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Tigers Prospect Mailbag: What can we expect from the Toledo Mud Hens in 2019?

Surveying the upper minors and comparing a few athletic outfielders.

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MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Detroit Tigers
RHP Zac Houston’s funky delivery gives him massive extension on his already blazing fastball.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Many of the biggest stories that came out of Lakeland this spring had little to do with the established talent on the Detroit Tigers’ roster. The roster battles that played out weren’t as tense as we have seen in years past, and the highly-bemoaned standings projections provide little excitement.

But there were plenty of positive signs to be found lower down the rungs of the organizational ladder. Daz Cameron made his case for a roster spot, Casey Mize impressed in his first spring with the organization, and Spencer Turnbull (our No. 14 prospect this spring) earned a spot on the 25-man roster.

Between those guys and other prospects in the organization, we have plenty to talk about. We turned to you for ideas and questions, and you didn’t disappoint.

The Hens should see a few of the Tigers’ more well-regarded minor leaguers during the course of the 2019 season. On the mound, starter Beau Burrows earned a promotion to Toledo to start the year. He didn’t have the most statistically appealing season in 2018, but some of that can be attributed to his attempts to develop a better changeup. He threw it more often than normal in order to get reps with it. Another pair of pitchers that should spend a lot of time there are fan favorites Zac Houston and John Schreiber. Both have been used as closers up until now, and will both be on the short list for a September promotion to Detroit, or for use as a fill-in for injury.

The lineup is even more appealing. At some point during the season, we can expect to see a lot of Detroit’s top position players in the pipeline play for Toledo. The middle infield will be packed, with Willi Castro, Dawel Lugo, and Brandon Dixon all vying for reps. Outfielders Victor Reyes, Daz Cameron, and Jake Robson will all be getting time in all three spots, and odds are that Dustin Peterson will eventually be in the mix too. They haven’t played in Triple-A yet, but expect Isaac Paredes and Jake Rogers to be there at some point as well.

In other words, Toledo should be a fun team in 2019.

This is a good question, and in total honesty, it’s one that I ask myself quite a bit. Tackling such a broad question with so many facets could take up a whole article’s worth of words, but I think it can be boiled down to two main points. First of all, Derek Hill was always going to have a very narrow path to the majors. That was accepted from day one. The outstanding speed and defense would only be enough to float the profile if he hit a little bit, but that was non-negotiable. That has not happened. Both of the players mentioned here — Parker Meadows and Kingston Liniak — still have a huge array of potential outcomes and quite a few could see them in the bigs.

Second, Hill couldn’t stay healthy, which is enough to derail any prospect’s career. He played a career-high 106 games last season. That little game time over four and a half seasons is far too little for a prep player who the club knew needed a lot of work. It’s also prudent to note that, while it’s true that Hill has been disappointing so far, he’s still only 23 years old. That’s no spring chick, but he still has time to turn things around. Crazier things have happened.

I suppose that depends on your definition of a “legitimate prospect.” Gibson certainly has the requisite athleticism to play baseball, not to mention that he practically oozes intensity, like his dad. That said, mental toughness and impeccable heritage do not a prospect make. There’s no real carrying tool that should bring him to the big leagues. He is passable in the outfield, but he’s no JaCoby Jones. Gibson is poised at the plate, but he shows too little pop to sport a mediocre hit tool. He could get a cup of coffee as a fifth outfielder, but I doubt that any other fanbase would care about Cam Gibson in the way we do (due to his bloodlines). He brings the kind of energy to the field that makes baseball the best sport around, but he doesn’t project to be any sort of impact player at the major league level.

The odds of seeing Kyle Funkhouser in the major leagues this season seem pretty high. His last two seasons were shortened by injury, but he’s close to ready nonetheless. “[He’s] a very intelligent guy,” said teammate Jake Rogers to The Athletic. “You go out there, talk a little bit before the game about what he wants to do, and then you just go after guys. He’s very easy, very fun to catch.”

The Tigers already pushed Funkhouser to Triple-A Toledo last season and have a track record of being aggressive with college draftees. Expect a rocky introduction to the bigs for him, but the big hurler could carve out a role in either the starting rotation or the bullpen given the right circumstances.

There’s no exact way to tell the answer to this question, but if there were, I’d be out of a job! A career as a starter will be more achievable for Burrows than it will be for Faedo, I think. Although he’s over a full year older than Burrows, Faedo had a much tougher time in Erie last year. Burrows shows more promise than Faedo with his changeup, and his delivery does less to hamper his control. There’s still a lot of the promise left in the profile that made Faedo a first rounder, and his slider would doubtlessly play up in the bullpen. A role in the rotation isn’t out of the question — we’re working with one season’s worth of data here, and the Tigers will give him every chance to succeed.

Thanks for reading the Detroit Tigers Prospect Mailbag. Feel free to drop suggestions or questions for a future edition in the comments or send them to us on Twitter: @blessyouboys or @jaymarkle_BP.