Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press starts us off this Monday with a look at the recent shake up in the Tigers’ minor league system. We are not expecting much to happen at the major league level over the next few seasons. The organization sees an apparent need to focus on how things are getting done at the lower levels, and continuity of message seems to be the reasoning behind the firing of Doug Mientkiewicz, a former player under major league manager Ron Gardenhire, and the hiring of his replacement Tom Prince.
Even as players bounce upward through the farm system, a continuity of message is important. That was the thinking behind the hiring of manager Ron Gardenhire and his staff two years ago. Mientkiewicz, one of Gardenhire’s former players, was expected to spread that developmental message in Toledo.
Apparently, Doug was not up to the task.
Another name the organization will be without, and one that will be sorely missed by all accounts, is that of Mike Rabelo. The former Tigers catcher managed Double-A Erie last year, and was seen as an up and comer in the system, but when an opportunity to join the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Pirates came up this offseason, Rabelo took it.
And who could blame him? On one hand, it is understandable to see the replacement of managers at both Double- and Triple-A in the offseason as something that might not be the best for development of young players. On the other, maybe it does not matter so much.
Daniel Norris is excited to get the 2020 season started, and it is hard to blame him. This past offseason was the first he has seen where he could fully focus on improvement, rather than concentrating on rehabbing from injury. Norris sees promise in the offseason free agent signings that might help to make a team that won just 47 games in 2019 even a little bit better. As to his performance, he continues to focus on playing as well and as long as he can.
“I’m fortunate to do what I’m doing, but I’ve never been one to be satisfied,” he said. “I’m fortunate to be in the league as long as I have, but I want to keep going. I have the goals to play until I no longer can. I’m always working with those goals and that mindset.”
If you would like to take a deeper look at what makes Norris tick, and how he keeps such a zen-like focus on living his life of travel, photography, and surfing while trying to achieve one of his few goals — pitching for as long as he possibly can — you can read his profile in Seen magazine. It is an insightful look at the many talents, and the commendable attitude of the young pitcher.
Let’s look at Kevin Pillar
Many a Tigers pundit continue to speculate on a few possible additions to the 2020 roster leading up to spring training. Jules Posner of Forbes thinks the team should take a look at Kevin Pillar as a candidate to fill an outfield spot. Posner points to a change Pillar made to his swing early last season as reason for him being a solid consideration for a fringe every day option in the outfield.
It appears that Pillar tweaked something in June that improved his splits enough to make him a good play against left-handed pitching and a serviceable bat against righties. His defense could still play in the corners, and Posner seems to think he is the kind of guy who is right in Al Avila’s wheelhouse.
Kevin Pillar seems to fit a profile Al Avila likes. He is an aggressive hitter with some pop, he has name recognition and is a little flashy.
The 2020 squad is not looking like one for the record books. At least, not conventionally. That said, there are some things to look out for. Eric Chesterton at MLB.com has some odd milestones to look out for, and a few Tigers get named here. I wish it were for good reasons. Albert Pujols seems like he may break the 400 mark for double plays in 2020.
If you are wondering how this relates to Detroit, there is time spent pointing out that, while he may not catch Pujols now, Miguel Cabrera has a good chance of moving from seventh on that list to third by the end of the year. Additionally, we are looking at a season where Ron Gardenhire could break the top five in ejections for a manager. Get excited for 2020, y’all.
Odd farm rankings
Another interesting endeavor from the folks at MLB.com is an in-depth look at different farm systems, how they are good, and who may be notable for what. Detroit gets a few mentions here. Most underrated farm system? The Tigers did not place, but “received votes” so let that little nugget keep you warm at night.
In less conventional rankings, Casey Mize took first place overall for best secondary pitch, Tarik Skubal took third for best fastball, and the team put two in the top three when Matt Manning and Casey Mize were recognized for best pitching prospect.
Around the horn
In a bizarre lawsuit, a failed Yankees prospect says Derek Jeter ruined his career. Cardinals emerging as a possibility in Nolan Arenado trade talks. Each major league team’s biggest remaining need heading into the 2020 season. George Nicolau, arbitrator in MLB collusion cases, dies at 94. The roadmap to MLB labor peace: salary cap, and robo-umps.
Baseball is insane
Former Tiger Angel Nesbitt finds himself in a weird spot here when he throws at the batter and the batter starts taking hacks — bat in hand — at his catcher. This little bit of business earned Nesbitt a two-game suspension from the Venezuelan winter league.