A little bit ago, I spent a few moments to discuss the possible starting rotation for the West Michigan Whitecaps for the upcoming 2012 season. Following the same path, I wanted to take a look at who Tigers fans could be potentially seeing start games in Lakeland this season as well.
As I climb higher up the ladder, it is a little bit tougher to project who is going to be pitching where. For the most part, the assumption is that guys from West Michigan will just advance. However, there may be some guys who might have to repeat their level in 2012, so that could complicate things.
I do see the first four as pretty easy selections however.
1. Kyle Ryan
Ryan is a young lefty with some projectability still left to him, and still working on sharpening his secondary pitches. Last season, he really progressed as the season went on for the West Michigan Whitecaps, and it should be intriguing to see how he does against more advanced hitters. We had Ryan tabbed as the 23rd best Tigers prospect in our top 50 list, which you can check out here. Ryan, who will pitch all of 2012 at 20 years old, finished with an ERA of 3.15 in low A ball last season.
Carreno is a guy that could potentially repeat in West Michigan in 2012, potentially getting passed up for the older Wilsen Palacios. I don’t think it is likely, because I think Carreno is more of a priority prospect wise than Palacios in the organization. Carreno is also just 20 years old like Ryan, and struggled with inconsistency last year. Still, the stuff is solid and a workhorse frame suggests he has mid-rotation potential in the future. His K rate was pretty good last season at almost 1 per inning, and he only walked 3 per 9 innings.
3. Alex Burgos
Burgos is a small pitcher, but what he lacks in stature he makes up for in moxie on the mound. Burgos mixes his pitches well, and does a good job of locating as well. His fastball varies though, and that is in large part due to his frame. His velocity has a tendency to vary from start to start, and when he is breaking the 90mph mark with regularity, he can be an effective pitcher. Burgos is also relatively young as well, he turned 21 in December and will pitch all of 2012 at that age. He is one of the more intriguing guys to watch and ranked 12th on our MCB top 50 prospects list.
4. Brian Flynn
Flynn is a humongous left-hander that the Tigers drafted in 2011. Right now, it looks like he is a relative shoe-in for the Lakeland rotation after having some decent success for the ‘Caps in 2011. Flynn’s big frame is something that he is going to have to learn to repeat mechanically, but the Tigers I’m sure are hoping they can get some more fastball velocity out of him. Flynn isn’t a hard thrower despite his size, and needs some work on his secondaries, but did post an ERA of 3.46 last season in low A ball. Flynn ranked 25th on our MCB Top 50.
Eichhorn is a right hander that the Tigers acquired in the deal for Armando Galarraga. He is the elder statesman of the group, having just turned 22 years old last month. Eichhorn doesn’t have overpowering stuff by any means, and lives off of a crafty repertoire and command. He also generates a good amount of ground balls. He doesn’t have a projectable frame, but still pitched well for the Whitecaps in 2011, posting an ERA of 3.61. It should be interesting to see if he can keep his statistically sound season going in 2012 against the higher level of competition.
I don’t see any real wild cards in this batch of pitchers other than the possibility of Carreno repeating West Michigan. If that happens it could be any number of organizational soldiers that take his place. Along with Palacios, it could be that Luis Sanz pitches there, or the Tigers organization uses Victor Larez as a starter.
I do think it is a very interesting group however. I am not sure of the last time I saw 5 guys, all having solid potential, pitching for Lakeland as starters, and all of them being 22 years old or younger.