please take your poor impressions of dear Alfredo and check them at the door. His horrible 2/3rds of an inning this year aside, Figaro has four decent pitches- a fastball, slider, change and curve. The fastball is the only plus pitch of the four, but he's got enough of a repertoire to either be a #4 at the major league level or a pretty good innings eating middle reliever (think Eddie Bonine or Zach MIner). Also, that 4.39 ERA is probably due to come down- his FIP is 3.76 and the strikeout rate is pretty good (sitting in the mid-7's per 9 innings).
#3 Starting Pitcher: LHP Charlie Furbush, AA Erie
Another player that needs more time in the minors. But Dave Dombrowski likes rushing pitching prospects, so he goes on the list. Not only does he have one of the best names in the system, he has a live arm, a good fastball and a great K rate. It was 12.47 in A+ Lakeland, so his 9ish one through 27 innings in Erie might actually go up. The homer rate is scary- almost one per 9 innings. But the walk rate is also good- around 2 per 9. There's enough here to turn into a #4 starter or a #3 if the strikeouts keep coming like they are. But with only 5 AA starts under his belt, he needs to stay there for a while lest he get hammered this year.
#4 Starting Pitcher: RHP LJ Gagnier, AAA Toledo
Ugh. Scraping the bottom of the barrel at starter #4. That shouldn't be seen as a knock on Gagnier, who isn't a stud prospect, but has potential as a big league reliever. The reason he goes here under the "starter" category is for two reasons- first his sparkling ERA of 3.55 in AAA Toledo (might fool the front office) and second because there's not much else. The problem is that his FIP is a whole run higher (4.66) and his low strikeout rate (6.6 per 9) is joined by a homer rate around 1 per 9 and a walk rate at around 3.5 per 9. He'd be a good middle reliever, but in the long-term he's nothing more than a spot starter.
#5 Starting Pitcher: RHP Brooks Brown, AA Erie
The return for former Tigers prospect Jamie Skelton (remember him?), Brown is a sinker/slider pitcher repeating AA Erie this year. The good news is that he keeps the ball on the ground (50% GB rate in Erie) with plenty of strikeouts (7 per 9), only a few walks (2.5ish per9) and even fewer homers (.31 per 9). The bad news is that he's repeating AA for the third time, meaning the numbers don't really matter. He'll probably make it as a reliever if he does make it, but he's my dark horse starter for the second half. He could eat some innings... or he could get lit up.
Setup Men: RHP Jay Sborz (AAA Toledo), RHP Casey Fien (AAA Toledo)
You've seen both of these guys before, and a lot of people have made up their minds on both already. But they both have live arms and redeeming qualities. Sborz has a great fastball and a pretty nice curve, but has been plagued with health problems over the past few years. He was BA's #21 prospect in the Tigers system last year, but the walk and homer rates are problematic (4.5 walks per 9 and 1.31 homers per 9). The strikeout rate is good, but that doesn't mean everything. I like Fien more in the short-term. He's Toledo's closer right now, and his fastballs are pretty good, including a 2 seam with some sink. He has pretty good command and his slider has potential. His FIP is high at 4.02 due to a low strikeout rate (below 6 per 9) and a high homer rate (he gives up 1 per 9) but he doesn't walk many. He could make a real impact this year.
Specialist: LHP Fu Ti Ni (AAA Toledo), RHP Scot Drucker (AAA Toledo)
I'm cheating here. So sue me. Ni is a good pitcher when used against lefties. Against righties, not so much. I blame Leyland's usage of him over anything else. He draws tons of grounders against lefties and strikes a fair number out, too. But righties tear him up. His failure falls partly on Leyland, and he could be a real weapon down the stretch. I included Drucker not because he's a good LOOGY, but because he could complement Ni. Out of his 56 innings in Toledo, he's thrown roughly 27 against lefties and roughly 29 against righties. The righties he owns, with a 3.48 FIP. The lefties... it's more like 4.49. His strikeout rates and walk rates are better against righties, so using these two in tandem would make a lot of sense.
Mop-Up: RHP Zach Simons (AA Erie), RHP Josh Rainwater (AAA Toledo)
I have a bit of an affinity for Zach Simons. He held his own in AAA Toledo last year, but got sent back to Erie for whatever reason. The K rate there is fantastic though, roughly 1 per inning. The walk rate isn't fantastic (3.5ish per 9) but the strikeouts will continue to impress me. He also does well against lefties, striking out something like 10 per 9 innings. Not only does he have prospect status (C from John Sickles last year) but we got him for Jason Grilli. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Grilli's return pitched a few quality innings down the stretch? Rainwater is my dark-horse. His ERA of 5.05 makes him look like a dark horse, but his FIP is 4.30. He's more of a contact guy (1 homer per 9 and just under 6 strikeouts per 9) but he only walks a few guys (11 in 49 innings). He'd be no more than a mop-up guy, but he could be a short-term call up.
Dark Horse: RHP Chance Ruffin (unsigned draft pick)
Hey, if you're going to be wrong, it might as well be a spectacular failure. Sure, he hasn't signed. But he's an advanced college arm, and we all know how the Tigers like to move advanced college arms quickly. He certainly has a good arsenal, featuring an above average fastball, a plus slider and an average curve. I could see him signing and joining the Tigers in September. And if he impresses, who knows. Outlandish, yes. But with this front office, can you ever really tell?
Any other pitchers you think could have an impact on the Tigers down the stretch? List em in the comments!