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Opening weekend notes from the Detroit Tigers farm system

The Tigers’ top prospects were on display as the minor league season kicked off last weekend.

Casey Mize looked in mid-season form in the season opener in Lakeland on April 4th
Sherri Cousin

Now that each of the Detroit Tigers’ four full-season minor league affiliates has a full series under its belt, it seems like an opportune time to do what we do best — draw conclusions based on incredibly small sample sizes.

Jokes aside, the season-opening weekend for minor league baseball produced a lot of interesting early season story lines for us to track. Here are a few of them.


Starting Pitching - All of the Tigers’ top prospects delivered performances that ranged from solid to superb. Casey Mize sparkled in a five-inning, 68-pitch beauty on opening night in Lakeland, allowing just one hit while striking out eight and walking none. He had the full assortment working and received rave reviews from James Chipman at TigsTown.

Not to be outdone, Alex Faedo started silencing his critics by spinning a six-inning gem on Saturday. The big righty reportedly sat 90-93 and touched 94 miles per hour with the fastball, and induced a ton of weak contact early in counts. Faedo allowed just two hits, no runs, struck out seven, and walked none. After allowing 15 home runs in 60 innings at Double-A a season ago, this is exactly the kind of start Faedo needed.

Making his full-season debut, 20-year old Carlos Guzman relied on his fastball/change-up combo to flip five innings of shutout ball against South Bend. Guzman was ultra-efficient, needing just 56 pitches to get through five. He allowed three hits, striking out a pair, and didn’t walk anyone.

In another hotly anticipated debut, Beau Burrows fanned seven in four innings of two-hit ball in his first Triple-A start. The 22-year old Texan’s pitch count got up to 80, preventing him from going deeper into the ball game. The fastball, when he locates it, generates plenty of swing-and-miss. Both the change-up and the curve ball flash plus but he still needs to be more consistent with his entire assortment. Nonetheless, this was a promising outing.

Lakeland got terrific starts out of both Tarik Skubal and Jesus Rodriguez as well.

Derek Hill — Perhaps nobody in baseball is off to a better start than the Tigers’ former first round pick from 2014. Dismissed as a prospect by many due to his lengthy injury history and an offensive profile that has produced a high strikeout rate, low on-base percentage, and virtually no power, Hill introduced himself to the Eastern League with a boom. After an 0-for-2 start on Friday, Hill rattled off three straight hits, including a triple to fuel a three-run rally in the fifth inning, and a two-run single as part of a four-run sixth that put the game away.

On Saturday, Hill had two more hits and swiped his first bag of the season. Finally, on Sunday afternoon Hill mashed a leadoff home run en route to another three-hit day. Through three games, Hill is 8-for-15 with, six runs, seven RBI, and 14 total bases. This is obviously an unsustainable pace for anyone, but it’s a tremendous start for a guy looking to revive his prospect status after a couple long summers in Florida.

Sam McMillan — Another highly touted draftee, McMillan struggled mightily with the bat in Connecticut last year, hitting just .158 with no home runs. He rectified that immediately on Opening Night, blasting a solo homer in the sixth inning that pulled the ‘Caps within a run of South Bend. After getting the night off on Friday, McMillan came back on Saturday and hit an RBI double that fueled a three-run rally. This is a microscopic sample size, but it’s hard not to feel good about McMillan getting his barrel on baseballs in early Midwest League action.


Brock Deatherage and Rey Rivera — These two are in completely different phases of their development, with Deatherage being a 23-year old senior signee and Rivera a 21-year old raw power project. But the two have gotten off to similarly miserable starts down in Lakeland. Deatherage enters Monday night’s action hitless on the year. In 14 plate appearances, the speedy center-fielder is 0-for-12 with 10 strikeouts, two walks (one of which was intentional), and a pair of stolen bases. There are some who say Deatherage’s success last year was largely BABIP-aided, and there are known holes in his offensive approach. This is not the start any of us expected, however.

As for Rivera, the promotion to Lakeland is aggressive for him, as he posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage with West Michigan last season. After going 0 for his first 10 with seven strikeouts, the big lefty finally got into the hit column with a double late in Sunday’s contest against Tampa. He figures to go through quite a bit of adversity in the Florida State League, but hopefully by July we will see more consistent contact and some conversion of raw power to game power.

Parker Meadows — I almost feel bad putting Meadows on here because he’s 19 years old and plugged into the lead-off role for the Whitecaps. It’s a very aggressive assignment for him as well. But it can’t be ignored that he is just 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts to start the season. This was largely expected, and Meadows is likely going to strike out a ton this season. The key at this level, and every level really, is to see progress throughout the season. We’ll be watching every day, but let’s see what he looks like against Midwest League pitching in July and not panic about what he’s going through now in April.