Thanks to the fine coverage provided by Bless You Boys' own Emily Waldon, even those of us who don't typically follow minor league ball enjoyed the West Michigan Whitecaps' run to the Midwest League Championship. The five-game series was dominated by low scoring duels between pitching staffs, and the Whitecaps prevailed with solid starting pitching and clutch relief work, most prominently by ace closer Joe Jimenez. While it was fun to see the young guys come through under pressure and celebrate with abandon, the Detroit Tigers are our central concern here. Does the Whitecaps' success mean much to the organization going forward?
Unfortunately, the answer is probably no. Alex Skillin of the Hardball Times detailed how scouts and organizations evaluate talent as players progress through each level of the minor leagues. What he makes clear is that the A-ball levels are still a place for player development, working on the actual raw tools that make a major league player. In the mix are plenty of players who simply lack the necessary physical gifts to succeed in the major leagues.
It isn't until players pass from the 60 rosters at A-ball through the bottleneck into Double-A that they face players with real major league potential consistently for the first time. This is where the wheat starts to separate from the chaff. This "Double-A jump" is really the crucible of the minor league system, where observers can begin to evaluate players in comparison to the quality talent around them, as opposed to simply on their natural gifts and makeup.
This doesn't mean that the success of players like Christin Stewart, Spencer Turnbull, or Joe Jimenez was meaningless. It simply means they haven't yet been put to the test in a league consisting almost entirely of players with the ability to reach the major leagues. When they transition to the Double-A Erie SeaWolves -- all three are likely to get there in 2016 at their current rate -- all interested parties will have a lot better idea of what to expect from them as potential major league players. Shortstop Eugenio Suarez and second baseman Devon Travis are two examples of recent graduates of the SeaWolves who jumped right into the major leagues and acquitted themselves well.
The flip side to this is that the Tigers had several standout performers with the SeaWolves this year, despite their poor record, who are close to being major league ready players. Michael Fulmer absolutely dominated in 2015, and is now the best pitching prospect in the Tigers' system. Fulmer, who was the key piece in the Yoenis Cespedes deal, was named the 2015 Pitcher of the Year in the Double-A Eastern League. At this point, he is a good candidate to make his major league debut next season.
Relievers Guido Knudson and Jeff Ferrell also threw the ball very well during their time in Erie, and both made their major league debuts as a result. Both will have a shot at earning a place in the Tigers' bullpen next year. If they can't manage it out of spring training, both will be in the Mud Hens' holding pattern, honing their craft and waiting for an opportunity with the Tigers.
Center fielder Wynton Bernard, starter Josh Turley and closer Paul Voelker are three others who made the leap to Erie and showed future potential this season. They can probably be categorized as players needing to show a little more before making the jump to the Toledo Mud Hens. Each will have a chance to take that next step in 2016. While each needs more seasoning, they have arrived now at the point where a hot streak, or the needs of the Tigers, could result in the phone call that will make their major league dreams a reality.
2015 MLB Draft: First round pitchers review and results - Minor League Ball, John Sickels
A quick review of the pitchers drafted in the first round in 2015. The Tigers' first round pick, Beau Burrows is one who certainly seems to have impressed with an excellent pro debut in rookie ball.
Detroit Tigers prospects that saw their stock rise or fall in 2015 - TigsTown, John Moore
With the 2015 minor league campaign coming to a close, associate scout takes a look at how the season unfolded for a number of prospects, and which of them saw their stock rise or fall with their performance.
Weinberg looks at the confusion and concern surrounding Justin Verlander over the past two seasons, and his resurgence as a ace over the past few months. In particular, he digs into Verlander's newfound study habits, while gnashing his teeth a bit that such an unbelievably gifted pitcher would go this deep into his career before finally starting to study and gameplan for hitters.
Adjustment pays off for Detroit Tigers' Randy Wolf: 'I feel like my arm's a little bit more live' - MLive
Randy Wolf is in no way a candidate for the Tigers' rotation in 2016, but his experience, craft and leadership have impressed the Tigers a lot. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers invite him back next year as a possible bullpen arm, or if this was the last go around for the Wolfman.
How do you beat the Blue Jays offense? - Beyond the Box Score, Kevin Ruprecht
The Blue Jays have by far the largest run differential. While their pitching has been suspect, the addition of David Price and now the return of Marcus Stroman have completely re-vitalized their rotation. But above all, even with Troy Tulowitzki out indefinitely, they Blue Jays score runs like no other team in the game. Can they be stopped?
The Latest Edition of David Price - FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan
So many times, a deadline acquisition just doesn't fit with a team, or struggles inexplicably (see, Cueto, Johnny). David Price is not one of those guys. Not only has he been absolutely dominant, pitching some of the best baseball of his career, he's mastered his own personal nemesis, and his new team's biggest rivals, the Yankees.
What happened to Doug Fister? - Beyond the Box Score, Joe Vasile
Doug Fister went from a good top-of-the-rotation starter to relegated to the absolute back of the Washington Nationals bullpen in only two years. What's the cause behind the sudden and extreme dropoff?
Wade Davis will be Royals’ closer through playoffs - SI.com
The Royals will win the Central handily, but there are some cracks in the façade. Greg Holland continues to battle an elbow issue and velocity loss. Manager Ned Yost has decided that the uncertainty is too much to take into the playoffs, and so he'll go with Wade Davis the rest of the way in the ninth inning.
Innings limits: Can a pitcher have too much rest heading into October? - FOX Sports, Matt Trueblood
Bill James on whether skipping starts and limiting innings helps or hurts pitchers in the post-season.
The Need for Lead: What Statcast Teaches Us About Baserunning … and Ichiro - Grantland, Ben Lindbergh
The Tigers baserunning sucks, plain and simple. It's one of the elements Brad Ausmus vowed to improve upon taking the reins, and yet the baserunning has been a total disaster. Maybe they need to learn something from Ichiro, who even in his forties, still gets betters leads off first-base than anyone.