Max Scherzer is the favorite to win the American League Cy Young Award this year after helping lead the Detroit Tigers to their third-consecutive division title, but back in 2007 he was just another prospect in the Arizona Fall League trying to take the next step.
Scherzer, then in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, had made it all the way to Double-A that season, his first as a professional. He headed to the AFL to focus on his secondary pitches, throwing out of the bullpen. He went straight to Triple-A in ‘08 and was in the majors by late April.
The Tigers team up with prospects from the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals to form the Mesa Solar Sox. Here’s a snapshot of the Tigers prospects slated to head to the desert this fall. The current AFL rosters are still preliminary, so it’s possible things could get shaken up a bit before play opens Oct. 8.
Devon Travis – Travis had a big breakout this season, his second in pro ball. The 2012 13th rounder hit .351/.481/.518 with 16 home runs and 22 stolen bases between Class-A and High-A. That kind of power is especially surprising coming from a 5-foot-9 second baseman. He earned high marks for his plate discipline as well, drawing 53 walks against 64 strikeouts.
Tyler Collins – Collins put himself on the radar by smashing 21 homers in Double-A. A corner outfielder who was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 draft, Collins entered the season with 15 homers over 169 minor league games. While the power spike was nice, it came with an alarming spike in strikeouts. The 23-year-old hit .240/.323/.438 with 122 strikeouts for Erie.
Corey Knebel – On of the early stars of the 2013 draft, Knebel was about as dominant as a pitcher can be in his first taste of pro ball. The No. 39 overall pick, Knebel had a 0.87 ERA and struck out 41 batters over 31 innings of work in Class-A. The former Texas Longhorns closer may not be in the minors for long, and an impressive showing in the AFL could accelerate his path to Detroit.
Will Clinard – After a solid pro debut in 2012 and a strong showing to start the year in High-A, Clinard struggled mightily in Double-A. The right-hander recorded nearly as many walks as he did strikeouts over his 34 ⅓ innings in Erie, registering 26 Ks and 20 base on balls. He’ll be 24-years-old at the start of next season, so it’s put up or shut up time.
Kyle Lobstein – The Tigers took Lobstein in the Rule 5 Draft and worked out a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays to keep him after he didn’t make the 25-man roster out of spring. The 6-foot-3 lefty had a 13-7 record and 3.27 ERA over 28 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He averaged 7.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.
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