With the Detroit Tigers going through a rebuild and looking towards the future, the health and development of their top prospects are vital, perhaps none more so than with Franklin Perez and Matt Manning.
The team’s No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, respectively, have yet to see the mound for an official game in 2018 due to injuries they suffered during spring camp. It was among our 5 biggest storylines surrounding the Tigers’ minor league system as the season began. Back on March 19, Perez was diagnosed with a right lat strain and was scheduled to miss a minimum of 12 weeks. Two days later, Manning shelved with an oblique strain.
There is some encouraging news regarding the Tigers’ top minor league hurlers.
From yesterday: #Tigers confirmed Matt Manning has rejoined Class A West Michigan and team is working to confirm rotation spot.
Franklin Perez is continuing rehab for lat strain, is "healing very well" and still on track for estimated 12-week rehab before return.
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) April 19, 2018
Fortunately, the oblique injury for Manning was deemed “low-level” back in March, and he will have only missed the first couple weeks of the 2018 minor league season.
The Tigers’ No. 1 overall pick in 2016 entered the 2017 season as the club’s top prospect and the only one in the organization ranked among MLB’s top 100 prospects overall. After dominating through the New York-Penn League (short-season Class-A) with Connecticut, Manning earned a promotion to West Michigan down the stretch. He finished with a 5.60 ERA in five starts for the Whitecaps but pitched 11 scoreless frames over his final two starts.
Manning is expected to start the season with West Michigan once more and, assuming he stays healthy throughout and performs up to standards, a call-up to Lakeland could be in his future down the road.
As for Perez, so far so good with the lat strain. Given the current timetable for his injury, he is about a third of the way through his rehab. This would give him an ETA of mid to late June, barring any setbacks.
The prized piece in the Justin Verlander trade with the Astros last season logged an ERA just a tick over 3.00 in 19 games (16 starts) between High-A and Double-A last season. He never got to make his debut with his new club last season post-trade because it came towards the very end of the minor league season.
Perez was assigned to Double-A Erie last season when the Tigers acquired him and is slotted to be a part of what should be an even more stout SeaWolves’ rotation when he returns, a rotation that already features for of the Tigers’ top 20 prospects within the system.
It’s very easy and understandable for Tigers fans to (finally) get excited about what the future holds. Both Perez and Manning are just two names who could find themselves in the Detroit starting rotation years from now. In a recent interview with us, Emily Waldon of The Athletic talked about how Perez is likely the first of Detroit’s many pitching prospects to reach the big leagues, and the rest will fall into place behind him.
But for now, we have to take all the hype with a grain of salt, take a deep breath, and hope that these young studs can stay healthy and stay the course in their development.