This year we decided as a staff to preview each of the team’s preliminary assignments to the 2012 AFL and our goal is to tackle each of the 30 organizations over the next 7-10 days. We hope you will follow along with us, check in several times each day and enjoy reading what we come up with. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed just click here to brush up.
Detroit Tigers’ fans have become quite accustomed with the team’s farm system this summer, as it seems that during one ugly stretch from mid-May until July, players were probably waving to each other as they regularly passed by on I-75 going from Detroit to Toldeo (their AAA club’s home).
This fall, Detroit will send seven of its minor leaguers to the Mesa Solar Sox: four pitchers, one catcher, and two infielders (although that may be up for debate as you’ll see below).
3B – Nick Castellanos (20) – Tigers’ 2010 1st Round Pick (44th overall)
2012 – Lakeland (A+): .405/.461/.553, 17 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 3 SB, 22 BB, and 42 K in 215 AB
2012 – Erie (AA): .264/.296/.382, 15 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 5 SB, 14 BB, and 76 K in 322 AB
Mr. Castellanos is Detroit’s most talked-about prospect in some time. Some Tiger fans have been clamoring for his immediate arrival in Detroit to cure Detroit’s offensive woes. He began this season by absolutely tearing it up in Lakeland, as you can see above. A .405 batting average? Unbelievable. He cruised to the mid-way point of the season, picking up the MVP award in the 2012 All-Star Futures game. He was eventually called up to AA Erie, and this is where the plot thickens. Seeing as Detroit has its third basemen for the foreseeable future (Miguel Cabrera), and has a desperate need for a power-hitting corner outfielder, Tigers brass decided to have Castellanos play a touch in the outfield, before essentially making the full-time move to right field. Many fans inferred from this move that a September call-up was in the cards, but alas, it was not meant to be; he’s headed to Arizona to brush up on his swing that cooled a bit (probably considering his position switch). Expect to see him in Detroit no later than September 1, 2013.
P – Tyler Clark (23) – Tigers’ 2010 24th Round Pick
2012 – Lakeland (A+): 0.63 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 19 H, 17 BB, and 59 K in 42.2 IP
2012 – Erie (AA): 7.36 ERA, 1.909 WHIP, 8 H, 6 BB, and 7 SO in 7.1 IP
Clark turned into quite the closer for Lakeland for the majority of this season, tallying a 6-1 record at the back end with 9 saves. To top it off, his opponents only hit .137 against him in Lakeland. Although his numbers dipped when he made the jump to Erie, expect to see him light up AA and maybe make the move up to AAA Toledo next season. Clark is one of the more under-appreciated pitchers in Detroit’s farm system. Obviously, his invitation to participate in the Arizona Fall League puts him in a special category, however, when asked to name the top pitchers in the farm system, fans will usually rattle off names like Drew Smyly, Casey Crosby, Bruce Rondon, and at one time, Jacob Turner. Clark has a good repertoire of pitches, and his experience from college ball should pay dividends in the coming years.
P – Matt Hoffman (23) – Tigers’ 2007 26th Round Pick
2012 – Toledo (AAA): 3.69 ERA, 1.532 WHIP, 55 H, 16 BB, and 32 K in 46.1 IP
Hoffman started out the year in spring training in discussions of heading north with Detroit instead of going to Toledo. He pitched decently in spring training before being opted to Minor League camp in mid-March. The tall, left-hander was thought to be an essential tool to bolster Detroit’s bullpen, however, it appears as though they had other plans. This was Hoffman’s third straight season in AAA, and quite frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t had more of a shot at cracking Detroit’s roster. With Phil Coke being essentially the only mainstay lefty in the bullpen (outside of Duane Below and now Drew Smyly), you’d figure he’d have at least one more chance in 2013 and beyond to take the mound in Comerica Park.
P – Michael Morrison (24) – Tigers’ 2009 29th Round Pick
2012 – Erie (AA): 3.14 ERA, 1.365 WHIP, 46 H, 40 BB, and 72 K in 63.0 IP
Morrison has been a solid set-up man for Erie this year, after coming off Tommy John surgery just a couple years ago in 2010. He has a solid fastball, but scouting reports question his ability to keep his velocity and command in the coming seasons due to his history of arm problems. With Detroit’s back-end of the bullpen solidified for the foreseeable future (Al Albuquerque, Brayan Villareal, and Bruce Rondon), Morrison might be forced to look elsewhere if he wants a shot at breaking through to the Majors in the future.
P – Luke Putkonen (26) – Tigers’ 2007 3rd Round Pick
2012–Toledo (AAA): 4.92 ERA, 1.553 WHIP, 68 H, 20 BB, and 46 K in 56.2 IP
2012 – Detroit (MLB): 6.52 ERA, 2.276 WHIP, 15 H, 7 BB, and 7 K in 9.2 IP
Putkonen has been the beneficiary of the well-worn path between Detroit and Toledo this season, being called up and sent down on two separate occasions. He has a decent, mid 90s fastball, a decent off-speed pitch, and a fairly good breaking ball. He scuffled around the Detroit organization as a starting pitcher, putting up fairly pedestrian results, but seems to have reinvented himself with his new role coming out of the bullpen. Expect Luke to make a few appearances in long-relief for the remainder of September, and look for him in the spring to battle for any openings in Detroit’s bullpen.
C – James McCann (22) – Tigers’ 2011 2nd Round Pick
2012 – Lakeland (A+): .288/.345/.350, 12 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 SB, 10 BB, and 29 K in 160 AB
2012 – Erie (AA): .200/.227/.509, 12 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 2 SB, 8 BB, and 44 K in 220 AB
James McCann is now considered to be the top catching prospect in the Detroit’s organization after the Tigers shipped Rob Brantly off to Florida in July as part of the package to acquire Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. McCann had a good showing in Lakeland before slowing down in Erie. It’s not rare to see a catcher struggle a bit as they climb to the next step in the Minors. It’s not only a whole new set of pitchers to try to hit, but they have to manage a brand new pitching staff. McCann is a level-headed, college-tested catcher that should make a run at squatting behind the dish in Comerica Park behind Alex Avila in the next three to four seasons, depending on what Detroit does with Bryan Holaday and whether they use McCann as trade bait.
1B - Aaron Westlake (23) – Tigers’ 2011 3rd Round Pick
2012 – West Michigan (A): .249/.320/.391, 35 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 4 SB, 47 BB, and 105 K in 465 AB
Westlake is a solid, power-hitting corner infielder that has taken a lot of scouts and fans alike by surprise. He had an outstanding career at Vanderbilt University, and had good numbers in the Cape Cod League. He was mostly overlooked by scouts who doubted his Major League-prospects, but should Westlake continue this power-hitting surge and steady (but not outstanding) defense, he’ll make his way through the Minors, especially if he continues to switch between first and third base.