Drooling over prospects in the lower levels of the minors sure is fun. It’s not until they reach Double-A, however, that we can really start to project a player’s viability as a Major Leaguer. Let’s take a look at who we think will get a chance to open the season in Erie.
This rotation should be pretty fluid, as I fully expect both Casey Mize and Franklin Perez to be SeaWolves by the All-Star break in July.
Breto is an “org pitcher” who can start or relieve, and quietly had a very good season with Lakeland and Erie in 2018, posting a 3.21 earned run average and 73-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61-2/3 innings of work. Castro was roughed up in a three-game audition with Erie last season, but really has nothing left to prove in the Florida State League. Some think it’s only the matter of time before the Tigers convert him to a reliever.
Faedo gave up 15 home runs in 60 Double-A innings last year. Reports out of spring training indicate that the velocity might be coming back, however, and he did still manage to strike out a batter per inning. In addition to the velo returning, he needs to command his full assortment and regain the bite on his slider that made him a first round pick in 2017.
Manning progressed perhaps more than any prospect in the Tigers’ system last year. His control was vastly improved and many believe he’s close to being MLB-ready, if he can just finish off mastery of his secondary command.
Shore — who pitched with Faedo at the University of Florida — made 13 starts for Midland in the Texas League last year as a member of the Oakland A’s organization, putting up a 5.50 ERA. He’s a change-up specialist who really needs to master his third pitch, the slider, to be effective at this level and above.
Gregory Soto (suspended)
Jimenez should be the closer. He successfully converted 15 of 17 opportunities for Lakeland last year, although he was not spectacular. Entering his age 24 season, Jimenez needs to justify his position on the 40-man roster.
Warner quietly had one of the best seasons in the entire system last year, with a 1.67 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 80-2/3 innings across both classes of A-ball. He and Idrogo can spot start as needed also.
Ramirez is a converted first baseman from the Brewers organization who has proven his ability at this level but was roughed up in the Pacific Coast League.
Ecker has been with Erie since August ‘17 but has been plagued by control problems and a fastball that doesn’t seem to move much.
Rogers should be bumped up to Toledo by mid-season at the very latest. Numata is a plus defender in his own right. Kade Scivicque could join this group at some point and figures to bounce around the upper levels as needed if he’s retained at the beginning of the season.
It feels weird putting Alcantara and Castro down in Double-A, given that Alcantara will be on the 40-man roster for a second season, and Castro finished the year in Detroit. But the Tigers want Sergio to play shortstop every day and the other Castro, Willi, has the job up in Toledo locked down.
Harold Castro is a versatile org player who will bounce around where he’s needed. With the release of Dominic Ficociello last week, our best guess is that the Tigers are paving the way for Danny Pinero to make a permanent move over to first base. They sent him off to the Arizona Fall League to invest in him a little bit. While he hasn’t displayed much of a power profile, he is one of the few Tigers prospects who actually draws walks. At 6’5”, 235 lbs., perhaps hitting coach Brian Harper can help him tap into some raw power.
Paredes is the Tigers’ premier hitting prospect, and his bat is ready for Toledo. The only question is what the Tigers want to do with him defensively.
With the injury to JaCoby Jones, it’s possible that Danny Woodrow heads to Toledo to fill the vacancy left behind by Dustin Peterson. Montgomery has a .375 lifetime on-base percentage in the minors, but doesn’t have the power to match his corner outfield defensive profile. Gibson’s power hasn’t really come around either, and he lacks Montgomery’s hit tool.
The most intriguing name here is Derek Hill. Seemingly healthy, and entering his sixth season in the system, the former first-round pick should finally get his speedy profile out of A-ball this year. While everything about moving to Double-A and a smaller ballpark seems to work against Hill’s strengths, I just have a feeling that this is a move that will benefit him. Don’t expect him to magically develop a power stroke or even an advanced hit tool. But I do think this might be his best season as a pro.
Mike Rabelo is coming up from Lakeland to manage the SeaWolves this year. Pitching coach Mark Johnson will also be making the leap from the FSL. The aforementioned Harper served as hitting coach in Toledo a year ago. Erie opens the season on Friday, April 5th, in the newly renovated UPMC Park against the Trenton Thunder (NYY).