While teams are still slow-playing free agency under the auspices of a need to see how vaccination roll-outs will allow for attendance in 2021, the rest of the game is getting on with things. Teams have been instructed by the Commissioner’s office to prepare for a normal major league spring camp, and a 162 game season.
What remains unclear, is how spring training and the regular season will be set up for the minor leagues. The current scuttlebutt says that minor league spring training may take place in April, with a somewhat shorter than normal minor league season to follow. None of this appears etched in stone, but uncertainty is still a lot higher on the minor league end of things.
However, we do have some clarity, specifically regarding the Tigers minor league managers and their coaching staffs. The Tigers announced today that they’ve finalized most of their coaching positions for all minor league affiliates. They also made an interesting coaching hire for the player development staff, which we’ll get to in a moment.
There are plenty of newer names there, with Doug Bochtler replacing Juan Nieves as the Toledo Mud Hens pitching coach under manager Tom Prince. Bochtler comes over from the San Diego Padres, where he was their bullpen coach in 2020. Arnie Beyeler takes over as the Erie SeaWolves manager, while most notably to Tigers fan, Mr. Brayan Peña has moved from the Rookie Ball level up to West Michigan to take over the Whitecaps. As the Whitecaps are now the team’s Advanced-A affiliate, he’ll be charged with working with many of the teams top draft picks from the past two drafts, and that group should include 2020 first overall pick Spencer Torkelson.
In other org news, the Tigers have also plucked a Driveline Baseball affiliated coach to take over as Hitting Coordinator. Joel McKeithan, who played some of his college ball at Vanderbilt before a few seasons in the Frontier League, comes to the Tigers organization from the Philadelphia Phillies. The 29-year-old was a minor league hitting coach in the Phillies organization over the past two seasons. From 2016-2018, he was a Driveline hitting coach as well.
Shoutout and big congrats to @JoelMcKeithan on landing a job as a Hitting Coordinator for the Detroit Tigers!— Jason Ochart (@JasonOchart) January 12, 2021
We’ll miss you in PHI but you’ve worked hard for this and earned the opportunity. Good luck!
Finally, the Tigers have made a 40-man roster move to create a spot for new outfielder Robbie Grossman. Troy Stokes Jr., who, as noted by Evan Woodbery from MLive, spent 497 days in the organization without playing a regular season game at any level, has been claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Tigers announce the Pirates have claimed OF Troy Stokes Jr. off waivers— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) January 12, 2021
As for Grossman, he seems reasonably amped to be here and offered some comments to MLB Network Radio on being a veteran leader on a young team.