The Detroit Tigers are off to a strong start this spring, with victories in three of their five Grapefruit League games, and a fourth ‘W’ in their exhibition against Southeastern University. While wins and losses don’t mean a thing in March, they do indicate that the team is performing well. Whether that continues into the regular season is an open question, especially for a Tigers club coming off a 114-loss campaign in 2019.
So far, all eyes have been on the prospects down in Lakeland. We have three separate photos of Riley Greene on our front page at the moment, and most of the digital ink spilled here and elsewhere has been devoted to players who won’t make the Opening Day roster — if they see the bright lights of Comerica Park at all this season.
And with four wins in six games already, there have been plenty of prospect storylines. The aforementioned Greene is off to a red-hot start, with two home runs and three walks in a couple of appearances. Righthander Franklin Perez pitched for the first time in nearly a full year on Tuesday, and shook off the rust quickly. Lefthander Tarik Skubal came out throwing gas against some poor college kids, and Matt Manning impressed against the heart of the Atlanta Braves lineup.
With so many prospects in camp, we should get plenty of different answers to today’s question.
Which Tigers prospect are you keeping a close eye on this spring?
My answer: I’ve said all along that I want to see Tarik Skubal repeat his 2019 success again in 2020. Even average lefthanders typically dominate the lower minors — take a look at what players like Matt Hall and Austin Sodders (who never reached the majors) did in Single- and High-A ball.
That said, Skubal’s numbers were on another level even before he ran roughshod over the Double-A Eastern League. He also has the overall profile many of these soft-tossing lefties only dreamed of, with a fastball that reportedly touched 99 miles per hour last Friday.
However, for as impressive as Skubal looked against Southeastern, he should be dominating junior college hitters at this point. I’m interested to see how he fares against major league competition. Has he made necessary improvements to his secondary offerings? Is the fastball as good as we think? Just how high is his ceiling?
A couple of spring starts won’t answer these questions, but I’ll be interested to see how he fares against a big leaguer or two.