The Detroit Tigers Minor League affiliates seasons are now officially in the books. With another season completed, the time has come for me to announce the 2011 MCB Down on the Farm All-Star Team.
In an effort to reward less talked about prospects, only players that did not receive a call-up to Detroit this season were eligible. While you may recognize some of the names, remember these awards aren’t a pronouncement of the Tigers top prospects. The awards were based heavily upon the best overall statistical season per position.
Similar to previous years, the breakdown of the roster will consist of one player per position, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers and five relievers.
2011 MCB Down on the Farm All-Star Team: LHP Fu-Te Ni
TEAM: AAA-Toledo Mud Hens
STATS: 111 IP 6-3 3.24 ERA 1.26 WHIP 8.6 H/9 2.8 BB/9 7.5 K/9 0.8 HR/9
The Detroit Tigers signed Taiwanese pitcher Fu-Te Ni as a non-drafted free agent in January of 2009. The 6 foot, 170 pound southpaw pitched previously for two seasons in the China Professional Baseball League.
Ni was assigned to the AAA-Toledo bullpen out of spring training and he immediately contributed. He posted a 2.60 ERA while striking out nearly a batter an inning over 34 2/3 frames. When Nate Robertson hit the disabled list Ni received the call-up to Detroit. In 31 innings the rookie southpaw reliever posted an impressive 2.61 ERA and 1.00WHIP with the Tigers.
Despite a miserable spring training in 2010, Ni was a member of the opening day 25 man roster for the Tigers. Unfortunately his struggles continued in the 2010 regular season. He was then removed from the 40 man roster and demoted to AAA-Toledo. Ni continued to get beat around in Toledo as he posted a 7.50 ERA that season. Opposing batters hit Ni to a tune of .346. Needless to say, Ni was not called up to Detroit when the rosters were expanded in September of 2010.
In 2011, Fu-Te Ni pitched once again for the AAA-Toledo Mud Hens. However, this time, Ni was converted to a starter halfway through the season.
Ni relies heavily on his mid-to-high 80s fastball from his rather unique, almost submarine delivery. Needless to say, deception and movement are a big part of his game. He compliments the fastball with a slider and change-up.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS:
In early July, Ni was moved to the ‘Hens rotation. He logged 12 starts over 73 innings and posted a 2.71 ERA after the move. Not only was he able to post solid numbers, Ni ate innings and 7 of his starts were “quality starts”. He’s still scattering nearly a hit per inning and the home run numbers remain a bit high. However, I like the move to the rotation. He responded well and posted impressive numbers. I’m interested to see if the move is permanent when play resumes next season.
Ni will be 29-years-old next season so he’s not exactly a “prospect”. Regardless, I was very impressed with what I saw from him this season. His performance in the rotation only gives him more value. If nothing else it makes you wonder if he has more to offer than the LOOGy tag that he’s often saddled with. Injuries happen so it’s nice to see that Ni can possibly provide depth in the rotation. One thing is certain, Ni now appears to be more of a hybrid pitcher like former Tiger Zach Miner. Being able to pitch long relief, start and/or handle lefties definitely increases his chances of returning to the show. I am definitely pulling for Ni though. Hopefully his success continues wherever he ends up next season.
Like years past, Ni should get a shot in Spring Training to make the Tigers bullpen. Worse case scenario, he should begin the 2012 season in AAA-Toledo.
2011 MCB Down on the Farm All-Stars
Next Up: The Bullpen