Erie SeaWolves reliever John Schreiber garnered plenty of attention during Spring Training, driven by his streak of 44 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run last season in West Michigan, and by his funky sidearm delivery. Given the Tigers’ struggles this season in the bullpen, it’s a good time to check in on the 24-year old farmhand.
Given Schreiber’s complete dominance of Midwest League hitters in 2017 (.147 BAA, 8.75 K/BB, 12.5 K/9), as well as his impressive showing in four appearances with the big club this spring, the Tigers opted to have Schreiber bypass Lakeland altogether and test his arsenal against Double-A hitters in Erie. Through 15 appearances, the results have been a little mixed.
Schreiber has converted just four out of eight save opportunities, although that figure is a little misleading because of the new rule this season that starts teams off with a runner on second when a ballgame reaches extra innings. Six of the 13 runs he has allowed have been of the unearned variety, mostly due to this rule change. As expected, facing much more advanced hitters, Schreiber has taken some lumps. That said, he’s also flashed the brilliance that made him so untouchable in the lower levels.
Through May 21st, Schreiber has a respectable 3.38 ERA, allowing 17 H, with 16 K and 6 BB in 18.2 innings of work. Three of those six walks were intentional passes. Eastern League hitters are managing just a .230 batting average against him and he has yet to give up a home run in his professional career. I repeat, in 98.1 innings as a pro, John Schreiber has not served up a single long ball.
From April 29th thru May 12th, Schreiber, a Rockwood, Michigan native, went through a bit of a rocky stretch where he allowed six runs on 11 hits across 6 1⁄3 innings. Since then, however, he bounced back nicely with three straight clean outings, including a 7-pitch disposal of Reading in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 4-1 loss in the first game of a doubleheader.
Prior to the season, I contended that Schreiber would be the first meaningful bullpen arm called up to Detroit this season. Obviously, that has not come to fruition, though “meaningful” leaves some wiggle room. However, Schreiber continues to get his share of high leverage situations for the SeaWolves and is proving that he can handle Double-A hitters. With Mark Ecker throwing well, Matt Hall as the quality lefty, Zac Houston off the disabled list, and Joe Navilhon’s promotion from Lakeland, Erie has all the makings of a terrific bullpen.
We may not see the heralded “Schreiber Slider” at Comerica in 2018, but there’s plenty of time for him to earn his first appearance beyond the trade deadline. Either way, he will be in contention to make the club next year. At the very least, Schreiber provides some funk that should baffle right-handed hitters minimum with continued development. He should prove a useful 40-man option with the potential to develop into a steady seventh or eighth inning stopper.
The Tigers were criticized by many for drafting Rivera in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft, as it was considered a bit of a reach. Few expected him to go any sooner than the fourth round. The critics were seemingly validated when he was completely ineffective in short-season ball with Connecticut last year, slashing a miserable .187/.261/.280 in 182 at bats.
However, since joining the Whitecaps in late April, the 6’6”, 250 lb. Puerto Rican product has provided some much-needed pop to an otherwise pedestrian West Michigan lineup. In just 23 games, Rivera leads the team in extra base hits with 14, and has amassed 18 RBI. His .517 SLG% would be among the top 10 in the Midwest League if he had enough at bats to qualify. Rivera is primarily playing first base, but has also appeared in the outfield four times. He turns 21 in June and I think it’s safe to say he’ll spend the entire season in West Michigan. In a system that is relatively void of legit power prospects, it’s nice to see Rivera providing some potency.
Through six starts in West Michigan, the 22-year old Venezuelan southpaw was perhaps the most dominant starting pitcher in all of professional baseball. In 37 IP, Idrogo allowed just two earned runs, with opposing hitters mustering a measly .188 average against him. This was Idrogo’s third season in the Midwest League, and the Tigers finally saw enough dominance at that level to promote him to Class A-Advanced Lakeland late last week.
Idrogo’s progress has been slow, but steady, since being signed as a 16-year old back in 2012. While he was good in 2017, the K/9 rate was an unimpressive 6.70. This season, he is up to 8.27 which, coupled with all of the other peripherals, indicates he is ready to be challenged by more advanced hitters. Long-term, Idrogo probably needs a real step up in terms of his raw stuff to make it to the majors as a starter, but there’s also a quality relief profile available to him with continued steady development.
Idrogo’s countrymate, Wladimir Pinto, was also bumped up a level from West Michigan to Lakeland over the weekend. The righty fireballer packs a heavy fastball in a small frame. Listed at 5’11”, 170 lbs., Pinto can regularly dial it up to 98 mph and Midwest League hitters just couldn’t handle it. Here’s some footage from the Athletic’s Emily Waldon that shows the overpowering heat.
In 11 appearances, Pinto hasn’t allowed a run, striking out 30 in 16 2⁄3 innings along the way. With that plus fastball as his meal ticket, Pinto projects as a true late innings reliever, though he’s recently been stretched out in a few multi-inning appearances that went quite well. Just 20 years old, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers plan to develop Pinto as he moves up the ladder.
Editor’s Note: Please welcome Kenon to the Bless You Boys staff! He’ll be providing some minor league coverage for us, as well as analysis and game coverage.