With the Detroit Tigers continuing to struggle on the field, fan attention naturally turns to their highly ranked minor-league system. Here at Motor City Bengals we promise to give you as much 2021 minor-league coverage as we can.
Toledo Mud Hens, 2-3, t4th (2.0 GB) in the Triple-A East, Midwest Division
The Mud Hens began their season by hosting the Nashville Sounds, a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate from the Southeast Division. The Hens got off to a strong start, winning Tuesday’s home opener 8-6. Top prospect Matt Manning (5IP, 6H, 5ER, BB, 6K, 3HR) struggled to keep the ball in the park, but a three-run blast from Christin Stewart in the 6th gave Toledo the lead for good. The Mud Hens used another late rally on Wednesday, getting a three-run bomb from Zack Short in the 8th to win 9-6. Rain washed away Thursday’s game, and Nashville’s pitching got things turned around, taking the next three games by holding the Hens to just 6 total runs, before more rain canceled Sunday’s finale.
- Short went just 2-for-16 on the week, but both of his hits cleared the fence. He also led the club with six walks, four runs scored, and four RBIs.
- Wily Peralta never pitched for the Tigers in spring training, but he made an excellent debut for the organization on Saturday, allowing just one hit and striking out five over three scoreless frames.
- The Mud Hens batted just .189 as a team last week, which ranked 19th out of 20 Triple-A East teams. They managed to walk enough (28 BB) and hit for enough power (7 HR) to eke out a few wins, but they’ll need the bats to pick up soon.
Erie SeaWolves, 4-2, 3rd (1.5 GB) in the Double-A Northeast, Southeast Division
From a prospect standpoint, the Erie SeaWolves are the least interesting team in the system. But they are loaded with minor-league veterans, and often that means a more competitive team. That played out last week, as the Howlers went into Reading and took the series from the Fightin Phils. Erie’s offense exploded out of the gate, scoring 31 runs to win their first three games. Reading fought back on Friday and Saturday, winning 8-4 and 6-4, but the SeaWolves won the finale 7-5 thanks to a seven-run outburst in the 8th inning, keyed by two Jacob Robson doubles.
- All eyes are on our number one Detroit Tigers prospect Riley Greene, and he didn’t disappoint, blasting the grand slam you see above en route to a solid 6-for-24 week, with a triple, five walks to eight strikeouts, and seven RBIs.
- There aren’t any big pitching prospects in Erie, but the two most interesting starters are probably Paul Richan (8IP, 6H, 3ER, 2BB, 6K, 3HR) and Elvin Rodriguez (4IP, 2H, 0ER, BB, 6K), and they both pitched well.
- The writing is on the wall for Robson, who spent all of 2019 in Triple-A, but to his credit he is going out and performing. He was Erie’s best offensive player last week, going 10-for-22 with four doubles, a home run, two steals, six walks to seven strikeouts, and a team-best eight RBIs.
West Michigan Whitecaps, 2-3, 5th (2.5 GB) in the High-A Central, East Division
While Erie is short on Detroit Tigers prospects and long on veterans, West Michigan is overloaded with interesting young players who might not necessarily contribute to a lot of wins. The Whitecaps began their season in Fort Wayne, and the offense got off to a very slow start, falling 8-0 and 4-2 in their first two games, and striking out 32 times as a team. The bats finally got loose in the 7th inning on Thursday, with a Dillon Dingler triple keying their eventual 6-3 victory. Friday’s game got ugly quickly, with the TinCaps scoring nine times in the first two innings, but West Michigan returned the favor on Saturday, beating up on Fort Wayne’s bullpen in a 16-6 victory. Sunday’s game was postponed by rain.
- Spencer Torkelson is the biggest name on the Whitecaps, and though he showed signs of a breakout on Saturday, overall his first week of pro ball was one to forget. He finished 3-for-19 with a double, three RBIs, and three walks, but he also struck out 11 times.
- Friday’s starter Beau Brieske also had a rough West Michigan. He gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, then allowed a single, balked the runner over, and hit the next batter. He almost got out of his jam by striking out the next two batters, but then Trei Cruz lost a pop up to the wind, and Brieske allowed a double before being pulled. His final line: 0.2IP, 4H, 5ER, 0BB, 2K, HR.
- West Michigan’s 16 runs on Saturday were the most they’ve scored in a game since June of 2017, when they beat the rival Lansing Lugnuts 16-1. Gregory Soto was the starter in that game and earned the win, while Danny Woodrow, Josh Lester, Austin Athmann, David Gonzalez, and Sam Machonis all knocked in multiple runs.
Lakeland Flying Tigers, 3-3, t2nd (2.0 GB) in the Low-A Southeast, West Division
Toledo has a handful of former Detroit Tigers, and West Michigan has the most prospects, but Lakeland has a sneaky amount of interesting players to begin the season, including 2019 2nd-rounder Nick Quintana, and 2020 4th-round pick Gage Workman. Lakeland began the season in Clearwater, and the teams went back and forth in an evenly matched series. The Flying Tigers won 8-2 on opening night behind a big 4-for-5 performance from Wenceel Perez, but the Thrashers fought back on Wednesday, winning 13-11 on a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning. Clearwater blanked Lakeland 5-0 on Thursday, but the Flygers outscored the Threshers 15-10 over the final three games to earn a series split.
- The Tigers need to develop more starting pitching depth this year, and they may have found someone in Joseph Salazar. The 21-year-old righty doesn’t wow with stuff (FB averaged 91 MPH and touched 94) but he used his changeup to keep hitters off balance all night and finished with an excellent line: 5IP, H, 0ER, BB, 6K.
- Quintana and Perez have seen their prospect stock fall a bit, but they both had very strong first weeks at the plate. Perez led the team with .958 OPS (7-for-20, HR, 2BB) while Quintana went just 4-for-20 but hit a double and a homer, and walked nine times.
- The Lakeland bullpen may be developing some killer Bs, as veteran pitchers Matt Beattie, Austin Bergner, and Michael Bienlien combined to allow just seven hits and three walks while striking out 18 over 12.1 scoreless innings.