We’re roughly a month into the 2018 minor league season, and some of the top prospects for the Detroit Tigers are closing out April on a high note, while some others have hits the skids some.
After looking at who got off to hot and cold starts earlier this month, it’s time we highlight three Tigers minor leaguers who are on the rise and three that are declining at the end of April.
[Note: Number next to player denotes prospect ranking within the organization (MLB prospect ranking)]
CHRISTIN STEWART – Toledo | No. 10
- LAST 10 GAMES: 14 for 38 (.368 BA), HR, 6 RBI
- SEASON STATS: .292/.388/.514 in 20 games, 3 HR, 11 RBI
Toledo Mud Hens outfielder Christin Stewart has shown considerable improvement in multiple areas of his game early on. Perhaps none more so than his discipline at the plate. Entering this season, Stewart was striking out in more than 24 percent of his plate appearances. This year, albeit only 20 games, he has chopped that down to 15 percent. In fact, he has nearly as many walks (10) as he does strikeouts (13).
Defensively, Stewart has shown some improved range out in left field, where he logged all but nine of his 148 defensive innings played this season.
TYLER ALEXANDER – Erie | No. 19
- LAST 2 STARTS: 11 IP, 3 ER, 2 B, 10 K
- SEASON STATS: 2-0, 2.91 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 3 BB, 18 K
Lefty Tyler Alexander is in dire need of a strong bounce-back season after compiling an ERA north of 5.00 in 27 games last season with Erie. So far so good for the former 2015 second-rounder out of TCU, who has been one of few bright spots for a SeaWolves pitching staff that currently ranks last in the Eastern League with a 4.18 team ERA.
Alexander is not a guy who will overpower opposing hitters with his stuff, he relies more on being able to hit his spots and changing speeds off his fastball. He surrendered a career-high 20 homers in 138.1 IP last season and will need to continue going against that trend in 2018.
DAZ CAMERON – Lakeland | No. 9
- LAST 10 GAMES: 13 for 41 (.317 BA), 4 RBI
- SEASON STATS: .277/.358/.361 in 21 games, 6 RBI, 3 SB
Tigers fans are getting a true first look at outfielder Daz Cameron after he played in only three games at West Michigan following the Justin Verlander trade with the Astros. Cameron has not only turned into an above-average hitter to go with his defensive prowess in center field but shows promise in the power and base running departments after setting career-highs in homers (14) and stolen bases (32) last season.
That said, Cameron is not the fastest of prospects for the Tigers. Despite a personal best in swipes, he also set a new high in times caught (13). But the multiple tools are on display early, showing his potential as a future center fielder in Detroit.
MIKIE MAHTOOK – Toledo
- LAST 10 GAMES: 9 for 43 (.209 BA), 2 BB, 12 K
- SEASON STATS: .204/.246/.296 in 13 games, K in 29.8% of PAs
What has happened to Mikie Mahtook? A breakout performer in 2017, Mahtook not only has lost his starting job with the Tigers but has continued to struggle since his demotion to Triple-A. In fact, his season slash line with the Mud Hens has improved after a four-hit performance on Sunday to get him off the interstate and over the Mendoza line.
Perhaps that is a game that could jump-start him once again. But with the improved play of JaCoby Jones, who took over the everyday gig in left field for Detroit in place of Mahtook, and the team keen on keeping Victor Reyes up in the majors due to Rule 5 Draft stipulations, it could be a while (barring injury) before we see Mikie back up with the Tigers.
GERSON MORENO – Erie | No. 28
- SEASON STATS: 5 H, 4 ER in 5 IP (7.20 ERA), 2.20 WHIP, 6 BB, 5 K
The season debut for Gerson Moreno was delayed due to elbow inflammation that placed him on the disabled list to open 2018. Moreno has struggled to get going but that’s expected to a certain degree as they ease him back in.
Moreno split time between Erie and High-A Lakeland in 2017. He was dominant with the latter (2.01 ERA in 21 games) but was the complete opposite with the SeaWolves (6.43 ERA in 20 games). Believe it or not, Moreno has one of if not the most lively arms in a Tigers system filled with hard-throwing prospects. A bit more control and more off-speed usage could bode well for his future as a big league reliever.
GREGORY SOTO – Lakeland | No. 8
- LAST 3 GAMES: 8 H, 5 ER in 9.2 IP (4.66 ERA), 13 BB, 14 K
- SEASON STATS: 1-0, 4.26 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 18 BB, 26 K
Gregory Soto is a hurler that has skyrocketed up the Tigers’ list of top prospects in recent years. The organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2017 was absolutely dominant across three levels in the bushes and front-lined a West Michigan rotation that helped collect 91 wins in the Midwest League.
But holy jumping, that’s a lot of walks. Soto is averaging nearly a base on balls per inning (19 IP) so far with the Flying Tigers. Add in three hit batsmen and he is issuing a little over four free passes per start. The arm talent is there and the repertoire has room to improve, but the command will be his biggest area of concern as he progresses as one of the club’s top pitching prospects.
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES
- Toledo outfielder Jim Adduci has found a major power surge to start the season. The Mud Hens’ right fielder is slugging over .550, with 10 of his 21 hits going for extra bases, and an OPS a tick over .900. Adduci currently leads Toledo with 16 RBI.
- Lakeland righty and the Tigers’ top pick in 2017, Alex Faedo (Tigers’ No. 3), has registered a 2.48 ERA in his first five pro starts. Opposing batters are hitting just .175 against Faedo. He’s walked just four batters in his 29 innings of work, three of which came in his last outing on Sunday.
- Matt Manning (Tigers’ No. 2) made his season debut on April 20 after working his way back from an oblique strain suffered in spring training. Manning exploded for 10 strikeouts in 3.2 IP (you do the math) in his first start, following it up with four innings of one-run ball his next time out.