Despite preseason hopes for a magical season that are now dashed on the rocks alongside the Tigers’ play over the first two months, there is still plenty to look forward to this year. The major league debut of top Tigers prospect Riley Greene will certainly be the main event.
Baseball America released their updated top 100 prospects list on Thursday, and Mr. Greene is now their second-ranked prospect in the game, behind Baltimore Orioles catcher, Adley Rutschman, who debuted last week.
Baseball America gives Greene a 70 hit tool, 55 power combo. They also note a top exit velocity of 113.5 mph off the bat, placing him comfortably in plus raw power territory. This line sums up Greene as a hitter pretty well.
“Mixing exceptional talent with a mature approach and a high IQ, Greene possesses elite bat speed with a fluid, balanced stroke and does damage with plus raw power.”
The article is paywalled, so you’ll need a subscription to read their full report, but we’ll also note that they have Jackson Jobe ranked 84th, as the only other top 100 prospect now that Spencer Torkelson has graduated.
Greene had a walk, stole a base, and scored a run on Saturday as the Toledo Mud Hens lost to the Columbus Clippers. Greene has a home run and a pair of doubles in his last three games as he works his way back from a fractured foot. Things appear to be going well, so perhaps Mr. Greene will get to make his long awaited major league debut by the middle of the month, possibly sooner. He and Austin Meadows will be a sight for sore eyes in the Tigers’ outfield.
Elvin Rodriguez deciphered?
Friday night was not alright for Tigers’ rookie starter Elvin Rodriguez. He allowed 10 runs in 4 1⁄3 innings in New York against the Yankees. Things looked under control early, but a misplayed line drive to center field by Willi Castro led to a bases clearing triple, and Rodriguez really came unglued in the fifth as he faded. As he’d pitched pretty well this season, it was a surprisingly bad performance even considering the devastating play from Castro.
Jomboy Media noticed indications during the start that Rodriguez was tipping his pitches out of the stretch. Teams are always hunting for little tells, and the Yankees have a whole cast of good veteran hitters skilled at finding these little giveaways.
In the footage, Rodriguez appears to stare toward third base as he comes set from the stretch when throwing a fastball. On a slider he tended to look only momentarily, and then dip his head to check the runner at first out of the corner of his eye. He was probably less concerned about them running on a fastball, and so was just paying them extra attention when throwing a slider without realizing it was noticeable. When you have runners on, you put a lot more in the pitcher’s mind, and sometimes it leads to a tell like this.
Beau Brieske had some issues with pitch tipping earlier in the season, and it’s a part of MLB finishing school for pitchers to get better at cleaning these things up before teams start to get a read on them. Presumably Rodriguez will make the necessary adjustment.
The Tarik Skubal index
We’ve already noted improvements in Tarik Skubal’s, slider and changeup this season. Overall, the biggest improvement has been in throwing a more complex pitch mix and commanding all five offerings effectively, but there have been specific tweaks to certain individual pitches as well. He’s lowered his arm slot a little bit, giving him more of a sweeping look with his harder slider. And his changeup is getting five more inches of horizontal movement than it did last year.
Alex Fast of The Pitcher List, one of our favorite sites, posted a Skubal changeup grip comparison back in May. Turns out there’s a grip change helping him get that improved action. He’s gone from some experiments, like the 2020-2021 offseason splitter era, to a pretty standard circle change grip, bringing the index finger down to his thumb. Certainly appears to be working well.
Tarik Skubal's CH is different.— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 1, 2022
The pitch is getting career highs in swing and miss and is more efficient than ever in 2 strike counts.
One big reason for the success: a new grip.
More on Tarik's CH, SL and what pitch he plans on using more coming Wednesday via @PitcherList pic.twitter.com/utAeWX8MMw
Tigers or Lions?
Famed throwing coach Tom House, who has worked with everyone from Nolan Ryan to Tom Brady, is a big advocate of mixing different throwing disciplines to improve coordination. Tigers pitching prospect Beau Brieske is apparently a fan of the idea. More often in recent years, this concept has involved training with weighted baseballs to build strength and shoulder stability, but throwing a football with a perfect spiral is another way to help build coordination and strength. And so a cheap practice football Brieske purchased a few years back has led to Tigers’ pitchers alternating quarterbacks and running routes in warm-ups, mixing that into their pre-game long toss routines.
Joe Girardi fired
A brutal start for a hopeful Philadelphia Phillies team led to the firing of Joe Girardi on Friday. The second season under GM Dave Dombrowski sees the Phils now 24-29 after winning three straight. Interesting. Possibly Girardi was a issue, but more likely this is scapegoating for a pretty uneven roster. Don’t worry Joe, it didn’t work out for Gabe Kapler there either. Trader Dave has some work to do there.
Around the horn
Tommy Pham apparently slapped Joc Pederson in the face over a fantasy football dispute last week, but that isn’t the really interesting story in Pederson’s case. He’s also on a tear since moving to San Francisco.
The Houston Astros made a wise move, signing Yordan Alvarez to a six-year, $115 million extension. The deal covers the 24-year-old slugger’s arbitration years as well as three free agent seasons beyond.
Back in mid-May, it looked like the Los Angeles Angels might finally have the recipe for success around main dishes Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. On Saturday night, they lost their 10th straight game, so perhaps not.
Struggling infielder Miguel Andujar has requested a trade from the Yankees. Not sure there are going to be any excited buyers getting in touch.
Kumar Rocker was back on the mound on Saturday, looking to begin making his case for a high draft pick after the Mets drafted him 10th overall in 2021 and then declined to sign him.
In his first start since the 2021 College World Series, Kumar Rocker went 4 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 K on 60 pitches. Fastball sat 94-97 mph touched 99 mph, slider was 84-86 mph, showed some cutters at 87 mph, and two changeups at 89 mph.— Geoff Pontes (@GeoffPontesBA) June 5, 2022
All pitches from the first three innings. pic.twitter.com/CoFFCrIQ2A
The Arkansas Razorbacks took down Oklahoma State in the NCAA championship tournament. A victory punctuated by this grand slam from shortstop Jalen Battles.
Finally, there was an odd story as Max Scherzer’s dog got injured on a run, and then apparently bit the Mets’ ace on his pitching hand when he went to check the injury. Both are apparently doing just fine, and Scherzer was still on the injured list anyway, so no real harm done.
Rafi is doing well and getting extra cuddles. Thx to everyone for the well wishes and concern. Also, @HumaneRescue & @sthubertsanimal need homes for 30lb+ dogs right now. If you’re able, bring a new family member home and we’ll cover the adoption fee. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/L0VLzoG7vh— Erica Scherzer (@emaysway) June 5, 2022