The New York-Penn League’s 76-game short-season campaign commences this Friday, June 15, and the Connecticut Tigers have stocked their roster and coaching staff with a fresh set of faces. New skipper Gary Cathcart, along with hitting coach Bill Springman and pitching coach Carlos Bohorquez, had been working down in Lakeland this spring with all of the players who will take the field against Lowell on Friday night at Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium.
Cathcart and his cohorts were expecting to stay in Florida and instruct in the Gulf Coast League, when the organization made a late change. Now they will get a chance to lead a roster consisting of several big names in Tigers prospect circles, such as catchers Sam McMillan and Gresuan Silverio, shortstop José King, and pitchers Gio Arriera, Jack O’Loughlin, and Wilkel Hernandez.
McMillan is the headliner, as the Tigers invested $1 million to sign the 2017 fifth round pick out of high school. He demonstrated some of his advanced offensive approach in the Gulf Coast League last season, hitting .288/.441/.432 in 37 games. It will be interesting to see if his skills behind the dish progress to the point where we can consider him a candidate for a late-season promotion to West Michigan.
Silverio, like McMillan, just turned 19 this winter. A switch hitter, he also displayed advanced plate discipline in the GCL in 2017, hitting .331/.422/.449 in his 42 games. Silverio, a Dominican Republic native, was considered a top 50 international talent by FanGraphs back in 2015 when the Tigers signed him. To this point, he has not garnered the same level of attention as other Tigers catching prospects like McMillan, Joey Morgan, and Jake Rogers. This could be the season that springboards him more deeply into that conversation.
Another 19-year-old, Jose King was packaged with Dawel Lugo and Sergio Alcantara in the J.D. Martinez deal. King’s biggest strength at the moment is that he can fly, with a 70-grade, or double-plus, speed rating mutually shared by Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospectus and Paul Wenzer of TigsTown. King still has some projectability in his slight, 6’0, 160-pound frame, though the rest of his game is still very raw. You can’t teach speed, however, and King certainly has that in his favor.
Arriera, now 20, was the Tigers’ fourth round pick in 2017 out of Palm Beach State Junior College. He is a 6’2, 220-pound righthander with a terrific low-90s sinking fastball, complemented by a decent curve. This two-pitch assortment profiles Arriera as a reliever who has a chance to be serviceable if he can learn to command them.
O’Loughlin, at just 18 years and 3 months, is the youngest member of the Opening Day roster. He is a 6’5, 210-pound lefty out of Australia who will be seeing his first professional baseball action in the States. O’Loughlin has been in the organization since 2016, and since then has started creeping onto prospect lists on the heels of some solid performances for the Port Adelaide Magpies of the Australian Baseball League. He already touches low 90s with his two-seam and four-seam fastballs with potentially average to above average secondary offerings.
Wilkel Hernandez came over to Detroit from the Los Angeles Angels (along with outfielder Troy Montgomery) in the Ian Kinsler trade. Hernandez is tall and projectable, listed at 6’3, 160 pounds, and he sits 92-94 miles-per-hour with the heater. Like most pitchers at this level, mastering command and developing secondary pitches will be the key for Hernandez. He is a long-term project with a back-end rotation ceiling if everything works out.
Check out the entire Connecticut Tigers roster here.