Achtung! The Detroit Tigers have agreed to a minor league deal with right-handed pitcher A.J. Achter, as reported by MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo. Achter, a Toledo native and Michigan State alum, will receive an invite to spring training to compete for a spot in the bullpen. In what has already been an uneventful week for the Tigers, this doesn’t exactly qualify as earth shattering news. But hey, it’s a signing, so that’s something.
Onto Achter. He pitched 37 1⁄3 innings for the Angels last year with a 3.11 ERA. On the surface, this seems fairly impressive, but the red flags pop up when you dig further. In those 37 innings, Achter walked 2.9 batters per nine innings and struck out an abysmal 3.3 batters per nine. He gave up a fairly high 10.3 hits per nine innings and seven home runs, giving him a 1.46 WHIP. In parts of 2014 and 2015, he logged a total of 24 1⁄3 innings with his original club, the Minnesota Twins. He pitched to an unimpressive 5.18 ERA in Minneapolis.
Despite his struggles at the major league level, all hope is not lost. Achter is only 28 years old and owns a career 2.95 ERA and a 1.078 WHIP in the minor leagues. His peripherals are better too, with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.0 walks per nine. Clearly, the Tigers think there is something to work with here. If they can get his strikeout numbers up and help him induce weaker contact, they may have something to work with here. It’s a long shot, though.
There is some history between Achter and the Tigers. He picked up his first win in Detroit, on Sept. 26, 2014, when the Tigers got pummeled by the Twins 11-4. He pitched two innings and, thanks to his teammates, got the W that night.
The only carnage was when he faced some guy named Miguel Cabrera, who did this to him.
Achter also may owe some degree of his major league career to a tip he picked up from Tigers starter Mike Pelfrey when the two were in Triple-A together. According to FanGraphs’ David Laurila, Pelfrey showed Achter a different grip to use on his slider. What followed was a surge in his numbers, leading to his eventual promotion to the big leagues. He also says that he was a big fan of the Mud Hens, and by extension, the Tigers while growing up in Toledo. Now, he will get a chance to pitch for both of the teams he grew up rooting for. If nothing else, it will be a nice story to follow.