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Tigers’ top prospects RHP Casey Mize, LHP Tarik Skubal, INF Isaac Paredes to debut this week

Mize, Skubal, and Paredes will make their highly anticipated major league debuts versus the White Sox.

MLB: Detroit Tigers-Workouts Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The agonizing wait is over. The Detroit Tigers will call up right-handed pitcher Casey Mize, left-handed pitcher Tarik Skubal, and infielder Isaac Paredes, per Tigers’ general manager Al Avila. Tarik Skubal will start on Tuesday versus the Chicago White Sox, while Casey Mize will start on Wednesday.

Mize was the first overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft and is considered to be one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He became the first player to go from undrafted in high school to the number one pick since Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg in 2009, and became the first player drafted by the Tigers with a top-three draft pick since Justin Verlander in 2004. Mize posted a 2.95 ERA, with 151 strikeouts, 12 walks, and a no-hitter in just 109.2 innings in his final season for the Auburn Tigers.

Left-handed pitcher Tarik Skubal was selected in the same draft as Casey Mize, albeit eight rounds (254 picks, to be exact) later. Skubal was a late bloomer after UCL surgery early in his college career, but has turned out to be a major coup for the Tigers. He broke out at Double-A Erie in 2019 when he struck out 48.2 percent of hitters over a 42.1 inning stretch after a spring spent mowing down hitters in the Florida State League.

Infielder Isaac Paredes, meanwhile, was acquired in 2017 along with Tigers infielder Jeimer Candelario when the Tigers shipped relief pitcher Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila to the Chicago Cubs. The precocious young hitter has raked at every level, but we were still looking for the pitch selection and power potential to unfold this year at Toledo before the pandemic sent everything sideways.

Interestingly, none of the three has played above the Double-A level under regular conditions. However, there is little doubt in the prospecting community that all three are ready for their first shot.

Most importantly, general manager Al Avila has noted that he is not calling Mize and Skubal up for spot starts. Per Avila, as long as the two top prospects perform well, they will remain in Detroit.

Mize’s Ascent

In his first full professional season in the Tigers organization, Mize’s prospect stock rose following a dominant start to his season. Mize allowed just one earned run in 21 innings at High-A Lakeland before throwing a no-hitter in his first start for Double-A Erie.

Through his July 10 start last season, Mize had only allowed eight earned runs and issued 14 free passes while striking out 76 in 78.2 innings, good for a 0.92 ERA. Over the next month, however, Mize dealt with shoulder inflammation, allowing a 6.75 ERA over his final seven starts before being shut down for the season after his August 17, 2019 start.

One year to the day of that start, general manager Al Avila has announced (via Zoom, of course, as this is 2020) that Mize will make his major league debut on Tuesday against Dylan Cease and the Chicago White Sox. Mize impressed in Summer Camp, leading many in the Tigers community, including us, to state that he arguably looked like the best starter there.

Furthermore, Detroit has been plagued with starting rotation issues in 2020. Jordan Zimmermann currently sits on the 45-day injured list with a right forearm strain, Iván Nova is on the 10-day injured list with right triceps tendinitis, Daniel Norris began the season on the 10-day injured list after testing positive for COVID-19 and has failed to lock down a spot in the starting rotation, and Michael Fulmer has posted a -0.4 fWAR and allowed five home runs in just 8.1 innings in his first three starts back from Tommy John surgery.

There are, of course, reasons Mize has not debuted until now. For one, Mize only threw 109.2 innings between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie before being shut down for the season, and only has 123.1 innings pitched in the Tigers’ organization period. Secondly, while Mize looked good in spring and summer camp, he struggled to spot his fastball at times (although, to his credit, this made his strong performance all the more impressive due to the overall strength of his repertoire).

Additionally, it was a foregone conclusion Mize would not begin the season with Detroit, as his service clock would have started had Detroit debuted him during the first two games of the abbreviated season. Regardless, the stars have aligned for Mize’s debut. The timing is right in preserving his service time, the Tigers have a glaring need in their rotation, and there are roster spots to go around.

For more Casey Mize analysis, check out Brandon Day’s 2020 scouting report.

Scouting Skubal

While Casey Mize uses a balanced repertoire, Tarik Skubal heavily relies upon one pitch: his fastball. As I wrote in February, Skubal’s fastball is universally considered a plus-plus pitch, cruising in the 93-to-95 mph range and topping out at 98 mph, and it induced the highest percent of swinging strikes in the minor leagues last season (minimum 120 innings). Skubal rounds out his arsenal with three additional average or better offerings: an 84-to-86 mph slider that has proven effective versus right-handed hitters, a 81-to-84 mph circle change that plays up when paired with his plus-plus fastball, and a solid (albeit work-in-progress) 80-to-84 mph curveball.

The key critique when it comes to Skubal’s repertoire is his sheer reliance on his fastball. Skubal throws a fastball about 70 percent of the time, a rate only exceeded in the major leagues by Rangers pitcher Lance Lynn (71.4 percent). Lynn has proven to be one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past year-plus, but it remains to be seen whether Skubal can match Lynn’s fastball-heavy success. For more on Tarik Skubal, check out my 2020 scouting report.

Paredes parades In

The third Tiger debuting this week is infielder Isaac Paredes. Paredes posted an impressive 133 wRC+ and knocked 13 home runs in 127 games at Double-A Erie last season, but has also never played at Triple-A Toledo. Paredes’ calling card is his strong hit tool, with great discipline and a strong ability to barrel up the ball. Paredes will have to lean on his bat to stick in the majors, however, as his key weakness is his overall lack of athleticism and his poor speed. For more on Isaac Paredes, check out Brandon Day’s 2020 scouting report.