If you don’t like the story of your life it can be hard to put the past behind you and write a new story leading you to a happier ending. Our baggage can be heavy. However, for the prospects in the Detroit Tigers system, they might be getting the rare chance to reboot, re-write their story and find a fresh path.
We last saw most Detroit Tigers minor leaguers in 2019. Suffice it to say a lot has changed since then. Oh, a few surfaced in the majors during the truncated 2020 campaign and others toiled anonymously at Area 51 errr…the alternative training site in Toledo…but plenty of others were left a bit to their own devices. Has the time been used wisely?
How much different can we expect some of these players to look? They’ve all had the opportunity to work out like demons if changing their build and gaining flexibility was the goal. All the pitchers have had time to work on mechanical tweaks or even new pitches. Perhaps they’ve had access to the Rapsodo or Trackman data or even spent time at Driveline Baseball or a similar outfit. Same for the hitters. How many have worked to re-path their swing to find loft or increase bat speed…the tech is out there and the time has been available.
Then there is the simple fact of maturity…physical and mental. 17 and 18-year old kids from the Dominican League are now 20-year old men wanting to come to the states. The amount of growth we may see in some of these players could be substantial. A wiry teen can be a filled-out 20-something.
But it’s the mental maturity that’s even more interesting. Which of these players used the time wisely? Who decided to make it a positive that they had a chance to be away and come back a new man the Tigers haven’t really seen before? Who studied the game and went the extra lengths to get better? Which players have committed to not dwelling on past failings and come back hunting success?
Baseball is incredibly difficult as we all know. It’s very possible that players are who they are and we’ll see similar results to ‘19. It’s not easy to flip a switch and take a huge leap ahead to defy the old scouting reports.
You just have to believe there are players out there who see the need to toss the old script away and take it to the diamond ready to be something else.
Franklin Perez has to be bursting at the seams for this, right? He must be on a mission to be healthy and regain the lofty status that was once his. Has he used the time off to change his body and mechanics to get on track?
Jake Rogers is another player despite having had a taste of big-league action in ‘19 must be champing at the bit to get on a field and re-dedicate himself to success after being left in Toledo all season rather unexpectedly to many. What changes has he brought to the table to take him from defensive specialist to useful lineup regular?
Sam McMillan was once a 5th round pick paid over slot to sign. He’s posted nice OBP’s offensively but not much else to hang his hat on. McMillan was 20 and in a rookie league when we last saw him. Now he’s a 22-yr old man. Has he filled out and added any power? Is he ready to become a real catching prospect? Or has the time away eroded his offense even further? We won’t know until these guys get on a field this Spring. But McMillan is precisely the kind of guy who could show up as a ballplayer instead of a kid.
Even a now afterthought like Reynaldo Rivera has to want this right? Nobody wants to be a bust. It’s possibly his last chance after his suspension in ‘19. Do you go out with a whimper or has he used this time to find a different path back to the JuCo slugger from Chipola? Odds are he’s through but did he put the time in to rescue his career?
Parker Meadows, Kody Clemens, Kingston Liniak, and a host of others. All players that perhaps we can’t say are busts but we can say have never to this point “overperformed”. This is their time if they’ve done something new to earn a fresh look from the organization. It will be fascinating if we can identify anyone who has taken the new road.
Some folks think pitchers were best able to simulate their workload from the prior year and it’s hitters who may show rust early. But truly, no one knows for sure as the game cranks up from an unprecedented stoppage at the minor league level.
The Detroit Tigers have several much-anticipated young talents in its Top 10 prospects according to most observers. What could really spur the process of building a winner again would be for just a few players from outside their generally recognized Top 20 to have used this time off to vault themselves up from the depths they may have reached back to being anticipated prospects with expectations attached instead of doubts.
Just one or two re-emerging to a big-league path, not six, would change the look of the system considerably for the better. Did anyone ready themselves for that step? Have they flipped the script on their career? We’ll see.