The Detroit Tigers made their first round of spring training roster cuts on Saturday, sending four pitchers to the minor leagues. Right-handed reliever Victor Alcantara was optioned to Triple-A Toledo, while hard-throwing lefty Jairo Labourt was optioned to Double-A Erie. Righthanders Adam Ravenelle and Jeff Ferrell, who are not on the 40-man roster, were assigned to minor league camp. They will learn their team assignments later this spring.
As far as analysis goes, none of the early cuts are surprising. Both Alcantara and Labourt are blessed with overpowering fastballs, but both struggled mightily with their command in 2016. Labourt walked 70 batters in 87 1⁄3 innings at Advanced-A Lakeland last season, resulting in a 5.26 ERA. Alcantara wasn’t much better while pitching in the Los Angeles Angels’ farm system, walking 57 batters in 111 innings. His struggles continued in the Arizona Fall League, where he issued 11 free passes in 10 innings. Neither pitcher was given much opportunity to prove themselves this spring; Labourt only pitched one inning in Grapefruit League play, while Alcantara gave up a pair of runs in three frames.
Ravenelle was one of the darlings of the Tigers farm system throughout the offseason. The 24-year-old righthander received a lot of praise from scouts and team officials alike, and shot up organizational prospect rankings across multiple outlets. We ranked him 22nd on our list, citing control issues and platoon splits as reasons to worry about his overall ceiling.
Ravenelle’s command isn’t anywhere close at present, resulting in gaudy walk rates. Opponents walked at a 14.2 percent clip at High-A Lakeland last year, and at a 12.1 percent rate in Double-A. He doesn’t project to even have average command at his peak, and he seems to be a ways away from that lackluster ceiling right now.
Like Alcantara and Labourt, Ravenelle can reach the high-90s with his fastball, and has even touched triple digits on occasion. He struck out 57 batters in 58 innings across two minor league levels last season, but also walked 33 batters, a rate of 5.1 per nine innings.
Ferrell was once a fast-riser through the Tigers’ minor league ranks. The 26-year-old righty pitched at three different levels in 2015, and logged 11 1⁄3 innings for the Tigers. He struggled early on, allowing a 6.35 ERA in nine appearances, including three home runs. He missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, and only logged 11 1⁄3 total innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits in 2 2⁄3 innings in Grapefruit League play this year.
Typically, the first round of roster cuts is a bit larger than this. With an abundance of pitchers and catchers in camp and fewer innings to go around as starters get stretched out, a healthy number of players typically get the axe this time of year. However, the World Baseball Classic has thrown a wrench in the team’s preparations for the season. The Tigers currently have 15 players away on WBC duty, including a host of position players. Relievers Francisco Rodriguez, Bruce Rondon, and Joe Jimenez are the only pitchers away who will likely receive major league playing time in 2017.