With the Detroit Tigers actually boasting a decent farm system these days, fans were hoping that they would get to see a top prospect or two in this year’s Arizona Fall League.
Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen. The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced on Tuesday, and the Tigers will be sending six prospects to the Mesa Solar Sox: pitchers Spencer Turnbull, Zac Reininger, and Adam Ravenelle, outfielder Cam Gibson, and infielders A.J. Simcox and Kody Eaves.
The biggest name of the group is Gibson, son of former Tigers outfielder Kirk Gibson. Cam, a Michigan State product like his father, has enjoyed a breakout season at the Single-A level. He hit .274/.334/.479 with 10 home runs in 65 games for the West Michigan Whitecaps, and has maintained an .847 OPS in 153 plate appearances for High-A Lakeland. Many are skeptical of his ability to maintain these improvements at higher levels, especially after a 2016 season that saw him hit .221 with a .302 on-base percentage for the Whitecaps.
The other big addition is Turnbull, a former second round pick out of Alabama. The big righthander has missed large chunks of the past two season with injuries, but has pitched well in 15 starts for High-A Lakeland. He has a 3.05 ERA and 2.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 82 2⁄3 innings, and is limiting opponents to just 7.4 hits per nine innings. Turnbull pitched in the Arizona Fall League last year as well, where he struck out 20 and walked 10 in 20 innings.
Noticeably absent from the Solar Sox roster is Derek Hill, one of the Tigers’ top position prospects. Hill missed the first half of the 2017 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has come on strong lately. He put up an .812 OPS in 35 games for Single-A West Michigan before getting promoted to Lakeland earlier this month. With only 52 games under his belt this year, it’s a bit surprising the club decided not to send him to Arizona for more at-bats.
Unfortunately, Hill’s absence may be due to a numbers game. All Double and Triple-A prospects are eligible for an Arizona Fall League appointment, but teams can only select one player in Single-A (or lower) to their affiliated AFL roster. Gibson is the Tigers’ Single-A representative this year, leaving Hill as the odd man out.
One pitcher to watch will be Reininger, who made his major league debut against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. The 24-year-old righthander has rocketed through the minor leagues this year, posting a 2.54 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 61 2⁄3 innings across three levels.