The Detroit Tigers big league club is supposedly going to stir the pot this off-season and potentially make some rather seismic moves in an effort to shed payroll and replenish the farm system, some of their current minor leaguers are off elsewhere around the world partaking in off-season leagues to help fine tune their skills and improve their standing in the organization.
There are a number of notable names sprinkled throughout, from the desert to the Caribbean. Here is an update on some of the numbers in their fall/winter league games through Monday November 7.
With Cameron Maybin out of the picture for the Tigers, the speculation turns to that of youngster JaCoby Jones and if he’ll be ready to take the next step and become an everyday player at the big league level. So far so good for JaCoby out in Arizona, in 15 games he’s slashing .316/.385/.421 (18-57) with four extra-base hits and nine runs batted in.
The athleticism, versatility, and raw power is there. What Jones will need to work on is his plate discipline. He struck out nearly 33 percent of the time with Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie this year, and nearly 50 percent in limited time with the Tigers. So far in the AFL, he’s fanning less than 20 percent.
This is another guy the Tigers are high on. Outfielder Christin Stewart is already showing signs of being a potential super slugger. This past year, he clubbed 30 homers with Lakeland and Erie, driving in 87 runs. So far in the AFL, he’s just 11-47, three of his 11 hits of the XBH variety and has five RBI. However, he’s also striking out at a higher rate now (18 K in 47 AB) than he did during the year (131 K in 443 AB).
If one had to guess, if Stewart put together a solid enough winter and spring, he could start off in Toledo to start 2017. However, it won’t be all that surprising to see him get more time at Erie. Of his 128 games played this past season, only 24 were with the SeaWolves.
A guy that not too many people know, if at all, is 24-year-old reliever Adam Ravenelle. He spent the 2016 season with Lakeland and Erie, appearing in 50 total games and compiling a 3.88 ERA, averaging roughly a punchout per inning and posting a .220 BAA.
In the Fall League, Ravenelle has logged 7.0 innings and allowed just one hit, striking out five. And even with five base on balls, his WHIP is a very strong 0.86. He also has been called upon to close out games, picking up four saves along the way. Pitching is always at a premium, so numbers like these and a good spring will certainly help his case.
Another guy that very few people will not be familiar with given his age and prospect status, or lack thereof, in the system is outfielder Jason Krizan. The 27-year-old played in 127 games with the SeaWolves and Mud Hens in 2016 and performed really well, slashing .294/.368/.454 with 10 bombs and 65 steaks. More impressively, Krizan struck out less than 9 percent of the time.
He’s continued his strong hitting down in the Dominican. In ten games, Krizan is 10-31 (.323) with three XBH, six RBI and only punching out three times. The former 8th-round pick of the Tigers in 2011 has some very solid hitting numbers through the minors. Defensively since being drafted, he’s seen playing time at five different positions, mostly in the corner outfield spots.
Should this hitting continue into next March, Detroit may very well have found themselves another option to play in the outfield come 2017.
One position that has been a bit of a black hole for the Tigers in their system through the years has been at second base. The 2013 November acquisition of Ian Kinsler solidified that, but for how much longer? Detroit may want to hang on to him if it means grooming a young second baseman in the farm system – one Harold Castro.
Castro, who turns 23 later this month, is slashing .273/.303/.338 in his six minor league seasons while showing respectable plate discipline (16.7 percent K-rate). While he hit just .247 in 105 games for Erie this year, Castro has picked things up in Venezuela, slashing .446/.465/.600 in 21 games, driving in 13.
Again, nobody really knows what the future holds for Kinsler, Castro, the Tigers, etc. But given the way Kinsler performs and carries himself, he’d make an excellent role model for someone coming up like Castro.
25-year-old Ruben Alaniz pitched in 52 games for Erie and Toledo in 2016, all of which came in a relief role and logged a very solid 2.69 ERA. He has continued that in Venezuela, posting a sub-2.00 ERA (3 ER in 13.1 IP).
Alaniz is former property of the Astros and up until a 2015 stint in the Venezuelan Winter League, for whatever reason it just did not work out. Since that aforementioned time in Venezuela, he’s turned the corner big time. He turned 15-game, 1.91 ERA in the winter into a minor league deal with Detroit prior to 2016 and continued to pitch extremely well.
Hopefully that can continue, giving the Mud Hens a viable option in the bullpen and even the Tigers should he be called upon.
It’s been a steady climb through the ranks for 26-year-old right-hander Tommy Collier. The 2011 22nd-round pick has made over 120 career minor league starts and registered a 3.88 ERA during that time, getting no higher that Double-A Erie during that time. This past year was the first where he spent the entire season with the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate.
Hopefully a strong off-season league performance can jump-start him into an adequate spring and make a push for Toledo. So far in Venezuela, Collier has pitched in six games, starting five, and has a 2.81 ERA. At this point, the star status for Tommy has dimmed down and he’s a mission to break through and make it to the show. With steady numbers in the minors and gradual improvement, that mission could become reality in the future.