Seasons end, but baseball never really stops. While the minor league regular season is over, and the Detroit Tigers themselves have just one series left in the 2018 season, there is still plenty of work being done by the game’s future talents. The Arizona Fall League starts play on October 9, and runs through mid-November. Announcements for winter ball assignments are ongoing. And for many of the Tigers’ top pitching prospects, instructional league play got underway this week at their winter home in Lakeland, Fla.
But the most interesting assignment this offseason may go to Tigers lefthander Daniel Norris. As Chris McCosky reports for the Detroit News, Norris will head to the Dominican Winter League for a few starts when the regular season ends. He will then meet up for a barnstorming tour of exhibition baseball in Japan with mixed teams of major leaguers in need of some offseason work. Sounds like this is right in the wheelhouse for a guy who spends much of the offseason traveling.
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick, Casey Mize, along with other recent first rounders, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Beau Burrows, are all in Lakeland working with the Tigers’ player development personnel. All four are ranked in what admittedly feels like a somewhat dated MLB Pipeline top 100 prospects list, and, along with fellow starter Franklin Perez, form the foundation for the Tigers’ rebuilding plans. If the Tigers’ farm system is a navy, then those five pitchers are the fleet carriers, to put it in naval terms.
Jim Callis at MLB Pipeline recently included Mize as a player he expected to be among the top 10 prospects in baseball by this time next year. While Mize had a slightly rocky initiation to pro ball this summer, looking somewhat more hittable than expected, Callis’ words could certainly be prophetic. If Mize pitches like he did this past spring for Auburn, he’s liable to be on the doorstep of the major leagues pretty quickly.
As for the Arizona Fall League, the Tigers will send good prospects like center fielder Daz Cameron and catcher Jake Rogers to play with the Mesa Solar Sox. The Sox, managed by Los Angeles Angels minor league skipper Lou Marson, will feature prospects from the Angels, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox.
Things got a bit ugly in Tampa on Thursday, as the Yankees and Rays got into something of a beanball war. CC Sabathia hit Jake Bauers in the fifth inning, and then the Rays’ Andrew Kittredge buzzed Yankees catcher Austin Romine right up under the chin an inning later. Romine only narrowly escaped catching the fastball to his head. Kittredge had a good excuse, as he was wild to begin with, but the Yankees took offense, because of course they did. Sabathia drilled the Rays’ Jesus Sucre in retaliation and was ejected. He didn’t go quietly.
The best part is the rather enormous Mr. Judge standing over with the Rays bullpen like a sentinel. You have to love he and Sergio Romo exchanging some amused words together. It would’ve been a fun moment for a little mock fighting. But, of course, baseball is serious business.
CC Sabathia gets tossed for hitting a batter in retaliation for Romine getting thrown at. Meanwhile, Aaron Judge goes over to find out if the Rays' bullpen has a problem with any of it.#Yankees pic.twitter.com/W4oV1FXrzo— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) September 27, 2018
The incredible side note to the story is that Sabathia was ejected two innings short of reaching a bonus trigger that would have paid him an extra $500,000. If, as one suspects, this was a bit of a veteran ploy to bring the clubhouse together before the postseason, it was money well spent.
With the American League postseason picture already decided, this was really the only excitement in the junior circuit on Thursday. Unless you count everyone freaking out over Red Sox ace Chris Sale averaging only 90 miles an hour on Wednesday night. Whether it’s physical or mechanical, an incredible season in Beantown looks to be in peril.
Around the horn
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A grand jury inquiry investigating Major League Baseball’s business practices in Latin America has issued subpoenas, according to Yahoo Sports. No word yet on which team’s practices in the international free agent market are under scrutiny this time.