Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: No.4 Casey Mize
Welcome to the first installment of the Motor City Bengals Top 20 Detroit Tigers prospects. The MCB staff has compiled our prospect lists and we will be releasing our consensus rankings, along with a breakdown of each player, in a series of articles in the coming days. Today, we look at number 4 on our list, Casey Mize.
Casey Mize is the ultimate example of “don’t scout the box score” when it comes to his numbers for the Detroit Tigers in 2020. Granted, yes, he did get knocked around in seven starts of work in a strange and unusual season however, it did not stop him from being the number 11 ranked overall prospect by MLB.com. The expectations for Mize heading into 2021 are high for the former number one overall pick as Mize looks to continue to grow as a starter.
Casey Mize Background
Mize was undrafted as a prep player out of Springville High School in Alabama when he went to Auburn. In his first season at Auburn in 2016, he appeared in 16 games, seven of which he was a starter, and posted an ERA of 3.52 with 59Ks in 69 innings pitched. He then pitched for Wareham in the Cape Cod League that summer, all out of the bullpen.
He started to emerge his sophomore season in 2017, going 8-2 with an ERA of 2.80, striking out 109 in 83.2 innings of work.
It was in his junior season where Mize put it together and gave the Detroit Tigers plenty to think about. Based on a five-pitch mix and his strikeout numbers, the Tigers made him the number one overall pick in 2018.
In his first full season in pro ball in 2019, Mize made an impression, going 8-3 with an ERA of 2.72 in 109.1 innings with a WHIP of 0.942 between Lakeland and Erie. His first start in Erie is one of the most memorable ones in Tigers minor league history with an efficiency effort of just 98 pitches on what was his second no-hitter in a year, with his first coming on March 9th, 2018 when pitching for Auburn.
After injuries to the Tigers’ pitching staff, he, Tarik Skubal, and Isaac Paredes were all called up in mid-August and he would make his debut on August 19 on the road against the White Sox.
Casey Mize’s Strengths
As I mentioned earlier, Mize throws five pitches, a sinker, four-seamer, slider, curve, and his best pitch, a split-finger. MLB Pipeline declared it the best specialty pitch. When it’s on, it has depth and run that hitters can’t pick up on. It averaged 38 inches of drop which is 16% better than the average and 12.5 inches of horizontal movement, which was good for an 8% break vs average.
For how much his split-finger is discussed, when he can throw his knuckle curve effectively against right-handers, it is a good put-away pitch to watch dart away. His four-seamer accounted for a run value of -2 with an XBA of .185.
Casey Mize’s Weakness
This off-season, Mize spoke about working with pitching coach Chris Fetter on sequencing his pitches better which got him in trouble when he fell behind in counts last season. Per the Freep:
"“He’s just got a ton of knowledge,” Mize said about Fetter. “We’ve already started that narrative and conversations. He knows a lot about technology and data, but he goes beyond that as well. We’ve been able to find common ground, really on all fronts of pitching.”"
Another item that goes along with his approach to sequencing was his plan to attack with location rather than spin. Per Sunday Notes with FanGraphs’s David Laurila, he admitted he is not a spin monster.
"“My vertical approach angle is pretty good on the four-seamer, so we think ‘I’ll be able to maximum that up in the zone,” the righty reasoned. “Increasing spin is pretty difficult to do, so I’m just going to maximize location. The axis will tick up when I throw it up in the zone.”"
The building up of innings could be considered a “weakness” depending on where he starts the season in 2021. Combined with his minor league innings, he has just 151 innings under his belt. While Mize has said he wants to throw as many innings as possible, Detroit will keep an eye on his shoulder, which caused him to be shut down in 2019. The Tigers want to be cautious and rightfully so.
Our take on Casey Mize
Mize represents the future of the Detroit Tigers rotation. We are still high on Mize because two to three of his five-pitch are above average and against an offense like the White Sox last season when he is on, he showed Tigers fans what type of ace he can be. He may start the season in Toledo but development-wise, beyond sequencing his pitches better, he should be capable to be in the rotation for hopefully years to come.