As the season progresses through its second month, the Detroit Tigers have done a good job thus far keeping their heads above water in the American League Central division. They’re currently hovering just under the .500 mark 32 games in. Despite a severe rash of injuries, an offense that only shows up every blue moon, Miguel Cabrera’s power woes, and the carousel of players shipping back and forth from Toledo, the year has gone as well as one could have expected.
While this team certainly is neither the sexiest nor packed with high-profile players, manager Ron Gardenhire and crew have managed to keep things interesting in Detroit so far. But the real excitement has been the development of the youngsters, both with the big league club as well as down on the farm.
Spencer Turnbull may be the real deal
One of the more unexpected surprises of 2019 is the emergence of Spencer Turnbull as a legitimate member of the starting rotation. Beginning the season at the number 14 spot on our Bless You Boys’ prospect list, the Red Bull came out of the gates on fire. The 26-year-old right-handed flame-thrower has maintained his pace so far through seven games, with a 2-2 record, a 2.31 ERA — eighth best in the majors — and averaging just a hair under a strikeout per inning; his five hit batters leads the majors and his 14 walks allowed leads the team.
“He’s pitching like a first-rounder,” GM Al Avila said. “The thing is, he’s always had great stuff. It’s taken him a while to get here because he’s always had something physical, nothing major, that held him back.”
Turnbull is not your ordinary prospect pitcher, as Gardenhire describes him as “way out there” and “marches to a different drummer,” and this apparently works well for him. Despite being a bit of an odd duck, Spencer has a great deal of self confidence, as well as the tools to make his quirks work for him. He has so far earned the faith of the management and the fans alike, and hopefully he can keep this up as the season wears on.
Jake Rogers is turning heads
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Cerberus-esque pitching trio of Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo — and for good reason. Meanwhile, their battery-mate in Erie is making some waves of his own. Jake Rogers, the Tigers’ top catching prospect and possibly the most MLB-ready defensive receiver in the minor leagues, has been hot from the offensive side of the dish this past month.
Top of the To-Do list for #Tigers Jake Rogers is hitting -- and hitting consistently.— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) May 8, 2019
Lately, he's doing just that.
With his second multi-hit game in his last five games, Rogers has pushed his hit streak to five straight and nearing a .300 BA for the first time in 2019.
The consensus opinion on Rogers has been that the bat needs work if he wants to make it as a regular in The Show, and small sample sizes aside, it looks like he is making the right adjustments. So far in Double-A, Jake has hit .297 with an extremely robust OPS of 1.012 over a 21-game stretch. Tack on a double, a triple, five home runs, with 15 walks and 18 strikeouts in 64 at-bats, it looks like his game may finally be rounding into form. For his efforts, Baseball America listed him at number six on their “hottest prospects in baseball last week” list (with Casey Mize leading the way at number one) and MLB Pipeline added him to their top 10 prospect catchers list with the graduation of Francisco Mejia from prospect status.
Suffice to say, Erie may have the most formidable battery in the minors right now, with Rogers steering the ship and the Three Musketeers of Mize, Manning and Faedo propelling them forward.
Casey Mize and Harold Castro minor league players of April
Speaking of Mr. Mize, he and Harold Castro were voted Tigers pitcher and player of the month, respectively, for April 2019. We have talked about Mize a lot here on this site, and his notoriety is quickly spreading at the national level. The first pick of the 2018 amateur draft has yet to allow an earned run in two games at Double-A Erie so far with 11 strikeouts, one walk and only two hits in 14 innings of work.
Harold Castro, on the other hand, is a lesser-known name in the Tigers’ organization, but nonetheless has put up impressive numbers en route to his May call-up to the big leagues. In 17 games before he departed to Detroit, utility infielder-outfielder scorched the ball to the tune of a .353 batting average with a .936 OPS, popping three dingers and walking five times to 15 strikeouts in 76 plate appearances. He has held his own during his current cup of coffee, mostly with his solid defensive presence in the outfield.
A moment of nostalgia
Your humble links-smith only made it to Tiger Stadium twice in his life, but this graphic still gave me a strong case of the feels. I suspect many of you will also get a bit verklempt.
Around the cornucopia
What is up with Victor Alcántara? This piece from Forbes dives into the details. Despite the trade rumors swirling around him, Matt Boyd continues to further his charitable endeavors. Christin Stewart gets checked out by the medical staff in Detroit, though it is expected that he will have a few more minor league rehab games before his scheduled return this coming weekend against the Twins. Blaine Hardy is working his way back from injury in Lakeland and struck out two batters in his one inning of work Tuesday night. Tyson Ross’ next start is pushed back one day after cramping up sleeping in a hospital chair.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire suffered an allergic reaction during Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels, and was replaced by Steve Liddle who finished off the game in the managerial slot; Daniel Norris’ pitching may or may not have been a contributing factor. The Tigers are kicking the tires on James Shields. Mariano Rivera was almost traded to the Tigers for David Wells in 1995.