The middle of May is an unofficial benchmark for getting a good idea on both individual players and teams as a whole. We are roughly a third of the way through of the 2018 minor league regular season, so it is time for our latest report on the top prospects for the Detroit Tigers.
BEAU BURROWS | SP, Erie (No. 4)
- LAST 2 STARTS: 2-0, 11 IP, 1 R (0 ER), 5 BB, 8 K
- SEASON STATS: 6 GS – 4-2, 2.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .200 opp. BA
Beau Burrows is on a nice run as of late. That is back-to-back outings having not allowed an earned run — first time doing that this season — and already the third instance in six starts in which he left with no earned runs in his final line. He and Tyler Alexander have formed a solid 1-2 punch down in Double-A for the SeaWolves.
Should this trend continue, it is very possible that a call-up to Toledo could be in Burrows’ future, given a lack of consistency and/or a need for arms at the big league level from the Triple-A roster. Detroit V.P. of player development Dave Littlefield said recently that the 21-year-old is getting “better and better” but is not quite there yet.
TRENT SZKUTNIK | RP, Erie
- LAST 4 GAMES: 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 4 K
- SEASON STATS: 10 GMs – 1 ER in 17 IP (0.53 ERA), 0.82 WHIP, BB, 10 K
Trent Szkutnik has seemed to have found something going back to a full-time reliever. And this could go back to last season as well. Since the start of 2017, Szkutnik has appeared in 44 games, all but two of which are out of the bullpen, compiling a 2.37 ERA in just over 106 innings of work and a K/BB ratio well over 4 to 1.
The Jackson-native, Temperance Bedford High School product and former Michigan Wolverine is a member of that 2014 draft class for the Tigers that was once, collectively speaking, viewed as a crop with potential but entered this season in make-or-break mode. Szkutnik has done his part early on and was rewarded with a promotion to Erie on Tuesday.
WLADIMIR PINTO | RP, West Michigan
- LAST 3 GAMES: 4.2 IP, 0 ER, H, 2 BB, 7 K
- SEASON STATS: 9 GMs – 0 ER, 3 H in 11.1 IP, 20 K, .081 opp. BA
We very well could be looking at a late-inning monster emerging deep in the bushes. Wladimir Pinto has only been in the Tigers’ system for four seasons and is progressively improving. He was limited to just nine appearances with Class-A West Michigan in 2017 due to injury but he has not allowed a run over his last 20 appearances, dating back to August of 2016 (24.1 IP in that span).
It will be interesting to see what the 20-year-old can do in a full season if he can turn in a sample size that large. He has become the Whitecaps’ go-to option for closing games early on, already with seven saves in as many tries.
JAKE ROGERS | C, Erie (No. 5)
- LAST 10 GAMES: 5 for 35 (.143 BA), 2 BB, 11 K
- SEASON STATS: .185 BA, .472 OPS, HR, 9 RBI, K in 30.7% of PAs
Catcher Jake Rogers appears to be ticketed to be the Tigers’ backstop of the future sometime down the road. He was one of the focal pieces Detroit got in return from the Houston Astros in the Justin Verlander trade last August. His defensive prowess is not a concern and after compiling his best season offensively in 2017, it is no wonder Tigers fans were excited about this prospect.
But Rogers seems to be pressing at the dish early on. It took him until Monday for him to record his first extra-base hit of the season. He is also striking out nearly five times as many walks drawn. Like with all of these prospects, it is important to exercise patience and not draw immediate conclusions. That is no exception with Rogers who has shown the ability to break out offensively.
ISAAC PAREDES | SS, Lakeland (No. 7)
- LAST 10 GAMES: 4 for 40 (.100 BA), 4 BB, 12 K
- SEASON STATS: .205 BA, .691 OPS, 4 HR, 22 RBI
Take this entry with a grain of salt. The overall numbers for Isaac Paredes are not all that pretty but there are some parts of it to be encouraged about a potential uptick in the near future. Exactly half of Paredes’ 24 knocks this season are good for extra bases. He has also made somewhat of a conscious effort lately to take pitches a draw walks. Albeit only three games, he has been issued four of his 14 walks in that span.
Like Rogers, Paredes is a guy that where defense is the priority. His arm strength alone makes him a suitable defender on the left side of the diamond. He is still predominantly a shortstop — all but 20 of his 187 career minor league games have come at that position — but the Tigers have eased him into second base early on this year.
KYLE FUNKHOUSER | SP, Erie (No. 6)
- LAST 3 STARTS: 15 IP, 20 H, 10 ER, 9 BB, 11 K
- SEASON STATS: 7 GS – 0-3, 4.91 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, .287 opp. BA
Kyle Funkhouser is among a prospect-laden rotation down in Double-A for the Tigers but he, along with a couple others, have struggled to get a rhythm going early on. And it has been a bit of a roller coaster on various levels. Funkhouser has three outings with 4+ walks issued and three with two or fewer base on balls. He did bounce back from a rocky two-game stretch on Monday, allowing just one run over five innings.
The biggest key for Funkhouser this season will be staying healthy. After missing much of 2017 due to elbow inflammation, the former fourth-round pick out of Louisville is vying to give the Tigers a full workload in 2018. His stuff plays as a middle-of-the-rotation hurler that can fill the strike zone and generate weak contact, which coincides with Detroit’s effort to be more defensive-minded moving forward.
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES
- Toledo reliever Philippe Aumont has been a very serviceable relief man down in the minors. The 29-year-old Quebec-native has allowed just three ER in 17.1 innings of work, averaging nearly a strikeout per frame versus just five walks. Aumont, who retired in June of 2016 from MLB, returned to his native land last year before the Tigers gave him an opportunity back in January. He is a guy that can chew up innings, six of his nine appearances this year have been at least 2+ IP.
- First baseman Blaise Salter recently earned a call-up to Double-A after a red-hot start down in Lakeland. The former Michigan State standout is off to a 3 for 22 start in his first five games with the SeaWolves. It remains to be seen how long he stays put in Erie, he was called up as part of a trickle-down effect when Gabriel Quintana was promoted to Toledo.
- Outfielder Danny Woodrow recently returned from the DL to make his season debut. He played in five games with the Flying Tigers before being promoted to Double-A In seven total games thus far, the former 12th-round pick in 2016 is 11 for 26 with two doubles, two RBI, and five stolen bases.