The 2015 Detroit Tigers are off to a historic start, having won ten of their first twelve contests. They have now won each of their first four series on the season, including a record of 8-1 against teams from their own division. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is pushing all the right buttons so far, after going through a spring where he had to answer a lot of questions about different areas of his ball club. So far, he has already had to call up pitchers Blaine Hardy and Kyle Lobstein from Triple-A to fill in for injured pitchers Joe Nathan and Justin Verlander. All in all though, Ausmus really could not have asked for a better start to the season.
The Tigers came into the 2015 season with having the worst rated farm system in the league, ranking dead last in Major League Baseball. Despite that, Detroit has some good pieces down in the minors that they feel could be potential future stars for them, whether it be this year or five years from now. Today, we will begin our weekly recap of the Detroit Tigers’ farm system teams.
TRIPLE-A: TOLEDO MUD HENS
The Toledo Mud Hens are off to a solid start as well just like the big league club, as they currently sit in 1st place in their division early on in the International League (AAA), with a record of 6-4. The Mud Hens have a lot of the Tigers top prospects in their everyday lineup, including shortstop Dixon Machado, and outfielders Daniel Fields, Xavier Henry, and Tyler Collins.
The Tigers’ #1 rated prospect, outfielder Steven Moya, is down in Florida playing for the Lakeland Flying Tigers (Single-A Advanced), after starting the 2015 season on the disabled list with Toledo. He is down there rehabbing, getting some at-bats in, and is expected to re-join the Hens soon.
Pitching prospects to keep an eye out this season down in Toledo are Buck Farmer, Kyle Ryan, and Tim Melville. These are just three names that may be called upon in case of an injury in the Tigers’ rotation. Also, Josh Zeid and Alex Wilson are relief pitchers that could make some appearances out of the Detroit bullpen this season.
Kyle Lobstein has already made his presence felt, winning his first start last weekend in Cleveland. He is expected to make his second start for Detroit at home against the New York Yankees.
Another Tigers pitching prospect, Drew VerHagen, is also starting the season down in Lakeland like Steven Moya. VerHagen, who was expected to be a part of the Hens rotation, is dealing with reoccurring back problems that ended his season in 2014.
DOUBLE-A: ERIE SEAWOLVES
The Erie SeaWolves at the Double-A level of minor league baseball have a few key names that the Detroit Tigers will pay extra close attention to this season.
Pitcher Joe Mantiply probably has a few more years until he can make his presence felt with Detroit, but is regarded as a highly coveted prospect for them. Mantiply was among the first cuts in spring training this season. In eight appearances, he recorded a 3.86 ERA as well as one save for the Tigers. The 24-year old left-hander could be a dark horse pitcher for Detroit for years to come.
As far as the lineup goes, there are some noteworthy names on the roster. Outfielder Wynton Bernard is in his second year in the Tigers organization, and could have a future down the road. However, he has a handful of outfielder prospects ahead of him in Triple-A Toledo. Bernard is off to a slow start in 2015, hitting only .209 with five runs batted in and four steals.
SeaWolves outfielder Casper Wells is now in his second stint with the Detroit Tigers. Wells, a roster invitee during spring training, is a career .286 hitter in 100 games while donning the olde English D. He now assumes a veteran role in Double-A with hope of making a return to the big leagues.
SeaWolves designated hitter Dean Green is the early leader in the clubhouse for biggest impact. Green is hitting at a .433/.528/.700 slash line, with two home runs and six runs batted in in nine games played.
SINGLE-A ADVANCED: LAKELAND FLYING TIGERS
The Lakeland Flying Tigers squad looks a little more loaded than normal, because of two Triple-A players rehabbing right now in Moya and soon VerHagen. Derek Hill was expected to at some point maybe get called up to High A ball this season, but is recent placement on the disabled list will slow that down a bit.
Other names on the Lakeland roster include Ben Verlander, brother of Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Ben is an outfielder and is 6-22 in seven games to start 2015. Lakeland also has center fielder Jiwan James, who Detroit signed during spring training camp to a minor league deal. James leads the Flying Tigers so far this season in hits with 13, and is hitting .260 thus far.
SINGLE-A: WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS
The Detroit Tigers Single-A affiliate from across the state, the West Michigan Whitecaps, hold on their roster one of the most highly rated prospects in the Tigers entire farm system.
Outfielder Derek Hill is expected to gradually make his way through the minors as he matures and grows as a player. The 19-year old will begin his first full season in the organization. He has already been hampered with an injury in 2015, being on the disabled list with quad strains. He has played in just six games so far, and has one hit in six at-bats.
Hill has been raved as being a prototypical lead off man that can get on base and steal bases. He very well could be the center fielder of the future for the Detroit Tigers.