Down on the Farm: Tigers minor league update

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The most notable minor league shuffle for the Detroit Tigers over the last couple weeks has been the addition of Steven Moya to the parent club, with right fielder J.D. Martinez being sidelined with an injury.

All in all, he’s been a big success for the club, going 10-for-27 in his last seven games donning the olde English D. His promotion has warranted another minor leaguer to fill his void and hopefully not skip a beat.

We look at that and more in the latest recap of the Tigers’ farm system.

TRIPLE-A: TOLEDO MUD HENS

Toledo Mud Hens

Out goes Moya and in comes JaCoby Jones to the Toledo Mud Hens, another one of the Tigers’ top-10 prospects. Jones started off the season late due to suspension and only received the call-up to Triple-A earlier this month. He started off hot but has since then cooled down considerably over the last few weeks.

Jones hit just .143 (5×35) in his last ten games with one homer and four RBI. Now in 19 games with the Mud Hens, he’s slashing just .238/.295/.437, with eight of his seventeen hits of the extra-base-hit variety.

Another one of the Tigers’ top prospects, shortstop Dixon Machado, showed significant improvement at the plate, posting a .308 BA over his last ten-game stretch and is striking out less than 18 percent of the time on the season.

The recent organizational movements included the removal of two minor leaguers from the Tigers’ current 40-man roster. Veteran Casey McGehee was promoted to the Tigers last weekend on June 18 to Detroit and the corresponding move was Wynton Bernard being designated for assignment. Bernard was hitting just .235 in 49 games with the Hens this season. The Tigers on June 24 decided to option him back down to Double-A Erie.

After just one day with the club, McGehee was then DFA’d after the club purchased the contract of pitcher Dustin Molleken (3.66 ERA in 24 GMs, 4 GS), who did not make an appearance in his three days at the big-league level.

His demotion signaled the recall of youngster Daniel Norris, who made his season debut with the Tigers on Thursday, going 5 IP and allowing 3 ER, all being solo home runs given up. And Matt Boyd also had an solid outing since being optioned back to Triple-A on June 19, going 5 IP and allowing just 2 ER this past Thursday.

DOUBLE-A: ERIE SEAWOLVES

Erie SeaWolves

We mentioned the optioning of Wynton Bernard back to Double-A this past Friday, where the Tigers are hoping he can re-kindle some of his prolific production from the last two seasons.

They are also hoping he can get into a groove and jump start an offense searching for answers, now that their two best hitters have received call-ups to Triple-A. With catcher John Hicks (.388 BA in 14 GMs) and the aforementioned JaCoby Jones (.312 BA in 20 GMs) graduated for the time being, where will the sock come from?

Maybe it will be from outfielder Connor Harrell. The 7th-round pick of the Tigers in the 2013 Draft, the 25-year-old Harrell has found his stroke as of late, hitting .325 over his last ten and seeing his average climb to .297.

He and Jeff McVaney, who is just 3-for-16 over his last six contests, have kept the SeaWolves afloat offensively. McVaney is still hitting at a .300 clip despite the recent skid.

The story on the pitching front continues to be that of closer Joe Jimenez. Amazingly, he was charged with his first earned run of the 2016 campaign on Saturday after starting the season with 26.1 consecutive scoreless innings. If the level of dominance continues, he may force the Tigers to promote him to Triple-A sooner than later.

HIGH CLASS-A: LAKELAND FLYING TIGERS

Lakeland Flying Tigers

Like Erie, the Lakeland Flying Tigers are searching for people to step up in place of some hot hitters that also got the promotion to a higher level.

One guy who has certainly done that as of late is catcher Kade Scivicque. When fellow backstop teammate Grayson Greiner got the call, Scivicque stepped into the everyday role and kept the line moving. He’s hitting nearly .300 over his last ten games, including three multi-hit games last week. He’s driving in runs (5 RBI in last ten GMs) and has fanned just 17 percent of the time during that recent stretch.

The Flying Tigers continue to get potent power surges from the likes of Mike Gerber and Christian Stewart, who have combined to club over 42 percent of the team’s home runs this season. Gerber alone last week to brought his season total to nine, while Stewart’s homer on Friday was his Florida State League-leading 17th dinger of the season.

The rotation is still armed with a solid 1-2 punch at the front in A.J. Ladwig and Tyler Alexander. That combination has registered a 2.43 ERA in their starts. On the flip side, Jairo Labourt has been shelled as of late, giving up 10 ER in just 3 innings of work, which adds to his ERA that is north of 9 over his last ten-game stretch.

LOW CLASS-A: WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS

West Michigan Whitecaps

Since our last update, the West Michigan Whitecaps clinched a playoff berth in the Midwest League (Low-A). A four-game sweep over the weekend in Lansing costed them the first-half division crown but nonetheless, they will be postseason participants come September.

The defending Midwest League champions have gotten it done with plenty of new faces, with a lot of the 2015 title-winning team having been promoted to Lakeland for this season. Those new faces, blended with some performing better than a season ago, are the reason for their strong finish to the first-half of the season.

A big part of that has been the surge of outfield prospect Derek Hill. Hitting nearly .320 (14×44, 6 RBI, 4 SB) over his last ten games, a healthy Hill playing everyday is starting to mold more into the player the Tigers envision him to be, still at only age 20.

The ‘Caps are still getting big production as well from Jose Azocar and Will Maddox on the season, the team’s top-2 hitters all season long. Even with Azocar’s recent slide (.225 BA in last 10 GMs), the two are hurting opposing pitchers in a number of ways.

On the pitching front, the guy who has his you know what together when he takes the mound every fifth day is Matt Hall, and Tigers fans need to focus on him more right now. Through his June 19 start, Hall had a dazzling ERA of 1.09 in 12 starts (8-0), even after allowing 3 ER in his last outing. The numbers earned him a promotion to Lakeland, despite a bit of a clunker (4 ER in 5.1 IP on June 24).

Two guys will be filling in Hall’s place and asked to contribute more is Trent Szutnik and Kyle Dowdy. Szutnik (2.33 ERA in MWL first-half) and Dowdy (2.40 ERA) both flew under the radar behind Hall and first-round draft pick, 19-year-old Beau Burrows, who has been good in his own right this season (10 GS, 2.77 ERA, 1.08 WHIP).

Keep it up, ‘Caps.