As part of the rebuild, the Detroit Tigers have stacked quite an impressive pitching pool. In fact, recent transactions have put the club in the running to be ranked as one of the best pitching farm systems in the league.
With the trade of Justin Verlander, you can’t help but wonder who might step up to take on the role of Detroit’s ace. While Michael Fulmer could be a contender, recent news of his injury leaves many questioning if he’ll even stay healthy.
Meanwhile, JV is with Houston. Killing it. In his first start with the Astros, our golden boy gave up one hit in six innings of work. He struck out seven, picking up his 11th win of the season as Houston defeated the Seattle Mariners 3-1.
With Verlander gone in search of a World Series ring, we look to our prospects to fill a void. To recap, here’s a look at Justin’s short career in the minors: 20 starts with an 11-2 record and a 1.29 ERA, striking out 10 per nine innings and giving up just four home runs in 118 innings.
When Verlander was brought up to the majors in 2005 he started in just two games for a total of 11.1 innings. He had an of 7.15 ERA and averaged about five strikeouts per nine. In 2006, he’d go on to win 17 games in his rookie season, taking home Rookie of the Year honors (rightfully so).
So, who could be the next great Detroit Tigers ace?
While Franklin Perez missed his organization debut in Double-A with a blister, the strike-thrower has shown impressive stuff in 2017. The right-handed pitcher came over in the Verlander trade and has a 1.38 WHIP with seven strikeouts per nine. At 19 years old, Perez can hit 96 mph with his fastball and ranks as Detroit’s No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
As the Tiger’s No. 2 prospect, Matt Manning throws a fastball that hits 96-97 mph. Pair that with a powerful curveball and Manning can rack up the strikeouts. In the minors this season, the righty compiled 62 strikeouts in 51 innings pitched. Manning has the build of a basketball player at 6’6” and 190 pounds, just like his NBA father Rich Manning.
In his second full season, Beau Burrows made it to Double-A after starting in the year in High-A. He threw a no-hitter through six in August at Double-A. At just 20, the right-hander features a 94-95 mph fastball and has been working to refine his slider. Burrows has shown decent control, with 42 walks in 134.3 innings in the minors this year.
Grayson Long came to Detroit in the Justin Upton trade. As the No. 15 prospect in the organization, per MLB Pipeline, the righty is work-horse type starter who can crank his fastball up to 95 mph. While his location is good, the 23-year-old still needs some development. After injuries in 2016, this season has left Long looking for consistency in his starts.
In the first round of the 2017 draft, the Tigers drafted Alex Faedo, No. 18 overall. At 21, Faedo has already had surgery on both knees. Yet the right-hander came back and struck out 157 in 123.2 innings — that’s 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings of work — in 2017. Standing 6’5”, Faedo’s fastball has been clocked at 92-95 mph consistently. This kid will be fun to watch.
There’s no doubt that these five have the potential to become first-class starters in the big leagues. With the right mentorship, one of them could become the Tigers ace in the years to come. We could even see Verlander come back to Detroit to mentor our young staff in 2020 — at least, I hope so.