As the season continues to wind down, there are still plenty of stories surrounding the Detroit Tigers, starting out west in Arizona and reaching all the way across the pond to Great Britain. Here are the narratives that have occupied the headlines the past few days.
Emily Waldon of The Athletic lays out the expectations for the members of the Detroit Tigers organization playing in the Arizona Fall League this year. Nearly 180 players from major league farm systems from High-A and up — selected by way of a little-known draft in August — will get their opportunity to showcase their skills and hone their games. The six team league kicks off its schedule on Wednesday, September 18, and will also include matches against teams from the Mexican Pacific League.
For the seven players representing the Tigers, as well as manager Mike Rabelo, the top brass is looking specific improvements in each person. Generally speaking, for pitchers Wladimir Pinto, Will Vest, Anthony Castro and Alex Lange, the team is looking to see some steps forward on the mound from those guys; for position players Isaac Paredes, Derek Hill and Jose Azocar, the Tigers are hoping to see some progress at the plate from these three players who put up impressive numbers with the bat during the minor league season.
Proving their worth
Harold Castro and Victor Reyes have been performing well at the plate during the second half of this season, which could very well earn them a spot on the 2020 roster. Of course, spring training still stands between now and opening day, but their play on the field in otherwise meaningless games has caught the attention of the management.
Castro, the 25-year-old who is currently sporting a batting average of .301 with a .711 OPS in 337 plate appearances, is a steady fielder who can play on the dirt or in the outfield. However, despite the nice batting average, his offensive game is otherwise rather empty and his lack of a true position has taken its toll on his overall value, as he has been worth exactly 0 fWAR so far this season.
2018 Rule 5 Draft selection Reyes has also turned some heads the past couple of months. Though the 24-year-old has demonstrated some good ball-to-bat skills during his time with the Tigers, much like Castro his .302 batting average and .761 OPS in 245 plate appearances are mostly empty numbers lacking power and productivity. However, Reyes’ performance in the outfield and the plate have been good for 1.2 fWAR this year, which is almost entirely due to the strength of his glove.
Spencer Turnbull’s sneaky fastball
While Spencer Turnbull has cooled off considerably since his hot start to the season, he has still maintained an above-average performance in his rookie campaign. A big reason for his success is a fastball that has some very unusual movement. Before this season, he had previously relied on a sinker-heavy repertoire; after revamping his approach in the offseason, he now relies heavily on his four-seam fastball with the sinker used now more as a complimentary pitch.
What makes Turnbull’s fastball so special is in the spin that he puts on the ball.
Essentially, the pitch moves unlike any other four-seam fastball. It has less rise and less fade than almost any other four-seamer in the game despite above-average spin. That can only happen with a ton of gyrospin, which is unique among four-seamers. Batters can’t pick up the pitch, which fades much less than a sinker but rises less than a four-seamer. They’re topping it, swinging through it, fouling it off — a bevy of bad outcomes for hitters.
Long story short, the movement on his pitches makes it incredibly difficult for hitters to square up. He also has enough juice to overpower the batter once he has them off-balance. What he really needs to take his game to the next level is to either improve his current secondary pitch — a slider/cutter hybrid that neither slides nor cuts sufficiently — or to develop a better change-of-pace offering.
Riley Greene does what comes naturally
The Tigers’ first round selection from the 2019 amateur draft is a special player, and if there is one thing that comes naturally to him, it is hitting a baseball. The 18-year-old fresh out of high school has performed well in his professional debut, covering three levels of minor league ball from the rookie league all the way to Low-A West Michigan, where he finally hit a wall against players significantly older than him. So far, Greene’s approach at the plate is the same as when he was an amateur, and his skill set has been compared to David Justice by one prominent evaluator. The future looks bright for one of the Tigers’ highly touted prospects.
This is just routine for Riley Greene at this point. The #Tigers' No. 3 prospect made another sensational diving catch in center for the @wmwhitecaps.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 27, 2019
Here's Greene on the @Tigers' Top 30 Prospects list: https://t.co/nUvDepd51E pic.twitter.com/ns1KpKZGfN
Tigers give meaning to meaningless baseball
It has been a tough year for Tigers (and Orioles) fans, and as the season gets closer to the end, the games seem to have less and less meaning. Or do they?
If there is one thing worse than bad baseball, it is no baseball at all, and this article from Sports Illustrated embraces that fact. While watching a match between the boys from Detroit and the Camden Yards gang might seem like an exercise in masochism, it sure beats the alternative.
Stories from Gardenhire’s office
This article by Cody Stavenhagen for The Athletic takes a look at the various storylines from the past season from the vantage point of manager Ron Gardenhire’s office, and also looks to the future. The narrative is everything you would expect from the affable dugout gnome, from his cliche-filled comments to his often ridiculous, yet charming anecdotes. Say what you want about his managerial abilities, Gardy is a very likeable guy in a very unlikeable position.
Victor Reyes, Tigers Twitter, and a tattoo
It all began with this tweet from a Tigers fan in the United Kingdom.
If the Tigers take a single game off the Astros this series I will get a Victor Reyes tattoo.— • (@TigersJUK) August 19, 2019
Then, on August 21, the Tigers defeated Justin Verlander and the Astros in a game that may have been the greatest upset ever, according to betting odds. The 2-1 comeback victory on the road defied probability and indebted the Tigers fan to make good on his promise. Tigers social media was sure to call him out and pressure him to keep his word.
I want to kill myself and the official tigers twitter is bullying me into getting a Victor Reyes tattoo— • (@TigersJUK) September 11, 2019
TigersJUK, being a man of his word, followed through on his promise.
And it didn’t end there. He got a mention on Fox Sports Detroit during a game on September 15.
... then made it onto MLB Network for their “Weekly Hangover” section.
Even Tigers reliever Nick Ramirez was in on the action.
This was not his first foray into making deals with the tattoo needle over Reyes. More than a year ago on an old account, he made the following declaration.
If Victor Reyes puts up more than 1 WAR in a major league season in his life I will tattoo his name and number on my back like a jersey.— Follow New @TigersJUK (@TigersJUKold) March 13, 2018
It seems that the fan’s habit of making promises finally caught up to him.
Matt Boyd’s just-missed no-hitter
Around the horn
Mike Trout’s season is over, which completely sucks. Investigating the weirdest pitchers of the year and trying to define the value of strange. Jim Breuer: Why would you boo the Mets? NPB to surpass MLB in terms of average game attendance for the 2nd straight year. If injured Christian Yelich does not win the NL MVP, who does? The Dodgers’ “amazingly thorough” development program fuels another successful season.
Baseball is awesome: Mike Trout is amazing
Mike Trout’s overarching actual and estimated performance this season are second to none...— Max's Sporting Studio (@MaxSportsStudio) September 17, 2019
OBP: .438 (1st in MLB)
xOBP: .449 (1st)
SLG: .645 (2nd)
xSLG: .644 (1st)
ISO: .353 (1st)
xISO: .339 (1st)
wOBA: .436 (2nd)
xwOBA: .454 (1st)
Barrel%: 18.6 (1st)
*among qualified hitters