Just a few weeks ago, Tigers fans rejoiced as they got the long awaited news from Detroit’s General Manager Al Avila that top pitching prospect Casey Mize would be getting the call to the majors for the first time in his career. Until the highly coveted monster truck of a first overall pick Spencer Torkelson took his spot, Mize held the title of crown jewel of the Tigers blossoming farm system. He dominated the minors, posting a 2.71 ERA across multiple levels. Many baseball execs figured he was ready for the majors long before now, though. In 2019, he threw a no-hitter in his first appearance with the AA Erie Seawolves and continued to shine until the Tigers shut him down due to concerns about arm fatigue.
Part of what helped Mize pave the way was his splitter, which many MiLB scouts consider to be one of the best offspeed offerings in all of the minor leagues. The magical pitch was on full display in his first couple of outings. In fact, he was able to K up 2019 batting champ Tim Anderson on just the third pitch of the AB on that very same offering.
Many sources–including MLB Pipeline, The Athletic, and Baseball America–have Mize as one of the best prospects in the game, but he won’t be the only one joining Detroit’s major league squad this week. Avila announced that flame-throwing left-hander Tarik Skubal and young infielder Isaac Paredes will also be getting promoted. Skubal is ranked at number 50 on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list, and Paredes just barely missed the list. Although…maybe he shouldn’t have? He’s still ranked 6th best in Detroit’s prospect rankings on MLB.com, and he has impressed early on. At a mere 21 years of age, he may just have the best plate approach and discipline on the team. One player comp could be a Javier Baez with a little less speed and fielding range. At the time I’m writing this, Paredes still doesn’t have any swings and misses on pitches inside the zone, which is bonkers considering how many pitches he has seen. I have to admit, the way he takes his at-bats is reminiscent of Juan Soto–with the little shuffle on close takes and all. His K/BB rate remains excellent and he has consistently worked deep counts and hit for both average and power. In fact, his first homer ever came as a grand-slam at Progressive Field. Here’s a photo of the celebration:
This new chapter of Tigers baseball has been a long time coming. The Tigers have consistently been building up their farm system for years now. Many would say the rebuild truly began when they traded franchise cornerstone and future Hall of Fame member Justin Verlander to Houston for a prospect package. They went on to tank that season to earn the first overall pick with Mize in 2018. A rough 2018 and ’19 led to a pair of extremely advanced hitters for their ages in fifth overall selection Riley Greene and the aforementioned Torkelson. These two also slot into the Top 50, along with the equally tantalizing RHP Matt Manning.
The Tigers used to be terrible at producing prospects. Years ago, while in a “win now” mode, former Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski consistently gutted the system to trade for pieces in an attempt to finally capture an elusive World Series when the team was at its most competitive in recent memory. However, when all was said and done they had nothing to show for it, and when Dombrowski departed for Boston, Avila had to take over and clean up the mess. What resulted was a long and arduous rebuild that involved years of painfully bad seasons and low attendance at Comerica Park. In 2014, Bleacher Report had the Tigers dead last in farm system rankings at number 30. Now, over half a decade later, they have risen all the way to number 6 and maybe higher post-Torkelson.
While Dombrowski was busy doing what he did in Detroit with the Red Sox, Avila was reinventing the abysmal player development department he was left with. Boston did end up getting a title, but at what cost? Well, we’re seeing it now: their future. They parted with potential superstar Yoan Moncada, fireball spinning Michael Kopech, and nasty lefty Logan Allen, just to name a few. At the end of last year, Bleacher Report made the Red Sox proud owners of the worst farm system in the league. Funny how this has all panned out. I guess it goes to show that going all in to win has its pros and cons.
Many are split on who has the top group of young players right now, but if you count up prospect points and list placements from MLB Pipeline, then it would be Detroit. A multitude of publications agree with that sentiment while others don’t, but either way, it’s unanimously agreed upon that they have one of the best. Avila’s heavy attention toward the draft, improved scouting, minor league coaching, prospect training programs and more may have helped the Tigers climb from worst to first. And now, after many tough years of fielding struggling teams, we will finally begin to see the fruits of his labor. Keep your eye on these kids, because they’re hyped for a reason.
I am a 22 year old writer and ultra-fan of baseball currently residing in Long Beach, California. I became a published author earlier in 2020 on Amazon and ran my own personal blog at dreamden.org. I’m majoring in communication studies and English and plan to graduate later this year. I’m a lover of art in all forms but especially the art of a strike zone.