Inspired by the idea originally in Baseball America, Chris and I have come up with several New Year’s resolutions for the Detroit Tigers minor league system. While their solution was to fix Spencer Torkelson is probably far and away the one that makes the most amount of sense, there are various other nuisances we have noticed.
After all, for the Tigers Minor League Report, we went all over the Tigers minor league system and if we could not get to the location, the MILB.TV package came in handy. It was worth it, as all four Detroit Tigers farm teams finished over.500 for the first time in club history. In a season in which we saw the Tigers lose 90 plus games, there was some sort of greener grass to look at it.
Detroit last season was able to get effective help from their farm system on the pitching side. Beau Brieske (27th round, 2019) and Garrett Hill (26th round, 2018) both were pressed into duty and were able to provide quality innings. In the past, rotation reinforcements usually had a cup of coffee and that was it. This kicks off the first resolution I have, which is simply to continue the development of their pitching. The bullpen was primary homegrown arms like Gregory Soto, Joe Jimenez and Jason Foley. Even Alex Lange, who was picked up in a trade, was a product of the Tigers development staff, converting him from a starter to one of the better relievers in the American League.
Detroit Tigers international signings
The other resolution is another step towards developing international signings on offense. The Tigers have been able to have a few international signings as far as relievers go turn out alright but as far as positional talent go, that talent gone elsewhere (Willy Adames, Eugenio Suárez, Avsail Garcia). Currently, there is a crop of players that could finally give the Tigers a major league player. Infielder Cristian Santana, (#12 on MLB Pipeline, 4th ranked on TigersMLReport) OF Roberto Campos and Manuel Sequera all played together in Lakeland. Sequera led the team with 19 homers, which was good for second in all of the Florida State League.
All are under the age of 21, and all have shown tremendous upside. If they start the season in West Michigan, they will be walking into the Midwest League, a league known to be very pitching friendly. Getting off to a fast start and show they can hit there, that would be a good step, going forward.
It has been about 40 years since player development was an organizational strength for the Detroit Tigers. They’ve at least done a decent job with their first-round picks in the last two decades, but it’s been exceedingly rare for them to find talent outside of the first few rounds.
So, in most years, my resolution for the farm system would be a very simple request: just develop anyone.
And then in 2022 they did. The Detroit Tigers saw their best year of player development in decades. We saw real improvement from players up and down the system. There was positive movement from high-profile prospects like Colt Keith, Isaac Pacheco, and Joey Wentz. But we also saw fallen prospects like Parker Meadows and Wenceel Perez regain their status.
Late-round draft picks like Kerry Carpenter, Garrett Hill, and Beau Brieske arrived and looked like viable big leaguers. And players like Wilmer Flores and Josh Crouch came from seemingly nowhere to turn themselves into legitimate prospects.
It really was an excellent year of development. But there’s still one pretty glaring hole: the middle infield.
Rogelio is a student of Tigers history, and this is something he points out regularly. The Tigers haven’t developed a homegrown middle infielder in decades.
The most recently drafted Tigers player to regularly start at shortstop and produce 2+ WAR in a season was Travis Fryman. He was drafted in 1987, and put up 4+ WAR while making 135 starts at shortstop in 1992. One could argue for Ramon Santiago, who put up a 2-WAR season in 2010. But he did so in a reserve role and didn’t even qualify for the batting title, with just 320 at-bats.
And what about second base? Omar Infante had a solid MLB career, though most of his good work came after the Tigers traded him in 2007. But he was decent for the Tigers in 2004 (1.9 fWAR, 2.4 bWAR). Before him, we have to go back to Lou Whitaker, who was drafted in 1977.
The Tigers may already have their next quality middle infielder in the system. Maybe it’s Ryan Kreidler, or Andre Lipcius, or Wenceel Perez. Or perhaps it’s one of their 2022 draft picks, like Jace Jung, Peyton Graham, or Danny Serretti. But it sure would be nice to find out in 2023.
The past two free agent periods have shown us there’s nothing teams covet more than good shortstops. The Tigers went “cheap” with Javier Baez, and it still cost them $140 million. Developing a middle infielder would do wonders for the future of the club.
© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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