In a surprising move, the Tigers called up right-handed pitcher Buck Farmer to make a spot start tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates. While Farmer was called up from Double-A Erie, he spent most of the season pitching for Single-A West Michigan. A fifth round draft pick out of Georgia Tech in 2013, tonight will be Farmer's major league debut.
Farmer made 18 starts for the West Michigan Whitecaps this year, compiling a 10-5 record and 2.60 ERA. He struck out 116 batters and walked just 24 in 103 2/3 innings, resulting in a 2.78 FIP. He was particularly impressive in his last five outings for the Whitecaps, holding opponents to a 0.64 ERA and .442 OPS in 28 innings. He has only made two starts since getting promoted to Double-A Erie, but won his only decision and has a pair of quality starts to his name.
While Farmer's numbers at West Michigan are impressive, it's important to note that he was a bit old for the level. He started at Georgia Tech for three years and probably belonged at Advanced-A Lakeland during the first half. Farmer continued to miss bats during his short stint at Double-A with 11 strikeouts in 12 innings, but probably won't come anywhere close to the 10.07 strikeouts per nine innings he totaled in the Midwest League at the major league level.
Before the season, Jordan ranked Farmer as the 29th best prospect in the Tigers' farm system. Things have gone well for him so far, but his ceiling doesn't seem to be much higher than a back-of-the-rotation starter.
At this point in time, Farmer peppers the strike zone, however, he needs to refine his overall command profile in order to pitch in a major league rotation. He's the type of guy who will eat up lower minor league hitting, but may struggle in the higher minors before making adjustments. His delivery makes him difficult for right handed hitters to pick up, and if he can make that leap in command, he should be able to stick in a major league rotation.
Jordan also got the chance to take some video of Farmer during Spring Training.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball was slightly more optimistic about Farmer's upside, but had similar things to say about his pitching arsenal.
He throws strikes, repeats his mechanics well, and has been very durable. Farmer's professional statistics are virtually identical to his college stats and he's shown an admirable ability to eat innings without getting hurt. Repeatable mechanics help with that, as does a strong lower half.
Rushing pitchers is usually not a good idea, but Farmer may be an exception: he is close to being a finished product. Although he's not going to turn into a number one starter, I think he has a good chance to be an above-average inning eater.
Baseball America also got into the act, telling fans exactly what to expect when watching Farmer tonight.
He pitches with an above-average fastball, at times sitting 91-95 mph, at others sitting in the 89-92 range with more sink. He’s even touched as high as 97 mph this season. His slider was a plus pitch in college and has been more inconsistent and average as a pro. It’s been good enough to impress MWL managers, though, who voted it the league’s Best Breaking Pitch in our Best Tools survey. He’s had some success with a sinking changeup as well, though it can be firm in the mid-80s.
The Tigers will likely be looking for a similar outing from Farmer that they got from Robbie Ray last night -- five to six innings while keeping the game within striking distance -- but anything better would be preferred given the team's recent funk. Hopefully Farmer's 11-5 record in the minors can translate in some form to the big league level this evening and deliver the Tigers a much-needed win.