Right-handed pitcher Artie Lewicki was scratched from his next start with the Toledo Mud Hens and will make his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers on Monday, according to a report from Emily Waldon of The Athletic. The Tigers have not yet announced the move, but it will require adding Lewicki to their 40-man roster.
A former eighth round pick out of the University of Virginia, Lewicki has progressed quickly through the Tigers’ farm system. He posted solid numbers at Single-A West Michigan in 2015, then split time between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie in 2016. This season, Lewicki has a 3.38 ERA and 3.97 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 141 innings between Erie (110 IP) and Triple-A Toledo (31 IP). He has been especially impressive with the Mud Hens, winning all five of his starts with a 2.03 and 2.83 FIP.
Lewicki has never been a highly rated prospect, but his statistical profile matches those of some of the top pitching prospects in the game. FanGraphs’ Carson Cistulli has profiled Lewicki several times in his Fringe Five series, and their KATOH projection system pegs Lewicki for 1.5 career WAR (a much higher projection than his scouting profile normally warrants). Minor League Ball’s FaBIO evaluation system ranked Lewicki as one of the top performers in the minors, among bigger names like Jharel Cotton, Jose De Leon, and Jose Berrios.
This robust profile was a big reason why we named Lewicki as a sleeper prospect heading into the season. He has a low-90s fastball that has reached as high as 95-96 miles per hour, and mixes in a couple of breaking balls and a changeup. In an article published at the Detroit News back in 2015, Tigers prospect expert James Chipman graded Lewicki’s fastball as a plus pitch with average grades for his slider and curveball.
Lewicki was an absolute steal for the Tigers in the eighth round of last year's draft. He pairs his plus fastball with two big-league-average offerings and a serviceable fringe-average change piece. Lewicki showed the aptitude to adequately handle both starting and relieving for a successful University of Virginia program, giving the Tigers a solid fallback plan should he fail to stick in the rotation. The progress of his fastball and curveball are particularly encouraging; leaving me with no issues placing a back-end-rotation ceiling on Lewicki.
The Justin Verlander trade gives Lewicki an early audition for a major league job heading into 2018. With as many as three rotation spots up for grabs heading into next year, a successful September could give him a leg up on the competition before the offseason.