It looks like the Tigers are unhappy with their systemwide pitching performance and development. Early this year, we saw Rick Knapp fired, now in the past week we have seen news that Roving Minor League Pitching Instructor Jon Matlack and Lakeland Flying Tigers Pitching Coach Joe Coleman have been let go from the organization. Mark Anderson of TigsTown.com (follow him on twitter, if you don’t already) had the following to say after the news broke:
"@TigsTownMarkMark AndersonMatlack is just the beginning of what I expect to be a lot of changes over next 6-8 months. #Tigers"
It will be interesting to see if the upcoming changes are focused on pitching or are a system wide re-tool of the Tigers Minor Leagues.
One can look at where the Tigers MiLB players rank on the various top prospect list and see that the Tigers own less than 5% of the slots (more often 2% on the lists of 100 – Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos). This is, of course, partly due to the Tigers having fewer picks of late due to not offering ARB to some Free Agents (Placido Polanco) while signing others (Victor Martinez, Jose Valverde) as well as trading off other prospects. However, even with those exceptions, a case could be made that the farm system is not creating players with hype around them. The Tigers have had some nice players develop and have youth on their roster (Alex Avila, Rick Porcello, and Austin Jackson to name a few). I am sure Avila would be on a Top 100 list right now, but he is in his 2nd full year in the majors… Regardless, most everyone who evaluates minor league talent has said that the Tigers prospect pool is shallower than most.
While the Tigers have had prospects come up and contribute with some regularity (although with varying impact) most have been hitters, something that is not expected out of a pitching focused front office. Outside of Porcello the pitching prospects (if they were not traded) have been regulars on I-75 between Toledo and Detroit. Perhaps the changes that have happened and may still happen are just focused on Pitching. Dombrowski has a reputation as an executive who values pitchers well above hitters and after Turner and Drew Smyly, there simply isn’t much there. You can lock back at the infamous 2008 draft to see that the Tigers wanted to restock their system with pitching – they drafted arms of all varieties that year and the only pitcher we have seen emerge from that group is Ryan Perry.
Minor leagues coaches are probably one of the most undervalued areas when talking to fans, they play one of the most crucial roles within any organization. Will the Tigers change philosophies or just personnel? Will the overhaul be centered on pitching (as it looks to be now) or will those men in charge of hitting fielding also be looking for new jobs in 2012? Maybe after the Tigers had a college focused draft, this might just be the right time to make those moves. College players should be able to move faster through the system and require less coaching, so the new coaches can focus on on those players who are young for the level. It sure would be nice to have the Tigers included in the “haves” discussion when people are talking about minor league talent while still contending for playoff spots. Perhaps some changes in the minor league clubhouses can make that happen.