When we began tracking the American League in 2014 there wasn’t much to get excited about Detroit pitching. This was OK with me, in that I could really use the Tigers as a litmus test for my system. The inital year had a few promising pitchers, but none really fell within the UTR parameters. Kevin Ziomek was a 2nd rounder from 2013 who was still languishing in the mid-levels. He was a UTR-OAS in 2014 and 2015, and the latter season was named as a “Solid Stash” with HiA Lakeland. He only got one start in 2016 and missed the rest of the season with a nerve issue in his shoulder. Austin Kubitza joined Ziomek on that 2014 list and was recently moved the bullpen in 2016 and experienced severe control issues (6.0 BB/9) this past season between Lakeland and Double-A Erie. I had high expectations that 2015 would bring a new crop of low-level pitchers to track, and it turned out to be let down. As I stated, some of the same players made the OAS roster, but a couple of youngsters peak my interest. On U.S. soil , Matt Hall was selected in the 2015 6th round and posted a very successful debut campaign, busting onto the UTR scene. I labeled him as my 2016 “One the Watch” and he didn’t disappoint, as you will see below. I should back-up somewhat and mention that Eudis Idrogo appeared on my radar in 2014 during his time in the Venezuelan Summer League. He was brought over to the States to begin the 2015 season and became my #1 TPS UTR-OAS and tagged as a Legit UTR. He enjoyed his first full season in 2016 with LoA West Michigan, but won’t appear below. He’s still a solid and projectable 21 year-old arm, so keep him on your wish list. Artie Lewicki (8th Rd – 2014) quietly rose up my spreadsheet in 2015 and appeared as a UTR Organizational All-Star. I had him just off the scope to start the 2016 season. He posted very good peripherals in 2016 over two levels (Lakeland/Erie). I would project him a solid middle reliever that could see time in the Tigers bullpen…early-on, if he has an outstanding Spring.
Feilx Viloria was the 2015 International Watch and made his debut in the States last season. He went 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 11 walks over 25.2 innings with short-season Connecticut and GCL Tigers. My top DSL pitcher that year was Noel Ovalles, who also was assigned to the GCL Tigers in 2o16. Keep an eye on Gregory Soto who could be starting to make a move up the ladder. Soto was a UTR-UTR in 2014 during his time with the DSL Tigers.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / TPS
1. LHP Matt Hall – 22/ .087 “Legit UTR”
23 years old – (LoA West Michigan / HiA Lakeland)
6th round – 2015
Hall just adds to the stack of UTR pitchers for the Tigers. The lefty made the OAS Top 5 in his debut season with a 4.29 K/BB ratio. That stat dipped in 2016 (2.57) but Hall handled batters in his first full season. In 12 starts with LoA West Michigan, he went 8-0 with a 1.09 ERA holding opposing batters to a .209 batting average. He locates a low’s 90’s fastball and relies to the curve as his “go-to”, which was the best in the NCAA at the time of his draft. Once he improves his change-up, I would project Hall as a back-end starter.
Alexander should be on the fast track to Detroit. The Club aggressively assigned Alexander to HiA Lakeland for his full season since turning pro. He dominated by posting a 7.2 K9 and 1.4 BB9 in 102 innings and was promoted to Double-A Erie, where the beat went on (6.0 K9 / 1.0 BB9) in 6 starts.
Speaking of aggressive assignments, Dowdy was thrown into LoA ball to start his pro debut. Its unclear as to why he didn’t make his debut a year after being drafted. It may have been due to his college workload at Houston which pushed him to the Instructional Leagues through 2015. Nothing stands out for the 6’1″ 195 lb righty, so we will have to wait and see through 2017.
Burrows got his first taste of full season and didn’t disappoint as the top pick from 2015. His calling card will be the mid 90’s fastball that can touch 98. Once he masters the command of such a heater, the ceiling could be unlimited.
Stays in at the #5 spot, a promising sign with moving up a level, In fact, looking at his peripherals over the last three season, its uncanny of the consistency. Over 319.2 innings, his K9, BB9 and K/BB ratio all match his season averages. The alarming stat would be his HR9 which has seen a increase, especially this past season in giving up 19 dingers in 153.2 innings.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Joe Jimenez – 12 / .051 “Solid Stash”
21 years old – (HiA Lakeland / AA Erie/ AAA Toledo)
Non-drafted Free Agent – 2013
To make it clear….Joe Jimenez has been on my radar since 2014 and continues. He was my 2014 “One to Watch” but narrowly missed out as a 2015 OAS-UTR. That all changed the following season in getting the top TPS nod and earning my “Legit UTR”. That gets bumped to a “Solid Stash” in 2016, which was a no-doubter in the 21 year-old breezing through three levels and leading Tiger affiliates with 30 saves. Prospect hounds are barking at Baseball America after they posted their Top 10 and Jimenez name was absent after coasting through 3 levels in 2016.