March 2, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Kyle Lobstein (31) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The rosters for the Arizona Fall League were announced today, and the Detroit Tigers will send five representatives. MLB.com’s Jason Beck has the list.
That’s a pretty decent group being sent out by the Tigers. There’s no huge name like last year when Nick Castellanos headed to the desert – but really, there’s not a similarly big name in the organization – but the 2013 AFL class for Detroit is interesting nonetheless.
Devon Travis, the Tigers’ 12th selection in the 2012 draft, burst onto the scene this year with a monster first half in West Michigan (.352/.430/.486). The 22 year old maintained his strong line following a second half promotion to Lakeland (.330/.391/.467) causing his name to rocket up the organizational prospect list. A good bit of his production at both levels is likely due to an unsustainably high BABIP (.375 and .367 respectively), but he hasn’t struck out much (11% combined between both levels), he’s walked at an above-average rate (10%), and has blasted double-digit home runs (11 HR, .136 ISO). Travis probably isn’t destined for MLB stardom, but he’s shown nothing but positives so far in the minor leagues.
Tyler Collins’ offensive numbers took a dip this season as he moved up to AA (.240/.325/.425), but his home run power showed up bigger than ever before. Part of the boom is likely due to Erie’s home park being homer friendly, but Collins (18 HR) led the team in dingers and trails only non-prospect Danny Dorn (25 HR) in homers among Detroit minor leaguers this season. Collins’ BABIP is low at .282, but not so low that we can dismiss his low batting average. The biggest concern in his batting line is his strikeout rate that jumped to 23% from basically 12% in Hi-A a year ago.
Tigers fans will likely remember Kyle Lobstein’s name from Spring Training. Detroit (basically) acquired him in the Rule 5 draft and allowed him to compete for a bullpen spot in the spring. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to win a job, the organization made a deal with Tampa Bay (his originating team) to allow him to stay in the organization without his having to remain on the active roster. Lobstein took up a spot in the Erie rotation and pitched quite well – a 3.12 ERA in 95 innings with a 22% strikeout rate and a 7% walk rate – he was Erie’s best starter and earned a promotion to Toledo. He hasn’t quite received the same results with the Mud Hens – a 3.80 ERA in 66 innings – but he has pretty much maintained the strikeout rate (20%) and has posted a FIP (3.12) identical to what he put up in AA.
Will Clinard is a bit of a wild card in my mind. The 23 year old dominated the Florida State league in 28 innings early this season (1.59 ERA, 21% strikeout rate), but he has struggled following a promotion to Erie (a 5.57 ERA, a 16% strikeout rate, and a 13% walk rate in 32 innings). His biggest problem has been the longball, he’s allowed 1.7 home runs per nine innings this year in Erie.
I didn’t immediately love the pick when the Tigers drafted Corey Knebel in the Competitive Balance Round of this year’s draft, but the 21 year old quickly began to sway me with his outstanding performance in the Midwest League. In 27 appearances with the Whitecaps (28 innings), he’s allowed just two earned runs and eight walks to go with 38 strikeouts (37%). There was talk that maybe the organization would look to make him a starter when they drafted him, but I think his inclusion on the AFL roster signifies that they see him more as a fast-rising reliever. I don’t typically support the idea of drafting a reliver that high, but it would pay off if he turned into a dominating closer.
The Tigers’ youngsters will team up with the representatives from the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, and Washington Nationals to compete for the Mesa Solar Sox. Former Tigers player (and current coach) Mike Maroth will join the Solar Sox’s coaching staff as the pitching coach.