As advertised, Joe Jimenez has put up spectacular numbers all throughout the season. He has performed well at all three levels he has pitched at, mopping the floor with the competition at High-A, dominating at Double-A, and looking equally as effective in limited outings in a Triple-A Toledo uniform.
While with High-A Lakeland, Jimenez cut through opposing lineups with more ease than a steak knife through warm butter. He allowed only 5 walks and struck out 28, resulting in a strikeout-to-walk ratio over five. He only pitched 17 1/3 innings, but in that time allowed no batters to score. Even after a promotion to Erie, Jimenez did not allow a run until June 23. Ultimately, Jimenez limited opponents to a meager 2.18 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, and restricted batters to a .171 batting average in his tenure with Erie.
He refuses to be beaten, and has taken his promotion to Triple-A in stride. It is as if he never left Double-A, as he has only permitted a .143 average, 1.15 WHIP and 2.08 ERA in 5 games with Toledo. These spectacular numbers, combined with the fact that the Tigers front office appears to have taken off the kid gloves, should point towards a call-up come September.
(h/t James Chipman)
GCL Tigers West: Matt Manning, RHP
A product of California, the hard-throwing high schooler was the Tigers' top pick in the 2016 draft. Manning was the second-best high school pitcher available, behind Riley PInt, who was taken by the Rockies at fourth overall. Manning sports a plus fastball, a standard curveball, and a fringe-average to below-average changeup. His control is average, and should not be an issue, which is refreshing to hear about a Tigers draftee.
Manning's basic statistics are quite middling. He has compiled a 4.40 ERA through five games started. That poor earned run average conceal a far better story, one told by his peripherals. He has a monstrous 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings and an equally impressive 1.91 walks per nine. Small sample caveats apply, but these numbers scream loud and clear that he is every bit the pitcher Tigers brass hoped he would be, though against very weak competition.
Those numbers are obviously unsustainable as Manning moves up the minor league ranks, but hey, let's enjoy them while we can.
Short-Season Conneticut: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP
The fantastically-named pitcher from Illinois was the Tigers' second pick in the 2016 draft, despite the fact that they took him in the fourth round at 115th overall. I thought it was fantastic pick, in large part because it appeared to be a bargain. I gave some explanation back in June, saying:
[Going back to college as a senior] was a bad move, as his stuff, his control, and his command all regressed. That led to a slide in draft stock that landed him at 115th overall. If he wants to play ball as a professional, he is almost forced to sign with the Tigers, and that may allow them to give him a contract that is below slot value.
Boy, I was wrong. He was signed for a little more than $200,000 over slot value, but has proved to be a good selecton nonetheless. He has, on several occasions, thrown multiple scoreless innings to start a game, including his pro debut. Funkhouser has been effective overall, pitching 23 innings over eight starts. In that time, he has given up 8 earned runs and struck out 19. That results in a 3.13 ERA and 7.43 strikeouts per nine.
What's more impressive is the fact that within the space, Funkhouser has walked only three. That gives him a WHIP of 1.09, despite opponents batting .262 against him. He, like Manning, was never advertised to have plus command, and the lack of walks could be a by-product of the relatively weak competition he is facing. In any case, he could be a mid-rotation stalwart long-term and a fourth round bargain.
High-A Lakeland: Jairo Labourt, LHP
The oft-forgotten peice of the David Price deal, Labourt is the rare power lefty with actual starting potential. His repertoire is one of a solid mid-rotation starter, consisting of a fastball that sits in the low 90s with heavy sink that he can run up to 95-96 mph when he needs to. He also has a slider that flashes potential to be above average and a changeup that is still a work in progress, but figures to be average. Standing at 6'4 and with a lean build a scout likes to see on a pitcher, he looks the part of a good ballplayer too.
Neither his size nor his secondary pitches are what is keeping him in High-A for the second year in a row. As one might expect, it is command and command alone that is limiting Labourt's growth. He strikes out plenty of batters, tallying 77 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings. However, Labourt walks nearly as many, handing out 61 free passes in that same span. The sick irony is that his raw stuff is fantastic, and hitters are only batting .204 against him.
While he may have the pitch mix to succeed as a starter, Labourt was banished to the bullpen back in June, where his fastball-slider combo an play up and his change is not as important. He may have a future as a power lefty out of the pen -- and the team could eventually move him back to the rotation if things click -- but it doesn't matter how good his stuff is if he cannot control it. Only time will tell whether something clicks for him and he is able to make it to Detroit.