Detroit Tigers Prospects

Detroit Tigers Minor League Preview

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: A detail of a Detroit Tigers hat and glove are seen during warm ups against the New York Yankees during Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 6, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: A detail of a Detroit Tigers hat and glove are seen during warm ups against the New York Yankees during Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 6, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 27: Mike Rabelo
LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 27: Mike Rabelo /

Lakeland Flying Tigers

The Lakeland Flying Tigers have been the High-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers since 1963. Lakeland has also been the home of Tigers spring training for 82 years.

The Flying Tigers play a 140-game slate in the 12-team Florida State League. They share the North Division with the Clearwater Threshers (Philadelphia), Daytona Tortugas (Cincinnati), Dunedin Blue Jays (Toronto), Florida Fire Frogs (Atlanta) and Tampa Tarpons (N.Y. Yankees).

Lakeland’s season opener is Thursday night against Tampa at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Coaching Staff

The Flying Tigers are managed by former Detroit catcher Mike Rabelo. Rabelo enters his first year in the Lakeland dugout, after spending the last four seasons managing West Michigan (2017) and Connecticut (2014-16). Last year with the Whitecaps, Rabelo won 91 games and was named the Midwest League Manager of the Year.

As a player, Rabelo played in 52 games for the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and 2007. Following the 2007 season, he was part of the package that brought Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit.

Joining Rabelo this season are pitching coach Mark Johnson and hitting coach Tim Garland. Both are entering their second year with the club.

Johnson made nine appearances for Detroit in 2000, his lone season in the majors. Garland climbed as high as Double-A during his 15-year playing career, also making stops in independent baseball and Mexico.

Players to Watch

Lakeland may not have the pitching prospect depth that Erie has, but the Flying Tigers have a great stable of position players to watch, led by the system’s most interesting outfield. Earlier this offseason, Jose Azocar, and Derek Hill both made Andy Patton’s list of prospects entering make-or-break seasons.

OF Jose Azocar (18th): Azocar had a subpar 2017, hitting .220 with little power, and a 27% percent strikeout rate. With the influx of outfield talent acquired by the Tigers recently, a bounce-back year is imperative for Azocar.

OF Daz Cameron (9th): One of those recently acquired talents is Daz Cameron. The son of 17-year MLB veteran Mike Cameron, Daz was acquired from the Astros as a part of the Justin Verlander trade.

In total last year, he hit .271 with 14 homers, 74 RBI, and 34 steals. His dad won three Gold Gloves, and Daz rates well defensively, too. With that combination, it’s no wonder he’s considered to be the center fielder of the future.

OF Derek Hill (13th): Former first-rounder Derek Hill got his 2017 started late as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Hill’s forte is his defense and speed, but the bat has lagged behind. He’s a .245 career hitter and has yet to reach Double-A. A big year at the plate would be huge for his development.

INF Isaac Paredes (7th): Isaac Paredes came along with Jeimer Canderlario in the deal that sent Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to the Chicago Cubs.

In two minor league seasons, Paredes has slashed .265/.341/.398. Those numbers are more impressive when you take into account he was more than three years younger than the average player at Class A last year.

Pitchers to Watch

RHP Alex Faedo (3rd): All eyes will be on Alex Faedo when he makes his pro debut Friday night in Lakeland. The 18th overall pick in last June’s draft, Faedo did not pitch for the Tigers after a lengthy college season at Florida.

Faedo helped lead the Gators to the National Championship and was named the Most Outstanding Player at last year’s College World Series.

LHP Gregory Soto (8th): Signed back in 2013 as an international free agent, it took awhile for Gregory Soto to reach full-season ball. The southpaw finally did so last year and did not dissapoint.

In 23 starts for West Michigan and Lakeland, Soto posted a 2.25 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 124.0 innings. Soto has fanned 10.0 per nine innings as a minor leaguer.

Others in the top 30: RHP Jason Foley (23rd)

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