The Lakeland Flying Tigers – the Detroit Tigers’ Florida State League (Advanced-A) affiliate who play in Lakeland, FL – begin their season today with an Opening Day game at Joker Marchant Stadium. Here’s a cursory look at the roster that the Flying Tigers will open the season with.
Lakeland doesn’t have a listed starting rotation at this point, but Edgar De La Rosa is listed as the starter for tonight. Jake Thompson and Endrys Briceno will certainly be in the rotation as will Jordan John. The fifth starter is possibly Kevin Eichhorn.
Thompson is rated as a top-five prospect in the system by FanGraphs (#3), Baseball Prospectus (#4), MLB.com (#4), and Baseball America (#5). He was excellent in 16 starts with West Michigan a year ago, striking out 9.8 batters per nine with a 3.13 ERA in 83 innings.
Briceno is an interesting arm that the scouts like as well (MLB.com #15), but only struck out five batters per nine in the Midwest League in 2013. His frame is still wiry, so the 22-year old has room to fill out.
John put up excellent numbers in West Michigan last year (2.92 ERA in 111 innings) as more of a command-and-control pitcher.
Dixon Machado will begin his third year at the Advanced-A level (though he lost most of 2013 due to injury). He’s always been a slick fielding shortstop, but his bat has prevented him from moving up the ladder – he hasn’t posted an OPS of even .600 above short-season ball.
Brandon Loy is another glove-first shortstop that hasn’t been able to hit much in professional ball. He’ll likely splits some time at short with Machado, but see the bulk of his action at second.
James Robbins actually was the starting first baseman for the Erie SeaWolves last year (as a 22-year old), but he’s always had a problem making contact and didn’t hit well at all against the advanced pitching of the Eastern League. His potential has always been as a big power, high-strikeout hitter.
Jared Reaves looks like the nominal starter at third base for the Flying Tigers for the time being. He’s small in stature but had a fair amount of success with the bat last year (mostly in West Michigan) playing all over the infield.
Lance “Baby Bull” Durham will be the DH.
Connor Harrell was the first position player the Tigers selected last June when they took him in the seventh round out of Vanderbilt. He received the quick assignment to West Michigan where he struggled initially with the bat in making the transition to pro ball before finishing with a solid enough August.
Not many particularly interesting prospect names to watch outside of Jake Thompson (quite a good prospect), Endrys Briceno, and perhaps Connor Harrell if he can put up good numbers in his first full season of professional baseball. Dixon Machado still has hope of resurrecting some prospect status if he can add some size and strength (and should be fun to watch on defense regardless). He doesn’t strike out all that much, but the ball just doesn’t go anywhere when he hits it.