The Tigers announced a couple weeks ago the players that they would be sending to the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is widely considered a prime off-season league for minor leaguers, many of whom are top prospects for their ball clubs. This year, the Tigers send their top prospect, Nick Castellanos, down to the AFL with 6 other players to get a little extra seasoning verse top competition. Of course, not all the guys that get sent down there are top prospects, but I thought I would still go through the guys the Tigers are sending.
I’m sure everyone knows by now about the Tigers top prospect. He started 2012 on fire, pushing .400 much of the season in high A Lakeland. In fact, at the time of his promotion to Erie, Castellanos was hitting .405. He finished the 2012 season on a cold stretch, hitting just .264 in Erie. However, at 20 years old, the level was really advanced, and at one time, fans were calling for Castellanos to come up in September and play in the outfield. He wasn’t ready, and will go to Arizona with learning the outfield on his to-do list. Learning some patience at the dish will be on the docket as well. This is a good test for Castellanos, but fans should understand this is more for development than anything. His results will matter little as he faces quality competition and gets more reps in the outfield.
Clark made a name for himself as a top notch reliever for the Lakeland Flying Tigers this season. His dominance earned himself a late season call up to Erie, where he looked very human in a small sample. His 0.63 ERA in Lakeland was impressive, as was his 59 K’s in 42.2 innings, however we should be cautioned about getting too excited about Clark. His stuff is pretty good, with a low 90′s fastball and pretty good slider, but he isn’t what we would consider a top prospect. He will have to continue to proved himself at every level. I think the Tigers organization is just rewarding a young man who had a quality season.
Hoffman is becoming a veteran of the Arizona Fall League. This will be his third trip for the Tigers. The young left hander has been knocking on Detroit’s door for the past couple years as a lefty reliever, but hasn’t quite made it yet. A strong AFL could be the deciding factor of whether or not Hoffman is in the plans for 2013 for the Tigers, as Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth have had their own issues. This trip might mean more to Hoffman than any of the other guys that are going for the Tigers.
Morrison is another reliever that had a solid season for the Tigers, pitching all year in AA Erie. His 72 K’s in 63 innings suggest a reliever that can get a strikeout on occasion, but his ceiling appears more limited to a 6th or 7th inning than a later inning guy. Morrison can get his fastball to the mid 90′s, though he mostly sits around 91-92, and couples that with an average breaking ball. He did miss time with Tommy John, so Morrison’s 2012 was more about continuing to build strength than anything.
It’s kind of strange seeing a guy that has been pitching on the Tigers this season at times going to the AFL, however, I don’t think it could hurt Putkonen. Putkonen has made the transition to reliever in 2012, and needs the innings against the tough competition to continue honing his newly found craft. He would do well to work on his breaking ball if he wants to continue progressing and stick in Detroit for all of 2013.
McCann has been moved aggressively in 2012, starting in Lakeland, then moving on to Erie a little after midway through the season. While he hit .288 in Lakeland, he basically showed no power, and it isn’t the bat that is going to make or break McCann. Why? To me, he has always profiled as a backup catcher anyway, so his defense is the main thing the Tigers should be looking for. He hit just .200 in Erie, so getting more at-bats for McCann isn’t a bad thing by any stretch.
Frankly, I am not sure why Westlake is being sent, other than maybe the organization is looking to justify picking him in the 3rd round of the draft in 2011. I guess there are some int the Tigers organization who still believe in Westlake and want to see what he can do. He did hurt a toe at the end of the season, so it will be interesting to see if he still goes. He was a doubles machine in low A West Michigan, but color me unimpressed by a 23 year old who hit .249 with a .711 OPS for a corner infielder.
There really isn’t a ton to be excited about by the guys that the Tigers are sending to the AFL this year, but it could help them make a couple of decisions in regards to 40 man roster spots with the likes of Putkonen and Hoffman. It’s not nearly as exciting if the Tigers would’ve sent Bruce Rondon and maybe even a Jamie Johnson, however, we don’t know what the Arizona team needed given that the other teams that share the roster might have something to say about who the Tigers can send.