The Detroit Tigers announced several promotions among their minor league affiliates on Wednesday night. The big one is no surprise, as Matt Manning, the team’s number two prospect per MLB Pipeline, has been promoted to the Advanced-A Lakeland Flying Tigers. The tall, hard-throwing right-hander was Detroit’s first round selection in the 2016 draft. His recent outings left no doubt that he’d well outgrown the Midwest League.
Across 11 starts this season, Manning holds a 3.40 ERA in 55 2⁄3 innings of work for the West Michigan Whitecaps. More telling is his 76 strikeouts to 26 walks allowed. Manning continued to have the occasional wild outing this spring, particularly in his first three starts after returning from a mild oblique strain that delayed the start of his season. However he settled in well from that point on and has continued to show improving refinement in his fastball command and secondary pitches. Manning earned the promotion by really putting it all together in his last two outings. He spun a combined 14 innings of one-run ball with 14 strikeouts, 11 hits allowed, and just one walk.
The Tigers also announced several other promotions to go with Manning’s. Outfielder Jose Azocar will return to Lakeland to rejoin the Flying Tigers after being demoted earlier in the year. Azocar has been on fire in West Michigan, but continues to display poor plate discipline and was eaten up by more experienced college pitchers in his first go around in the Florida State League.
Perhaps the most intriguing promotion is that of centerfielder Jacob Robson to Triple-A Toledo. Robson is an under the radar prospect with high end speed and defensive ability who has been an offensive force for the Erie SeaWolves this season. The London, Ontario native was the Tigers 8th round selection in the 2016 draft out of Mississippi State. He has 25 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, and 10 stolen bases for the SeaWolves this season while boasting a strong walk rate. The burgeoning power and plate discipline at such a skill position should make “the Maple Hammer” a very interesting watch over the remainder of the 2018 season and beyond.
The final promotion moves outfielder Cam Gibson to Double-A Erie. Gibson’s .704 OPS with the Lakeland Flying Tigers isn’t very impressive, but the Florida State League is a difficult hitting environment, and Gibson continues to display some tantalizing tools. A good defender with plus speed, and some of his father’s hell-bent-for-leather style of play, Gibson strikes out over a quarter of the time, but has also shown the discipline to take walks. It may be a rough go for him early on at Erie, but if he can hang in there and improve, the tools remain good enough to make it to the show with a fourth outfielder profile. More radical improvement would be required to forecast any higher ceiling for him.