The West Michigan Whitecaps will have some real drawing power when their Midwest League season begins on May 4th. With their home opener slated for May 11th against the Great Lakes Loons, the roster will feature a host of interesting prospects, including the Detroit Tigers two newest high-end prospects. The Whitecaps’ announced their starting roster today, headed by 2020 first overall pick Spencer Torkelson, and second round pick, catcher Dillon Dingler.
Overall, the Whitecaps roster is probably the most interesting group among all the affiliates. The Toledo Mud Hens will have top pitching prospect Matt Manning, as well as infielder Isaac Paredes and centerfielder Daz Cameron, but the Whitecaps roster has some intriguing names in a system that could really use a few guys to break out.
First among them in notoriety remains right-hander Franklin Perez, once thought to be the jewel of the 2017 Justin Verlander deal with the Houston Astros. Perez has barely pitched due to ongoing shoulder issues that apparently have no surgical remedy. Instead he’s simply been on the sidelines most of the past three seasons. We got a look at him in spring camp back in March and admittedly, things did not look great. While his command and secondary pitches still looked roughly in the high quality shape they were when he arrived, Perez struggled to break 90 mph. That’s a good six miles per hour slower than his old max fastball. Arm health willing, the six-foot five right-hander may get the velo back, but he’s practically a reclamation project at this point. It would really help the Tigers system if he could stay healthy this year. If not, it’s probably time to write him off.
While Perez has the most name value, the Whitecaps roster is actually packed with prospects from our top 30 rankings. 2020 draft picks OF Daniel Cabrera and IF Trei Cruz are slated for West Michigan, as is 2019 third round pick, 3B Andre Lipcius. In the outfield are a pair of bats that could really boost the system in the form of 2018 second rounder Parker Meadows, and a key pick to move quickly this key in Bryant Packard.
The pitching side of things is a bit thin, but we’re particularly interested to see right-handed starter Keider Montero. Now 20 years old, Montero broke out at the rookie ball levels back in 2019 with a good fastball, advanced control, and a high spin breaking ball that has excellent bat missing potential. There are also a smattering of interesting, hard-throwing relief prospects like Yaya Chentouf, Angel Reyes, and Sandel de la Cruz.
You can take a look at the complete roster and find a link for tickets via the Whitecaps roster announcement tweet.
Double-A Erie SeaWolves
The SeaWolves roster doesn’t have anywhere near the appeal of the Whitecaps, but there are some notable names, as well as one key one. The SeaWolves will also have several good arms, any one of which could provide a little help to the Tigers bullpen should their command come together. The rotation, however, is a bit of a wasteland.
First and foremost is outfielder Riley Greene, the Tigers first round selection in 2019. Drafted out of high school, Greene has done nothing but impress at the plate in limited action due to the 2020 minor league season cancellation. Comfortably the club’s best two-way position prospect, Greene plays good defense in the outfield, but his bat is arguably the best in the system, with only Torkelson as legit competition.
The key name in the starting rotation is right-hander Elvin Rodriguez, acquired as a teenager from the Los Angeles Angels in the Justin Upton trade. Rodriguez has improved his strike throwing in the Tigers system, but after a year and a half out of sight, the hope is that his stuff is popping a little hotter at this point. His riding fastball and breaker could make him a candidate for relief work assuming there’s no big leap in stuff and pitchability coming.
Beyond them, the bullpen is stocked with arms the Tigers might draw on later this season in relief. Hard-throwing right-handers like Angel DeJesus, Gerson Moreno, Billy Lescher, and Wladimir PInto could be helpful if their command improves, while lefty Max Green has shown a near triple digit fastball at times. The one most likely to move quickly, however, is probably right-hander Zack Hess.
You can read more from the SeaWolves roster press release, purchase tickets, and view their Eastern League schedule here.
Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens
As previously mentioned, Matt Manning and Isaac Paredes are the big draws for the Mud Hens, but there are some other interesting names to follow who may contribute a bit at the major league level this season. The pitching prospects will have some quality outfield defense behind them with centerfielders Daz Cameron and Derek Hill in the mix.
Catchers Jake Rogers and Eric Haase could each be the next man up should Grayson Greiner continue to struggle too much at the plate at the major league level. In the infield, second baseman Kody Clemens has been turning heads this spring as well, and he and utilityman Zack Short, who already briefly debuted with the Tigers this season, may each get a look at the major leagues later on this summer. Finally, veteran first baseman Renato Nuñez will likely be the first man up should the Tigers need another bat—do they not need one right now?
In the bullpen, veteran right-handers Wily Peralta, Erasmo Ramirez, and Joe Jiménez will all be in the mix for a callup this season. The Tigers also have a key relief prospect in Jason Foley slated to begin the year in Toledo. Drew Carlton, Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser, and sidearmer Nolan Blackwood are all young right-handers who may be of some assistance to the Tigers bullpen as well.
You can find the rest of the Mud Hens starting roster here, and according to the Hens, tickets for May home games are selling out quickly. So if you’re so inclined, the time is now.
As for the Lakeland Flying Tigers, now the Tigers Class-A affiliate, we’re still waiting for a roster announcement.