Detroit Tigers: 5 Prospects Primed For a Fast Rise When MiLB Returns

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Joey Wentz #89 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 14, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Joey Wentz #89 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 14, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The MiLB season is still being discussed, but when minor league baseball returns, there are some Tigers prospects that could move quickly

The Detroit Tigers have been deliberate with their top MiLB talent historically; easing them through the minor leagues in hopes to maximize their confidence and development opportunities before reaching the tall buildings, as radioman Jim Price would say. Take Matt Manning, for instance, who started in the Gulf Coast League in 2016 and then hit every single stop between there and Erie, his latest stop on his way through the minor leagues.

Outside of top talent and prep players, however, there always seem to be players within the organization that propel up through the minor leagues in short order. There are a few reasons for this. The most common is simply age–as prospects reach their 20’s, it becomes increasingly important for them to integrate them into the organization against competition that is more in line with their age. A good example of this would be a college senior drafted in 2019 who finished the year in the New York Penn League or Low-A West Michigan.

Another reason, usually in conjunction with age, is performance. As players prove to master a level, it becomes important for the organization to promote them not only for developmental purposes but also as a form of recognition and acknowledgment.

Considering these reasons, here are five candidates to make a run through the MiLB when baseball returns:

LHP Joey Wentz

Wentz was acquired as part of the package sent to Detroit from Atlanta in exchange for closer Shane Greene in 2019. Upon Wentz’s arrival to Detroit, he was outstanding over a handful of starts with the Seawolves’ stacked rotation; pitching to a 0.94 WHIP and striking out 37 batters in just 25.2 innings.

Unfortunately, Wentz underwent Tommy John surgery this spring and will take the typical 14-16 months to rehabilitate before reaching competitive baseball again. Considering his timetable and the fact that many of the top pitching prospects will begin to hit Detroit upon his return, there is a clear path for Wentz to hit Toledo in short order, although it is difficult to envision a scenario where he reaches Detroit his first year back from Tommy John as a 23-year-old.

RHP Jason Foley

Detroit’s system has always seemed to carry at least one triple-digit arm with closer upside. That role belonged to Bruce Rondon first, followed by Joe Jimenez, and now right-hander Jason Foley has taken on the label.

Foley underwent his own Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago, but Foley, at 6′ 4″ and 24 years old, is primed for a rise and a return onto many of the prospect boards he once appeared on. Foley got knocked around a bit in limited action in the normally pitcher-friendly Florida State League last season, so limiting hard contact will be the linchpin to his acceleration.

LHP Max Green

Green is a name that has picked up steam over the last year among evaluators, but not for his eccentric outfits; but rather, for his recent velocity spike as highlighted by evaluator James Chipman. Any time a left-handed pitcher starts to hit high-90’s with their fastball, scouts improve their posture instantly.

Green pitched well in 2019; producing a 2.83 ERA in 2019 over 60 innings with High-A Lakeland. His strikeouts were surprisingly low given his results; only averaging 6 strikeouts per 9 innings last season. Green did many multiple-inning relief efforts last season; it will be interesting to see what Detroit does with his innings long-term, though, considering his arsenal. His velocity suggests he may switch to strictly a one-inning option out of the bullpen while his third pitch can make him viable in a multiple-inning scenario. Regardless, Green is primed to make a leap through the minor leagues.

3B Andre Lipcius

Lipcius was a 2019 draftee who was able to get his feet wet with West Michigan in 2019. With Lipcius turning 22 shortly, though, he is primed for a big run through the system when minor league baseball returns.

Detroit Tigers Top 5 MiLB Risers
(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Lipcius slashed a solid .273/.344/.360 with West Michigan last season after batting .308 with 17 home runs for Tennessee prior to the draft. Detroit does not feature much prospect talent at the third base position outside of Isaac Paredes, who figures to open the year with Toledo, so there is room for Lipcius to run through the minor leagues in a hurry; especially if he can find the power stroke he had with the metal bat in college.

RHP Zach Hess

Hess went from one Tigers team to another in 2019; getting drafted in the seventh round of the 2019 MLB Draft after pitching for LSU in college. Hess checks all the typical Tigers boxes for a pitcher; Southeastern Conference experience, tall, and lots of power. According to MLB Pipeline, Hess’ fastball runs in the mid-’90s and features that downhill plane Detroit loves out of his 6’6″ frame.

Hess pitched well across three clubs in 2019; where opponents hit just .175 against him across 22 MiLB games. Add to that his 33 strikeouts in 27.1 innings and the fact that 2020 will be his age-23 season, and it’s easy to see a scenario in which Hess hits Toledo by the end of the year, assuming a full minor league year.