The Detroit Tigers front office has been clear during the past few years that the team rebuild is focused primarily on stocking up the farm and updating the developmental pipeline. The organization is set up with several levels of competition, from the Gulf Coast League to Toledo, each representing a waypoint for prospects as they mature from greenhorns of the professional game into hopeful major league ball players.
The coaches at these various destinations are often overlooked for what they contribute to a player’s development, but there are two skippers who are set to make their marks on the talent that flows through the system.
Brayan Pena and the art of coaching
Brayan Pena has spent the past two seasons in the Tigers organization as a low-minors manager, leading his 2018 Gulf Coast League Tigers team to a league championship in his debut year and heading the Connecticut Tigers of the New York-Penn League last season. Having been promoted once again, this time to Low-A West Michigan, Pena faces his first gig as a full-season manager with a 140-game slate ahead of him in 2020.
One of Pena’s methods of motivation is sharing his story of defection from Cuba. By framing the rigors of baseball life with that of something much greater, he seeks to endow perspective upon his pupils. Pena had the following to say about how he conveys his experience to his players.
“I literally had nothing. I owe everything to baseball and now I have everything to give to baseball. I don’t brag about it, but I want them to know and understand life isn’t easy and no one’s path to achieve their goal is easy.”
How that advice manifests in his players varies from individual to individual, but Pena’s approach stays the same with each and every young man. In regards to how the former catcher conducts himself in his current role, he offered the following.
“It’s about having a plan and then going out and following exactly what the organization wants about players and their development. Just go out and prepare. Prepare in spring training, learn the players and give them 100 percent of me. I’ve had my time. Now, it’s all about them and to do whatever I can to help them.”
As a man who wears a smile every day and greets everyone he meets with a hearty handshake, as well as a 12-year big league career behind the plate to draw from, Pena might be the perfect man for his job.
Can Arnie Beyeler develop the Tigers’ outfielders?
Newly-hired Double-A Erie manager Arnie Beyeler has a lot on his plate coming into his role for the 2020 season, especially with all of the talent currently percolating in the Tigers’ pipeline. While the pitching prospects are beginning to float to the top of the system like cream, more of the position-player talent has begun to emerge from the lower levels.
One of the areas of improvement the organization will be looking for in its minor league system is in the development of its outfield talent. That is where Beyeler’s expertise comes into play.
The former first base coach for the Baltimore Orioles earned his highest marks working with outfielders over his coaching career, most notably his stint with the Boston Red Sox from 2013-15. During that time, Beyeler worked with Shane Victorino, as well as helped Brock Holt and Mookie Betts transition from infielders to outfielders. It would be a leap to suggest that Betts’ MVP-level success was a direct result of Beyeler’s help, but the results came out quite well one must admit.
In Erie, Beyeler has his work cut out with Parker Meadows and Bryant Packard, as well as Brock Deatherage and eventually first-round draft pick Riley Greene coming up through the ranks. While he has managed to produce some impressive outcomes in his career, he does have a few blemishes on his record and there are still some questions about his ability to implement analytics and technology. Hopefully, the 55-year-old veteran coach can help move the development pipeline in the right direction.
Major and minor league balls
Speaking of the minor leagues, officials from both major and minor league baseball have announced that they will continue to use the “juiced” MLB ball at the Triple-A level while the lower levels will continue to use a different MiLB ball, according to confirmed reports.
We have confirmation from both MiLB and MLB officials that the Double-A leagues will continue to use the minor league ball in 2020.— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) January 24, 2020
The MLB ball will be used only in MLB and Triple-A.
Will a Tiger be inducted to the Hall of Fame in 20’s?
ESPN writer David Schoenfield took a stab at a question that is both intriguing and depressing: “Will we see any Detroit Tigers reach Hall of Fame in next decade?”
Framing the inquiry in the span of 2021-29, there are a few options that strongly support a “yes” answer. First of all, Miguel Cabrera, despite being a shell of his two-time MVP self is practically a shoo-in for the hall, barring any major revelations or misbehaviors as his career wanes into the sunset.
Secondly, there is the curious case of Sweet Lou Whitaker. Having been snubbed on the last Modern Era Committee ballot, the legend of the second sack will still get another chance or two for enshrinement, and there is a great deal of optimism that his next shot will land him in Cooperstown. But nothing is guaranteed.
Finally, there is Jim Leyland, who had a storied career as a manager across four different teams, taking home a World Series trophy as well as a National League and two American League pennants during his time in the dugout. However, his resume does not quite have the weight one would expect from a Hall of Fame career, especially carrying record of 1769-1728 over 22 years.
Outside of those names — save for Justin Verlander, whose case for the hall grows stronger and stronger but no longer plays in Detroit — it becomes quickly difficult to project anyone currently on the roster who might pass the muster of the baseball voters. Hopefully, Sweet Lou will finally get his due, at very least.
Tigers announcer Jay Allen passes away
Club statement on the passing of public address announcer Jay Allen pic.twitter.com/q14wsyL3tX— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) January 24, 2020
- 2020 BYB Tigers Prospect #19: RHP Elvin Rodriguez’s balanced profile could use a boost this year. Rodriguez will need to show substantial improvement to handle Double-A this year.
- 2020 BYB Tigers Prospect #18: Bryant Packard impressed in his pro debut. The Tigers 5th round pick in the 2019 draft looks like one of the top bats in the system.
- 2020 BYB Tigers Prospect #17: Infielder Andre Lipcius has some things to prove this year. We’d like to see Lipcius step up his game in 2020, and there’s a decent chance he can do it.
- Tigers land 5 players on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list. The Tigers have never placed five players on the list before.
- The Tigers are still browsing a thin crop of free agent outfielders. Yeah, the pickings are pretty slim at this point so Puig or bust for the fun of it.
Around the horn
A candidate-by-candidate look at the 2020 Hall of Fame election results. Notes from a surprise roadside conversation with the elusive Sammy Sosa. Derek Jeter’s Hall Of Fame case was never in doubt, but Larry Walker’s was until the very end. Players Baseball America believes could make the 2021 top 100. A week watching the craziest Dominican Winter League playoff of all time. The best fits for former Tigers Nicholas Castellanos.