I’ll give you the draft locations of two pitchers on the Detroit Tigers roster; tell me which one is Tarik Skubal and which is Casey Mize. Pitcher number one: selected in the ninth round of the 2018 draft by the Tigers. Pitcher number two: selected with the first overall pick of the 2018 draft by the Tigers.
Of course, pitcher number one is Mize, who was selected first overall. Skubal was then selected in the ninth round. Of course, it doesn’t need to be said, but the expectations for Mize have been extremely high since the day he was selected. Expectations for Skubal? Not nearly as high. But, what a difference a couple of years can make in the development of prospects.
Mize has seen big league action in parts of three seasons with the Tigers. To this point, he’s compiled a record of 7-13 with a career ERA of 4.29. A regular in the starting rotation in 2021, he went 7-9 throughout 30 starts.
He racked up 118 strikeouts while walking 41 but also allowed an uncomfortably high 24 home runs over 150 1/3 innings of work. Mize dominated the minor leagues during his tour with Detroit’s affiliates on his way to the big leagues. Over the 2018 and 2019 seasons with Lakeland (A+) and Erie (AA), he was 8-4 with a combined ERA of 2.91, including a no-hitter in his double-a debut with Erie.
Conversely, Skubal has also seen action in the big leagues with the Tigers over the course of three seasons. He’s gone 14-18 over 47 starts, including a 5-2 start this season. Like Mize, 2021 was his first full season at the major league level. Tarik finished the year with a record of 8-12, a 4.34 ERA, and 164 strikeouts in 149 1/3 innings. He also allowed a whopping total of 35 home runs. He had never pitched above the Double-A level before joining the Tigers in 2020. In his two minor league seasons, he went 9-8 overall, with a sparkling 2.11 ERA.
Given the pedigrees and backgrounds of these two pitchers, one would likely assume it to be easy to identify which one would have had the most success in the majors, right? If you’re not familiar with the Tigers this year, you’re probably incorrect in your selection.
Looking At The Detroit Tigers Season So Far
Skubal has seemingly taken over the role of “ace” in this year’s rotation. He is rocking a 2.33 ERA this season through his first 11 starts, in which he has pitched a total of 65 2/3 innings. He has struck out 70 batters, which places him in a tie for 18th most in baseball at this point. Outside of his May 20th start in Cleveland (in which he threw five shutout innings before leaving early with an injury scare), each of his last seven outings have been quality starts. Quality starts are defined as at least six innings pitched while allowing three or fewer earned runs.
As for Mize, the season has not been so productive.
He’s thrown a total of 10 innings, to the tune of a 5.40 ERA. His last start came on April 14 at Kansas City, when he pitched five innings. Since then, he has been placed on the injured list with a sprained ligament in his elbow.
After close to a month after his placement on the injured list, he attempted a rehab start in the minors. Spoiler: it did not go well. He threw just 29 pitches for the Mud Hens before being removed from the game. Since then, he’s been transferred to the 60-day IL and was most recently shut down from his current throwing program. Friday we received the news most of us have been dreading; Mize will undergo Tommy John surgery and be on the shelf quite possibly until 2024.
True “Ace” Pitchers Are Hard To Come By
There’s something to be said about teams having a true “ace” pitcher. This is something the Tigers really haven’t possessed since the Justin Verlander days. Naturally, the expectation was for Mize to be that guy when he was selected where he was in the draft. To this point, it simply hasn’t worked out for him yet.
Thankfully, Skubal has taken the steps to be considered that guy for now. Keep in mind that it is far too early to count Mize out altogether. But so far, Skubal has become everything that we expected Mize to be.