To call it a grind for Tigers fans would be an understatement. The last five years have seen the team average 94 losses a season, trade the limited number of legitimate players on the major league roster, and consistently fail to look remotely competent on the field. It has been ugly, it has been painful...
but it has been worth it. Through the countless frustrations and mounting disappointments, Detroit has steadily built one of the best farm systems in baseball. It can be hard to buy into the idea of future payoff while watching a team lose day in and day out, but the idea of potential is now finally becoming a reality.
The face of the Tigers’ rebuild has been Casey Mize, a consensus top-10 prospect who was selected with the first-overall pick of the 2018 MLB Draft. Most fans are well aware of what Mize brings to the table: four different above-average pitches, a fastball that goes up to 97 mph, and a Double-A no-hitter during his first start with Erie last season.
Mize may be the best pitching prospect in baseball right now, but expectations should be tempered for this start and this season. Though he started 2019 on fire, he did end the year with a 6.75 ERA across his final seven outings and was shut down due to health concerns, which has been an issue for him in the past. The Tigers need him to become a bona fide ace, and he very well may become that, but 2020 is all about getting his feet wet.
Detroit Tigers (9-12) at Chicago White Sox (13-11)
Time/Place: 8:10 pm, Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Probables: RHP Casey Mize (6-3, 3.20 ERA in 2019 Double-A) vs. RHP Dane Dunning (5-2, 2.76 ERA in 2018 Double-A)
Game 22 Pitching Matchup
Apparently not wanting to miss out on the fun, the White Sox are set to call up one of their own top arms. Dane Dunning is not quite as heralded as Mize, but he falls within the top 10 of the Chicago system and has a first-round pedigree as well. He came to the White Sox in a deal with the Nationals that sent Adam Eaton the other way in 2016.
After missing all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery, Dunning is ready to make his major league debut. The 25-year-old was good in his 11 Double-A starts back in 2018, posting a 2.76 ERA with 10.0 K/9. He profiles as a back-end starter with a solid, but not elite profile, as he lacks a quality fastball.
With no minor league season this year, it is impossible to know how well Dunning is pitching now, especially given that he only pitched two innings back in spring training. Like Mize, he likely will be on a pitch count on Wednesday, and he is probably just a spot starter for the White Sox at this time.
Key matchup: Service time vs. call-ups
There are plenty of legitimate reasons for the Tigers to leave Mize in the minors for the entirety of 2020, but those points are all moot now. Whether it was the right choice or not, Mize is here and he now has a chance to justify that decision. Again, the end results are less important than the process here, and getting to watch him grow and develop will be fascinating.
Mize should be a boost to a collapsing rotation, even if the Tigers begin to fall away from playoff contention. In fact, viewing this season as just a chance to gain some experience before the team really swings back towards competitive could be the best situation all around. Most importantly, however, is what this move represents. After five dark seasons of struggle, the Tigers are starting to become fun to watch again.