With every prospect list comes the questions of who just missed the cut. Here at Bless You Boys, we don’t like to keep you guessing whether your secret prospect obsession is among the notables in the organization. With that in mind, here are five pitchers that just missed making our top 30 Detroit Tigers prospects.
Included below are several young arms who made the list in the past, but struggled to get any traction going in their return from the 2020 off year. Each of them packs enough in terms of stuff to move quickly should they improve into 2022. Overall, there is a decent level of depth to the Tigers farm system when it comes to pitchers. The organization has done a better job integrating data and advanced concepts into their scouting, and putting that to work on the pitching side of things in recent years. It clearly shows in the amount of quality arms on hand. These are the five pitchers that just missed the cut, but could rise up by this time next year.
It’s been a slow road for the converted infielder who has played four seasons as a pitcher but has yet to rise above the Low-A ranks. He spent the entire year with Lakeland, posting an ERA of 4.65 with 102 strikeouts and 46 walks across 98.2 innings of work. The good news is that 2021 was the most innings he’s thrown and arguably the best he’s looked. The patience is paying off as he’s more stretched out now and looks more comfortable in the role.
Detroit signed Guzman as an international free agent in 2015. He spent two uninspiring seasons as a hitter before making this transition to the mound. This will be a pivotal season in his development, as he’s turning 24 in May and will need to show he can handle competition at a higher level.
He works with a four-pitch arsenal of a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. The breaking balls present with average spin, but they can bleed into one another. The curveball doesn’t generally have much depth to it, so it’s somewhat of a slurvy shape. His fastball is solid. It’s usually in the mid-90s, maxing out at 98 mph with armside run. His changeup has great velocity separation off the fastball and was the best pitch for swing and miss last season. One of his other pitches will need to step up as a swing and miss offering, but Guzman has a great base to work on. Patience is key for hitters converting to the mound, but time might be running out for that big step forward for Guzman. Expect him to start in High-A in 2022.
Another international singing, this time from the 2016 class. Montero spent 2021 in High-A West Michigan where he showed off some impressive command, walking only 19 batters through 61.1 innings of work. He was filling up the zone, which kept strikeout numbers down. He pitched better than his ERA north of five, but he doesn’t miss many bats so he will be a pitcher at risk of getting BABIPed to death without more consistency. For example, hitters’ BABIP against him in 2021 was .394.
Consistency is key for Montero. His stuff should be generating more whiffs. His fastball is in the mid-90s and has touched 99 mph with a shape that suggests it will play very well to the top of the zone. There’s a two-seam variation that moves well lower in the zone, too. His crown jewel when he can locate it is a very high spin curveball that can top 3,000 rpm and generate sharp break. It’s a legitimate whiff pitch when it’s on, and could be one of the best breakers in the entire organization if he can tune the shape to include better depth and command it effectively. Montero’s repertoire is rounded out with a changeup that gets some decent fade to the bottom of the zone, but it’s a clear third pitch right now.
Projecting Montero out in 2022 will be interesting. He has the traits that the front office is currently coveting, so it made sense that they were aggressive with his assignment by dropping him in Erie. However, his struggles suggest he may benefit from more time in High-A. He’ll turn 22 in the middle of the season, so there’s no wrong answer. My best estimation is that Montero will start the year in Double-A. If things don’t go well in 2022, a conversion to relief seems likely, as Montero is a bit undersized by the standards of the modern power pitcher.
The Tigers selected Mattison in the fourth round of the 2021 draft out of Bryant University. He was thought to be a money-saving pick, but he does present a good skillset to build on. His arsenal includes a fastball that can touch upper-90s with a solid changeup and developing curveball and cutter, per Brian Sakowski of Perfect Game.
Tigers take a probable money saver here in Bryant RHP Tyler Mattison. Big righty, 6-4/230, FB up to 97 with above avg CH, CB/CT also there though both below to fringe avg, improved strikes in a big way this spring. #PGDraft— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) July 12, 2021
Mattison is slated to make his professional debut in 2022. He has a solid 6’4” frame to work from. The Tigers pitching development may be able to help him unlock a third pitch, but right now he projects to have two average pitches and one or two fringe offerings. Finding that spin will be a focal point for his development. For that reason, he will likely spend much of his debut year in Low-A Lakeland, or potentially even in the complex league.
After a dazzling start to the 2021 season that garnered attention for a visit to the video room, Rodriguez’s performance fell off a bit. That said, he did show enough for the team to add him to the 40-man roster prior to the lockout. His command became somewhat of an issue. His strikeout numbers were fairly solid, posting a 9.35 K/9, and his walk numbers weren't outrageous. What wound up killing him was home runs. He had a gaudy 2.14 HR/9 through his time in Double-A, which was all but two innings he got in Triple-A during the year.
There should be little confusion as to why Rodriguez was added to the 40-man, despite his poor performance in Double-A. Once again, the organization is showing what’s important to them. He generates plus spin on his fastball, and above-average spin on his curveball. His fastball is a good pitch in terms of spin and shape, but in the low-90s it just lacks the velocity to play to its potential. His curveball is still a plus offering for me. It generates sharp break and can create plenty of whiffs. The changeup rounds things out as a very volatile offering that could be his best or worst pitch. Which one depends on each different offering. He can throw three deadly changeups then bury the next three. He’s another example of the ingredients being there, but not mixing well together right now due to substandard command. Unfortunately, this has remained the case with roughly the same reports being filed over each of the past four seasons.
There’s a big gap in this profile between ceiling and floor. His velocity might play a big role in that, but there is a chance he starts. As he works with the rebuilt player development system, they may be able to unlock something with Rodriguez. Of course, that can’t happen until the lockout is over. There’s a chance we see him in the majors in 2022 if he stays on the 40-man roster. There’s little doubt that he will once again don a Mud Hens jersey in the upcoming season.
Elvin Rodriguez dealing, already with his fourth strikeout on the evening pic.twitter.com/sk2ffvObxk— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) June 30, 2021
If you like big, physical profiles then Petit is the pitcher for you. The Tigers' 14th-round selection out of Charleston Southern in 2021 checks in at 6’8”, 300 pounds. One heck of a frame to work from. He saw several relief appearances during his draft year spanning from the Complex to High-A. Totaling a combined 7.2 innings professionally, the sample is too small to read into any of the numbers.
In his debut, Petit showed off a two-pitch mix consisting of a fastball and slider. His fastball is mid-to-upper 90s and gets some tremendous armside run, especially lower in the zone, with a slider that is generally about 10 mph below his fastball.
What’s encouraging is the smoothness of Petit’s motion. The velocity and delivery are very easy. There will be the worry of repeating mechanics that comes with any player with long levers, let alone levers that come with his tall frame. In his small sample, he showed a feel for the zone and could move both of his pitches around it. His slider worked particularly well to his armside. But again, 7.2 innings is such a small sample. I’d imagine we see Petit back in a West Michigan uniform to start out in 2022.
First Tiger prospect video for 2022 is a 2021 draftee. Detroit’s 14th rounder out of Charleston Southern. RJ Petit has an imposing 6’8” frame. A couple of appearances in High-A worked with a FB/SL combination. pic.twitter.com/xyQ7VU7LAX— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) January 1, 2022
But wait, there’s more! We’ll circle back for a few more arms outside the top 30 shortly, but pitchers like Paul Richan, Zack Hess, Angel de Jesus, Austin Bergner, Jack O’Loughlin, Brendan White, Brant Hurter, Wilkel Hernandez—out for TJ surgery—and a few other names could conceivably make a leap and provide further depth for a system that has quite a lot of interesting pitching talent.