Down on the Farm: Tigers minor league update

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The last time we updated the Nation on the farm system for the Detroit Tigers, We talked about some of the current Tigers that were rehabbing in the minors along with some of the notable names making the jump between different levels.

It’s time to dig in and see who’s hot and who’s not in our latest minor league update for Detroit.

TRIPLE-A: TOLEDO MUD HENS

Toledo Mud Hens

Last time we checked in on the Mud Hens, we noted that two Tigers starters in Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann were rehabbing injuries. Well since then, both have been taken off the disabled list, Norris was optioned to Toledo, Zimmermann was placed back on the DL, and Norris will be taking his spot for the time being.

Got all that?

Also the last time we updated Toledo’s current stand, Dean Green was hitting the cover off the ball since being recalled from Double-A Erie. Well that has not changed a bit. In fact, I think he’s denting the baseball right now. Green over his last ten is hitting at a ridiculous .444 clip (16×36) with a couple homers and seven driven in, now hitting .333 in 34 games with Toledo this year.

Here’s a guy that has definitely paid his dues in his professional career. The 27-year-old Green has spent the last six seasons in the Tigers farm system and continues to rake, slashing .307/.371/.484 in those six seasons. The former 11th-round pick in 2011 is having an All-Star caliber season in the minors and might be looking at making his major league debut come September call-ups.

Green, predominantly a first baseman and designated hitter so far in his career, will have some big shoes to fill since Toledo All-Star Casey McGehee was promoted to Detroit for the foreseeable injury with Nick Castellanos on the shelf.

On the bump, the most polarizing story continues to be that of rising star, 21-year-old Joe Jimenez. Since being promoted from Double-A Erie back on July 29, Jimenez has appeared in five games for Toledo after registering a 1.17 combined ERA in his previous two stops at Lakeland and Erie this season. So far so good, he’s allowed just one run on two hits over 4.1 IP.

Jimenez is another one that should receive the phone call come September. Don’t count on seeing him promoted before then, as Detroit do want him to spend significant time at Triple-A before making the true promotion, the one where he begins a regular mainstay in the Tigers bullpen. There’s a reason the Tigers stood pat at the trade deadline, opposing GMs were requesting for Jimenez as part of a return package. There is little to no chance Jimenez is staying put in the Tigers system. Give it time.

DOUBLE-A: ERIE SEAWOLVES

Erie SeaWolves

With Jimenez coming and going through Erie, outside of one game where Daniel Norris made a rehab start, the trendy topic surrounding the Erie SeaWolves if you will has been the gradual decline of former Tiger Anthony Gose.

In 80 games between the Tigers and Mud Hens, Gose hit just .193 and striking out at an alarming rate, 113 times in those 80 games. Obviously, the outburst he had with Hens skipper Lloyd McClendon did not help his standing with the organization, but performance-wise, he’s been borderline treasonous. Sadly that trend has continued to Double-A hitting just .208 in 21 games. He has found some semblance power and improved plate discipline. A third of his 15 hits are extra-base-hits and 13 of his 37 walks drawn have come in that small sample in Erie

There has been a dark pall hovering over Gose all season, it’s safe to assume he’s taken a step back in his career and with the Tigers. That said, he has the all the tools to fix it in a heartbeat if need be, it’s just a matter of piecing it all together for a significant stretch.

It’s not all bad though for Erie, they still have a pair of guys in the everyday lineup helping contribute to a very solid SeaWolves offense. Both Wynton Bernard and Jason Krizan, two guys who struggled in time with Toledo this year, have found some comfort in Erie to help stay consistent.

Bernard started the season with the Mud Hens but since being optioned in early June, he’s rekindled those All-Star-caliber seasons he had in 2014-15. He’s hitting .378 in his last ten, now hitting .309/.76/.446 in 44 games with the Wolves. Krizan on the other side started with Erie, made a brief stop in Toledo before being sent back down. He’s hitting at a .317 clip over his last ten, Krizan is now hitting .290 in 94 games at Double-A.

HIGH CLASS-A: LAKELAND FLYING TIGERS

Lakeland Flying Tigers

Like Erie, the Lakeland Flying Tigers has been searching high and low for multiple players to help pick up the slack left by some big names. Now that the Florida State League leader in home runs and Tigers 2016 Futures Game representative Christin Stewart has been promoted to Erie, they will need someone, somehow to fill his shoes.

They are hoping it could be that of Whitecaps outfielder Rashad Brown. He was promoted from Low Class-A West Michigan, presumably as the corresponding move.

Brown, 22, was hitting .275/.337/.329 in 64 games with the Whitecaps this season. The 26th-round pick of the Tigers in 2012 has been a very steady contributor at the dish, averaging nearly a hit per game in his four minor league seasons so far (247 H, 249 GP) and rarely strikes out (18.8 percent K-Rate in 905 career minor league games).

So the addition of Brown will help to some extent and hopefully present more RBI opportunities for other Flygers. Perhaps outfielder Ismael Salgado can help with that. Salgado this season has bounced around three different times, this is his second with Lakeland. Another guy that doesn’t hit for power and doesn’t strike out a lot, Salgado is hitting .346 over his last ten and .291 in 18 games with Lakeland.

Salgado missed the first month and change of the season due to injury and has played in only 30 total games between Low-A and Double-A. When healthy, he serves as a very good spark plug.

Also recently receiving the phone call about a promotion was pitcher Tyler Alexander. After posting a 2.13 ERA in 18 games (17 starts), Alexander is heading to Erie as well. One guy who was called up to Lakeland not long ago, starter Matt Hall could slip right into his spot and not skip a beat.

Hall has allowed just two earned over his last two starts (11 IP), allowing just seven hits and striking out 12 batters. On the season, the 23-year-old 6th-round pick of 2015 has been having a marvelous season, a 1.71 ERA in 20 games (19 starts).

LOW CLASS-A: WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS

West Michigan Whitecaps

So some folks might be asking, why promote Rashad Brown instead of top-tier prospect Derek Hill?” Fair question, the only true outlier I personally see is that Hill is striking out at a higher rate than Brown. Still, the 20-year-old Hill is still having a solid 2016 campaign after being mired with injuries a year ago.

Hitting .333 over his last ten games, Hill is now hitting a tick under .270 on the season and his 35 stolen bases lead all players in the Midwest League on a team that also paces the league in total stolen bases. Detroit is going to be extra careful with Hill as well, given his young age and early injury history.

Elsewhere in the lineup, first baseman Will Maddox continues to hit, ho-hum. Although by his standards on the season, Maddox has cooled off over his last ten hitting just .306… right, he’s struggling at the level. Still, he leads the league in hitting with a .347 and for another guy that struggled with injuries a year ago, he’s come back in a big way.

Here’s another name we can start following more – Jose Zambrano. Signed as an international free agent prior to 2012, Zambrano has really bounced around deep in the bushes below West Michigan. The 22-year-old also models that ‘hard-out slap hitter’ type of mold, a career .275/.324/.336 in the minors, hitting over .300 in 46 games with the ‘Caps (.355 BA in last ten games) and has fanned just 8.4 percent of the time in 912 official ABs.