The 2018 MLB Draft has come and gone and the Tigers are working to sign deals with their new crop of prospects, including their No. 1 overall pick and Auburn University ace, Casey Mize. As for the current state of their farmhands, some notable names are seeing their stock rise midway through June.
KYLE FUNKHOUSER | SP, Erie (No. 6)
- LAST 2 STARTS: 2-0, 0.69 ERA (1 ER in 13 IP), 1 BB, 16 K
- SEASON STATS: 2-3, 3.88 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .244 opp. BA
Kyle Funkhouser has definitely been bringing the funk as of late. As impressive as the run prevention and strikeout totals have been over his last two starts, perhaps the most important is the one free pass over those 13 innings. His most recent six-inning performance in which he allowed just three hits was the first shutout of the season for Funkhouser. He now has a 2.67 ERA spanning his last six starts, which includes a six-inning, six-run clunker on May 31. The former 2016 fourth-round pick out of Louisville has already matched the total number of starts (12) that he made all of last season, which was shortened prematurely due to injury problems.
WILL MADDOX | 2B, Erie
- LAST 10 GAMES: .317 BA (13 for 41), 3 XBH, 8 R, 4 BB
- SEASON STATS: .320/.371/.458 in 38 games, 14 XBH, 15 RBI
This really should not come as too much of a surprise. Since being taken in the 18th round back in 2014, all Will Maddox has done is mash. The Tennessee product is a career .314 hitter in what is now his fifth minor league season. He even has found a power stroke this season, posting a career-high mark in slugging percentage. The problem for Maddox, however, has been staying on the field consistently. Excluding short-seasoned ball (below Class-A West Michigan), Maddox has played just one full season in the minors (2016) and already missed a month of action earlier this season with a hip injury. One cannot help but wonder Maddox would be higher on the second base totem pole in the Tigers’ system had he just stay on the field with regularity.
ELVIN RODRIGUEZ | SP, West Michigan
- LAST 2 STARTS: 1-1, 1.64 ERA (2 ER in 11 IP), 6 H, 2 BB, 10 K
- SEASON STATS: 10 GS – 4-3, 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .249 opp. BA
If you read our “end of May” report on the Tigers’ prospects, you probably saw us giving Elvin Rodriguez some love in the “other notable performances” section. The “player to be named later” that Detroit acquired to complete the Justin Upton trade with the Los Angeles Angels continues his recent stretch of dominance. Rodriguez now has a sparkling 1.23 ERA over his last five starts (4 ER in 29.1 IP), chopping his season ERA nearly in half in the process. Along with fellow Tigers prospect Matt Manning (No. 2) has gone and formed a fairly solid 1-2 punch for the Whitecaps in the Midwest League.
TYLER ALEXANDER | SP, Toledo (No. 18)
- LAST 3 STARTS: 1-2, 6.61 ERA (12 ER in 16.1 IP), 2 HR, 1 BB, 7 K
- SEASON STATS: 12 GS at AA/AAA – 4-4, 4.48 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, .338 opp. BA
It has been a rough start for lefty Tyler Alexander at the Triple-A level. The former second-rounder out of TCU in 2015 has failed to go beyond five innings in two of his first three starts with the Mud Hens. Alexander is one of 18 (!!) different hurlers to make at least one start for Toledo, with the constant changing of the pitching staff between Triple-A and the majors. That is the second-highest amount among all teams in the International League. However, given the prospect status and potential of Alexander, expect him to hang around and garner more experience at that level.
TROY MONTGOMERY | CF, Lakeland (No. 25)
- LAST 10 GAMES: .172 BA (5 for 29), 2 R, 5 RBI, 6 K)
- SEASON STATS: .218/.335/.279 in 53 games (High-A/AA), 8 XBH (0 HR), 13 RBI
A newcomer to the list of top prospects for the Tigers in 2018, outfielder Troy Montgomery has struggled to adjust with his new organization. The former Angels farmhand, who was acquired in the Ian Kinsler trade in the offseason, has fall victim to a lack of power. Montgomery’s career slugging percentage (.398) is nothing to write home about, to begin with, but his mark in that department this season is well below .300 through 53 games. His recent struggles even warranted a demotion back down to High-A Lakeland.
It is worth noting that if you include his time in Double-A while still in the Angels’ system, the former Ohio State Buckeye is hitting just .229 with a .627 OPS in 68 games at that level. Also, he is striking out at a higher rate this year. Montgomery fanned in barely 17 percent of his plate appearances in his first two pro seasons (2016-17) but that has soared to nearly 26 percent in 2018.
KODY EAVES | 3B, Erie
- LAST 10 GAMES: .229 BA (8 for 35), 5 R, 3 RBI, 12 K
- SEASON STATS: .171/.239/.260 in 41 games (AA/AAA), 3 HR, 12 RBI, 29% K-Rate
It has been a dreadful season for Kody Eaves, to put it lightly. Another former draft pick of the Angels (acquired in the Jefry Marte trade back in January of 2016), put together arguably his best season as a professional in 2017 when he compiled a career-high .804 OPS in 96 games; 88 of which were at Double-A Erie. Eaves was even considered a candidate, albeit an unlikely one, to make this year’s Opening Day roster for the Tigers as a utility bench player, having experience at both second and third base.
He has played 24 of his 41 games with the SeaWolves this season and is desperately trying to work his way back. One issue has been strikeouts, his K-rate is higher this year (29.1 percent) than his career mark (23.5 percent). Also, he is not nearly the base-running threat he once was. Eaves swiped 68 bags from 2013-15. Since then, he has successfully stolen just 15 bases, including 2-for-2 this year. This could be a make-or-break point for the 24-year-old, who seems to be falling down the hierarchy of young middle infielders in the Tigers’ system (Goodrum, Lugo, Rodriguez, etc).
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES
- Toledo reliever Victor Alcántara is pitching like he is ready for a second chance in the majors. Yet another acquisition from the Angels (Cameron Maybin trade in November of 2016), Alcántara has allowed just one run over his last five appearances (7 IP). In fact, the one run allowed came in his most recent outing on June 14, snapping a streak of seven scoreless showings. As is the case with most relievers, Alcántara has gone on a roller coaster this season. He had a string of six appearances in May in which he allowed nine runs in 12.2 innings of work. But should he continue the current trend he is on, he could be back with the Tigers before season’s end.
- SeaWolves catcher Jake Rogers (No. 5) appears to be turning things around offensively after an absolutely dreadful start. Rogers is still hitting just .184 through 46 games down in Double-A this season but is hitting over .300 (9 for 29) in his last 10 games. The big outlier in that timespan is a 3-for-4, three-homer day on June 12. Rogers has also improved his plate discipline some, recording as many walks (8) as strikeouts during those 10 games. A big reason Detroit acquired him from Houston in the Justin Verlander trade last season was for his breakout performance offensively and potential to be an above-average two-way backstop in the majors. Finishing strong at the plate could salvage his abysmal start to 2018.
- Detroit brought aboard two pitchers to their minor league system earlier this month, including one of their own former first-round selections in Jacob Turner, as well as Hunter Cervenka. Turner started the year with the Miami Marlins and allowed 24 ER in 26.1 IP between the majors and their Triple-A affiliate before Miami cut ties with him. Simply put, Turner has been a bust in the sense that he could never translate his minor league success (3.78 ERA in 121 MiLB games) to the majors (5.26 ERA in 101 MLB games; 5 different teams). He made his first start on June 11 after reuniting with his original employer, pitching three scoreless innings. Cervenka, meanwhile, has tossed 3.1 clean innings for Lakeland since Detroit signed him. The 28-year-old, former 27th-round selection of the Red Sox in 2008 has a career 4.51 ERA in 254 minor league appearances; 4.69 ERA in 73 major league games.