MiLB TV is a wonderful tool that allows prospect hounds like myself to get eyes on the future of the Detroit Tigers. There are a lot of teams that stream games, however there are only two in the Florida State League that stream. The Tigers Low-A team, the Lakeland Flying Tigers, are in that league, but don’t show home games. That means there’s only a handful of games each season to see what those prospects look like.
Lucky for us, we got an early season look as Lakeland visited Bradenton this past week. There are plenty of exciting players that don a Lakeland uniform, including Jackson Jobe, Cristian Santana, and Roberto Campos, among others.
There were six games played in Bradenton over the last week, so there was plenty of video to comb through. With that, there were plenty of players who stood out.
As mentioned, we got to see Jackson Jobe’s first professional outing. Box score-wise, it was not fantastic. He gave up a pair of unearned runs on one hit, one walk, and no strikeouts in one inning of work. Beyond the box score, his wicked breaking ball and easy arm speed were absolutely on display. Jobe ran his fastball up to 97 MPH, which he hit multiple times. The issue was this nasty stuff wasn’t getting by hitters. Part of that is command, part of that is Jobe is still learning how to pitch. This was his first pro outing, after all.
Data wise, Jobe is a unicorn. But we already knew that. The 19-year-old will take time to tune his stuff, build up his arm to a major league workload, and develop his command. There’s no reason for the Tigers to rush anything. They presumably picked this start as a little teaser, knowing it would be broadcast. Going forward the work will rarely be televised until he’s ready to level up to West Michigan. Mostly it was just good to get a look at a potential key piece of the Tigers’ future.
Another misleading box score comes in the form of one of the Tigers’ recent big ticket international free agents, Cristian Santana. He played in five of the six games and knocked his first homerun of the season. That, however, was his only hit. He drew five walks and struck out seven times, as well. Santana is 18-years-old and the good news is that he doesn’t look lost at the plate at all. He’s taking professional at bats and looks very mature at the plate for his age. The results weren’t there in this snapshot, but I’ll take it based on the types of at bats he was putting together. The walks are a good indicator. He was seeing a lot of pitches and working the count with a professional approach. It was an impressive showing for my money.
Roberto Campos is another big name on this Lakeland roster. I mean that both in terms of prospect standing and stature. He’s also just 18-years-old and is 6’2”, 200 pounds. He batted .250 in the series with a double while striking out seven times and walking three. The calling card for Campos is power and a lot of it. He’s still in search of his first homer this year, but we got a glance as to why that might be. He was hitting rockets off that bat at over 100 MPH exit velocities, but they were singles. His swing right now is more geared towards line drives rather than lifting the ball. It’s not an issue that needs addressing (yet), because he’s hitting the ball. His hit tool is not a strong suit, so making plenty of hard contact is key. Keep in mind that he’s one of the youngest players in the entire FSL.
Just a simple single for Roberto Campos, but notable for the exit velo of 111.5 MPH pic.twitter.com/Cg2PAaLy5G— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) April 17, 2022
Speaking of power, let’s talk about the Tigers 2021 2nd rounder Izaac Pacheco. He’s another bat in this lineup with insane raw power. As with Campos, the hit tool is decidedly a work in progress, with potential swing adjustments indicated. Pacheco hit a fairly productive .227 in the series, including two doubles and a homerun. Similar to Campos he struck out seven times and walked four. He went hitless in the first three games, but then went crazy in the final three. In terms of the exit velocity off the bat, he was also over 100 MPH on some of them. That’s really good. His at bats were extremely encouraging.
Izaac Pacheco has had some long at-bats this evening, fouling off several 2 strike pitches. His patience is rewarded for his home run in a Flying Tigers uniform. pic.twitter.com/osv4uOcDhR— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) April 16, 2022
The final prospect who is generally thought of as a top 30 prospect on the roster is Manuel Sequera. For me, he was the one in this group who didn’t live up to snuff. He did hit a solo shot, but posted just a .143 average across the six games with eight strikeouts and a walk. His homerun was an absolute tank that travelled over 400 feet with a 104.6 MPH exit velocity, which are both encouraging numbers. The rest of his at bats were a show that his hit tool isn’t even as advanced as that of other power first guys like Campos or a Pacheco. His pop is undeniable, but a shaky approach, seriously lofted stroke, and mediocre bat-to-ball skills keep him in extreme longshot territory for now.
Lakeland shortstop Manuel Sequera hits his first home run at the Low-A level, and it’s a game-tying bomb. (104.6 MPH, 402 feet) pic.twitter.com/yC4wkHpSGg— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) April 17, 2022
There were a few guys on rehab assignment that I’ll mention. Performances here are mostly irrelevant, however. They are just about getting game reps and seeing live play again. Keep that in mind when I say that Derek Hill wasn’t hitting the ball well. Which, again, is fine. He played in the whole series and is getting ready to return to the Tigers.
Alex Faedo is not technically listed as a rehab assignment, but let’s call it what it is. He’s returning from Tommy John surgery and shouldn’t be spending an extended period of time in a Lakeland uniform. It simply makes sense to build him up under the eye of the Tigers’ player development and performance science team. We can probably call the rehab over once he goes back to Erie, where he’s spent more than his share of innings during his career. He looked reasonably Faedo-like considering he hadn’t pitched a regular season game since September of 2019, striking out five, walking one and allowing three runs on four hits in 3.2 innings. The slider is intact. The command remains a work in progress.
Beyond just this Bradenton series, the Tigers 2021 13th round pick out of Toledo, Chris Meyers, is having a good start to the year. In his first eight games he’s hitting .387 with three homers. That said, the Bradenton series was business as usual. He hit .350 with a pair of bombs, a triple, and a double, while only striking out twice. It’s not uncommon for college bats to quickly prove they are too advanced for the Low-A level. That appears to be the case here for Meyers. He’s using the whole field with power, going with the ball, and just looks like a man among boys.
It’s another opposite field rocket for Chris Meyers. His third home run of the season puts Lakeland up 7-3. pic.twitter.com/wNyx4lkANC— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) April 14, 2022
Signs of life! Jose De La Cruz was a popular pick to breakout last year before looking like he’s never seen live pitching before once the season started. He just simply didn’t look ready. He does now. There’s still a hefty amount of swing and miss, but when he connects the contact is so much better than a year ago. He hit .250 against Bradenton with two bombs and a double while striking out eight times. The homeruns and the doubles were absolutely smacked. Over 100 MPH exit velocity on them, and 400 feet to the pull side. His bat is extremely quick and there’s still tremendous upside. He continues to show surprisingly good defensive chops despite fringy speed as well.
Jose De La Cruz yanks this breaking ball 400 feet for his 3rd home run of the season. pic.twitter.com/fPxfrwNMD7— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) April 17, 2022
Lazaro Benitez is a personal favorite of mine after this week of games. He’s 22-years-old and not the biggest guy out there listed at 5’9”, but he packs a punch with his swing. He hit .214 in the series with a homer and a double while striking out three times. He seemed to have a knack for getting the bat on the ball, though. His homerun was to centerfield, so there’s plenty of juice in the bat. And you can add him to the list of Lakeland players with extra base hits over 100 MPH exit velo because his double was registered at 106.4 MPH. What I like about him is what appears to be some really good shoulder/hip separation in the swing. Essentially before his hands launch, his lower half has already started the swing, but without his upper body pulling off the ball too badly. This is a great indicator of potential power and it really helps to turn on inside pitches with authority.
DET Lazaro Benitez dropping into top personal top Tigers prospects on a whim because I liked his swing. He hit a HR in his first AB today. I’m counting as a win and your can’t stop me. pic.twitter.com/wFgUMkLkIR— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) April 17, 2022
It was a short stint for Carlos Marcano, so there isn’t a ton for me to say. What I will say is that he showed good feel for a breaking ball and changeup playing against a 91-94 MPH fastball. He did hit 95 MPH on the broadcast gun once, too. He’s just 18-years-old and is an intriguing arm for the new development team to work with.
DET Carlos Marcano is just 18 pitching in Low-A. Has 3 relief appearances this year without giving up a run. Got a look at the breaking ball and changeup for you here. Fastball is mostly 91-93 T95 and per the statcast data was between 17-20 VBreak. pic.twitter.com/DGKMPadjaw— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) April 18, 2022
Garrett Burhenn was awesome by FSL standards. He’s the Tigers 2021 9th rounder out of Ohio State and he looked the part of an arm perhaps too advanced for the level. He got the ball for the first game of the series and scattered six hits and a run while walked one and striking out five in four innings. His fastball was generally 91-93 MPH with command of a nice slider. He was working both sides of the plate efficiently and sequencing well. It was clear to see the polish that comes with a college arm.
Another 2021 draftee, Aaron Haase was the Tigers 17th rounder. He’s undersized, listed at 5’8” and is a relief prospect. He got a couple of appearances against Bradenton, one good and one not so good. The thing about Haase that makes him interesting is his slider. It was close to 3000 RPM, landing in the 2800-2900 RPM area. That is a weapon to work from. When he was locating it, it couldn’t be touched. This is another example of what this new development team is looking for and doing. You can’t teach spin rates like Haase’s or Jobe’s. They provide a good launching point for development though.
Another area Haase excels is in a combination of fourseam spin rate and short stature. Currently he’s only running it up there around 92 mph, but he has the kind of low release point that can be tuned to produce a really flat, deceptive plane to the top of the strike zone, augmented by high-end rpms. If everything happened to go right here, you might have something like Kansas City Royals closer Josh Staumont.