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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Welcome to the big leagues, Tyler Alexander

Alexander will make his MLB debut in a doubleheader against the White Sox.

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Florida Southern v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Mother Nature doesn’t seem to like the Tigers and White Sox this year. The two clubs were already slated to play this doubleheader after a rainout in April, making the Tigers’ pre-All-Star break rotation juggling that much more difficult. Then, the series opener between these two clubs was postponed on Tuesday. Mass hysteria and all.

Luckily, it seems to be working out for the fans. Both clubs are planning to hand a prospect the ball for their first career starts on Wednesday, giving fans a chance to see the future up close. The Tigers will start lefthander Tyler Alexander in the nightcap, a move they announced on Tuesday eveningJose Fernandez was designated for assignment this morning, if you’re interested — while While Sox fans will get their first look at heralded righthander Dylan Cease on Wednesday afternoon.

Cease’s debut will be the more celebrated of the two — even Tigers fans are writing about it — but Alexander’s is arguably the more interesting one. The 24-year-old lefty has been knocked around by Triple-A hitters to the tune of a 6.23 ERA this season, and has surrendered 17 home runs in just 73 23 innings. His fastball barely scrapes 90 miles per hour, and his complete arsenal is just fringe-average. But he has upped his strikeout rate to 25.8 percent at Triple-A this year, over 10 percentage points (!) better than 2018. His 20.5 percent K-BB% is by far the best of his minor league career, save for a short stint in rookie ball. I’m interested to see if he can continue missing bats at the big league level.

He also has a pretty wicked mustache.

Beat that, Dylan.

Chicago White Sox (39-42) at Detroit Tigers (27-52)

Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., 8:10 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Game 1 Pitching Matchup: LHP Daniel Norris (2-7, 4.62 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Cease (5-2, 4.48 ERA in Triple-A)

Game 81 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Norris 85.2 18.8 5.4 4.61 1.1
Cease (AAA) 68.1 24.0 10.5 3.77 -

Staying healthy has been a bit of a challenge for Dylan Cease throughout his professional career. He had Tommy John surgery after he was drafted in 2014, and didn’t make it to full season ball until 2017. There have been mild shoulder concerns here and there, and Cease has been on innings limits at most of his stops up the minor league ladder.

Getting hitters out? That hasn’t been a problem so far. Cease has racked up 450 strikeouts across 354 13 minor league innings, and has limited opponents to a 3.02 ERA across all levels. He has struggled a bit this year, with a 4.48 ERA in 68 13 frames at Triple-A Charlotte, but is still striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings.

As you might have guessed, Cease, a top-25 prospect in all of baseball, has premium raw stuff. His fastball has reached triple digits, and is graded as a double-plus pitch by our friends at FanGraphs — and they are the low ones on him.

He’s slowly made progress in terms of starter traits during his pro career, while his velocity has increased to where he sits 95-98 mph now. In 2018, he took the biggest step forward, dominating High-A and Double-A at age 22, and some scouts are now projecting him as a No. 2 or 3 starter. We still aren’t completely convinced, as Cease is still control over command, and may fit best in a multi-inning relief role, or as a starter who doesn’t face any hitters a third time.

Cease has struggled with his command at times this year, and has walked over four batters per nine innings in the minors.

Game 2 Pitching Matchup: LHP Tyler Alexander (2-9, 6.23 ERA in Triple-A) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (1-0, 3.60 ERA)

Game 82 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Alexander (AAA) 73.2 25.8 5.3 5.27 -
Detwiler 5.0 15.0 0.0 5.21 0.0

The White Sox picked up Ross Detwiler earlier this season after the veteran lefthander started the year in independent ball, and he put up solid if unspectacular numbers in eight starts at Triple-A Charlotte. They called him up as an injury replacement last week, and the 33-year-old rewarded their foresight with five strong innings against a lethal Minnesota Twins lineup. Detwiler’s fastball velocity isn’t what it used to be — he averaged just 91.7 mph with his four-seamer last week, down from close to 95 mph during his prime — but he also mixed in a healthy number of changeups and curveballs, along with a new cutter he started throwing a couple of years ago.

The matchup we talk about every game: Tigers offense vs. scoring runs

Yes, we know.

Key matchup: Alexander vs. all of the home runs

The juiced baseball has not been kind to Alexander in 2019. He managed a solid home run rate in 92 innings at Triple-A Toledo last year, but has seen that more than double this season despite allowing hits at a similar rate. Alexander has missed more bats in the minors this year than ever before, but the ones making contact have done a lot of damage. If he can’t keep the ball in the park in this game, he could be in for a quick exit.

Prediction

Alexander gets knocked around a bit but the Tigers sweep the doubleheader.