Only being a couple of weeks into a new baseball season, it might seem premature to do any sort of “stock up” list this early in the season. However, minor league players’ stocks go up and down throughout a season, and it often changes in a matter of weeks. I wanted to take a quick look at 3 players in the Tigers farm system whose prospect status has already made a significant move forward this season. We aren’t talking top 100 prospects in baseball, but rather guys that if I were to rank the Tigers prospects right now, would see a good size jump from where they were before.
Steven Moya OF, West Michigan Whitecaps (Low A)
Moya has been a favorite of the Tigers organization for a couple of years now, and it’s starting to become clear why. Not known for developing position prospects, Moya is off to a tremendous start at West Michigan this year, and there is some indicators to suggest that he is developing and not just going through a hot streak. When I personally saw Moya last season, the things that jumps out at you is his physicality. He could put on a big league uniform and look like he belongs in the clubhouse now. I also liked his swing, but he had little in strike zone discipline, and only got one hit in the six at-bats I saw. During the spring when I saw him, he looked much more comfortable with the bat in his hands, and so far this year, he is pummeling Midwest League pitching.
So far this season in 50 at-bats, Moya has hit .400 for the Whitecaps. While that is impressive, it could be just a hot start. Thing is, Moya has never had a stretch like this, and a huge indicator in his favor is the much more advanced plate discipline numbers he is showing so far. He has struck out just 7 times so far this season, and walked 5 times. Last season, he walked once for every 10 strikeouts he had. Another positive indicator is that Moya is hitting lefties as well so far this season. In his 14 at-bats against left-handed pitching, he has 7 hits. The power is developing, and for a guy his size at 6’7″, he isn’t a bad athlete either.
Certainly a guy to watch going forward.
Brian Flynn SP, Lakeland Flying Tigers (High A)
Historically, the Tigers have always seemed to like bigger pitchers. Flynn is no exception at 6’8″ and 240lbs. The big left hander was drafted last season out of Wichita State, and had a pretty solid debut in West Michigan for the Tigers. Despite the success, there were some real question marks with Flynn while pitching for the Whitecaps last season. One, mechanically, Flynn was somewhat of a mess coming out of college, and at times he can easily get out of whack. It’s not all that unheard of for a pitcher of his size to have trouble repeating his mechanics. Secondly, his secondary pitches were questionable, and he didn’t throw as hard as the Tigers thought he could of, sitting mostly in the upper 80′s and only touching the low 90′s.
This season, from all reports, things have taken a turn for the better for Flynn. In 3 games for Lakeland this season, Flynn has compiled 19.2 innings, and only allowed 2 earned runs. While he hasn’t been dominant with his strikeout ratio, Flynn has been a picture of control, walking only 2 batters so far this year. His 12:2 K/BB ratio is indicative of a pitcher who is repeating his mechanics a little bit better, and reports are that he is sitting 92-94 with his fastball because of it. He is still going to have to find a sharper secondary pitch, but right now, Flynn is definitely trending towards the positive.
Luke Putkonen RP, Toledo Mud Hens (AAA)
Putkonen, in my opinion, was one of those guys that was really close to just being let go by the organization. There is no way before the spring started you would find him on a Tigers top 50 prospect lists anywhere. Now, he would definitely be a candidate to do so. It’s not that Putkonen didn’t have some talent, after all, he was a 3rd round draft pick in 2007. It’s just that 2011 was so horrific for him, that he kind of dropped off the map. Putkonen as a starter was just another guy who relied on the ground ball to get guys out. His stuff and consistent mechanics just never really came along.
This season, the Tigers decided to try Putkonen out of the pen, and now, he is repeating his mechanics easier, and his seen an increase in his velocity by about 4 or 5 mph. He impressed so much in camp this spring, there was even some talk of the Tigers keeping him on the roster. So far in 9 innings in Toledo, Putkonen has allowed just one run. He is going to have to improve his control if he wants to pitch in the bigs though, as he has walked 5 guys. Still, for a guy that was demoted last season to high A, and almost an afterthought, the fact that he is pitching in Triple A is pretty impressive.