We’re rolling along with the countdown. As of today, only 13 days remain until the Tigers open the season against the New York Yankees (March 31). So what does the number 13 give us?
Thirteen is the number of starts that the Tigers’ top prospect, Jacob Turner, made last year for the Lakeland Flying Tigers in the Florida State League (advanced-A level).
Turner earned an assignment to the West Michigan Whitecaps of the Midwest League (A level) out of camp last season, but earned the advancement to the FSL after a strong first half (and before I had a chance to go see him). I think he only made one home start for the Whitecaps (a day game while I was at work). Not that I’m bitter.
Only four other teens pitched in the Florida State League at all last year, and none pitched more innings (61.1), or made more starts (13) than Turner did. And he pitched pretty well too. During his time in Lakeland, Turner posted a 2.93 ERA while striking out 7.5 batters per nine innings (he K’d 20.1% of the batters he faced).
The Tigers challenged him with a difficult assignment, and he turned in results that were more than favorable. And the Tigers continue to show that they’re not interested in babying their top prospect. Turner was “cut” from major league camp (he was a long, long, long shot to make the club) earlier this week and assigned to the Erie Sea Wolves (AA level). He won’t turn 20 until May 19, but he’s now (more or less) only one step away from the big leagues (as it’s not uncommon for prospects to skip AAA), and many expect him to make a spot start or two in the big leagues this season.
He’s young so the Tigers are still keeping an eye on his pitch count. He only averaged five innings per start (combined across both levels) in 2010, so he does still have to get used to a professional level workload. I’m sure that portion of his development will be taken slowly.