At long last, Detroit Tigers fans will get to see their top prospect in action. Righthander Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s MLB draft, will make his professional debut soon, perhaps even as early as this week. Lynn Henning of the Detroit News teased the news late last week, and the Freep’s George Sipple dropped the bigger nugget this weekend: Mize will throw live batting practice in Lakeland on Monday.
Assuming this goes off without a hitch, Mize should join a minor league rotation soon. The club hasn’t announced where he will debut, but my guess is he will stay in Lakeland and pitch in High-A. He is one of the most polished arms we’ve seen come through the draft this decade, and could probably keep his head above water in Double-A right now. Keeping him close to the team facility in Lakeland seems like the smart move, though the Tigers could also move him somewhere like Connecticut, where increased roster flexibility allows them to keep close tabs on his innings; Mize will only throw about 20 frames this summer before the team shuts him down.
We shouldn’t worry about the light workload, though. Mize already threw 114 2⁄3 innings for Auburn this year, and dealt with a minor elbow injury during his sophomore season. The team would be justified in shutting him down completely, but it’s possible they want him to avoid the same long layoff that 2017 first round pick Alex Faedo had following his deep run in the College World Series (Faedo threw nearly 40 more innings than Mize, though). Assuming Mize stays healthy, we will probably see him in Lakeland again next spring, with a quick promotion to Double-A Erie on the horizon.
For now, just enjoy the ride.
Short-season Connecticut: RHP Carlos Guzman
Do you want to read a quote? Because here’s a Capital-Q quote.
Do you really want your chat queue filled with questions about why you ranked a short-season arm even Tigers twitter has only barely heard of over Matt Manning? Write him as a 5 for now and wait a year. You don’t always have to make a big show of throwing a marker down.
Even though you’ve sort of already done it.
That’s Baseball Prospectus’ Jeffrey Paternostro talking about Carlos Guzman, a right-handed pitcher deep in the bowels of the Tigers’ farm system. Before you fill that aforementioned chat queue, recognize that Paternostro was lower than most on Manning after a few unimpressive viewing at short-season Connecticut last year. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just how this whole scouting thing goes, especially with young, unpolished talent. The rest of the industry was more impressed, especially as Manning finished the season strong and proved himself a men among boys at Single-A West Michigan this spring.
Let’s focus on Guzman, though, because damn. Paternostro’s write-up is one of the more glowing reports I’ve read recently, especially for a pitcher with a 4.37 ERA in short-season ball. However, Guzman has 28 strikeouts to just six walks in 22 2⁄3 innings, and has only been pitching for parts of two seasons — he was originally signed as an infielder before converting to the mound last year. That last fact makes this paragraph really jump out.
Now that changeup. Charters tend to be a bit jaded. They are professional pitchers themselves and often are bored by the third inning (I feel ya, guys). The Tigers charters however would not stop marveling at Guzman’s changeup. It’s got circle action with ten mph of velocity separation. He doesn’t slow his arm. He’ll throw it in any count to either side. He’s been pitching for two years. What even is this?
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a shortstop’s athleticism with three potential above-average pitches out of a 20-year-old with a little bit of room to grow. He’s not a top prospect yet, but is definitely making his way onto the radar; TigsTown ranked him on their midseason top 50 list as well, saying “Guzman looks like a potential role 5 arm.” While he’s not exactly knocking Casey Mize off his perch just yet, that’s a nice little surprise out of the depths of the farm system.
Double-A Erie: OF Daz Cameron
It seems like Cameron has fallen off the radar recently, especially as others around him — Isaac Paredes, Jake Robson, Matt Manning, and the like — have been promoted up the minor league ladder. Meanwhile, Cameron is in Double-A quietly mashing the hell out of the ball. Through 32 games, he is hitting a robust .313/.380/.547 with five doubles, five triples, and five home runs. That’s impressive stuff from a 21-year-old, especially one playing a premium defensive position. He was recently named to 2080 Baseball’s top 125 midseason prospect list, at No. 84 overall. Barring a complete collapse down the stretch, Cameron should also receive some top 100 love from other publications next spring. He may start at Double-A next year due to a logjam of outfield prospects — yeah, really — but if he keeps hitting like this, he may soon leapfrog them all on his way to Detroit.
Triple-A Toledo: LHP Matt Hall
I’m still not entirely sold on Hall as a prospect of note, but man, is he making it hard to look away. He absolutely shoved in a start on Friday, striking out 10 in six innings, and is up to 13 punchouts in 11 1⁄3 innings in a Mud Hens uniform. Hall’s ceiling will always be limited by his physical abilities — his fastball doesn’t touch 90 miles per hour even on his best days — but his plus curveball guarantees a big league future in some form.
What I’m really interested in seeing is how the Tigers approach their rotation following this week’s trade deadline. If Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano are moved, the club will need to find innings somewhere. Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris are currently on the disabled list, and I’m dubious about how many more innings Blaine Hardy will shoulder as a starter. Hall is a fringey prospect at best, but at 25 — today’s his birthday — it’s time to see what he can do. He will be Rule 5 eligible after this season as well, giving the Tigers further reason to add him to their 40-man roster once a couple of spots open up before August 1.