Detroit Tigers: Minor-league Pitching top 10s
Fair or not, modern pitchers tend to be judged on their ability to miss bats. Strikeouts aren’t the only means to success, of course, but they do seem to make things easier on pitchers. So let’s look at Detroit’s leaders in a few strikeout categories.
Detroit Tigers Minor League Pitching Strikeout Leaders
Mark Leiter Jr. struck out 106 batters in his 114 career big-league innings, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise he racked up the Ks in the minors this year. Still, he deserves credit for helping Toledo win their division. He was dominant down the stretch, and his September 10th outing against Iowa (7IP, 4H, 0ER, 0BB, 14K) was one of the better performances in the minors this year.
We also get the first appearance of Austin Bergner, Detroit’s 9th-round pick in 2019. He began the year in the bullpen in Low-A Lakeland, but by the end of the season he was a key part of West Michigan’s rotation. Brendan White also made a successful transition from the bullpen to the rotation, while Arizona Fall League invitee Garrett Hill quietly put together a dominant season.
Detroit Tigers Minor League Pitching K/9 Leaders
As we might expect, the list of the best strikeout-per-nine pitchers in the Detroit Tigers system is heavy with relievers. For those wondering, Gabriel Sequeira and Chris Mauloni both throw a lot of low-90s sinkers. Isrrael De La Cruz is a former infielder who can touch the mid-90s and has a decent curve.
The lone starting pitcher on this list is Wilmer Flores, who is one of the more fascinating pitchers in the system. An undrafted free agent in 2020, Flores quickly moved from the Florida Complex League to Low-A this year, and after a bumpy introduction he became one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. He allowed just one run on eight hits and six walks over his final three starts of the season, striking out 22 in 16.2 innings. The Tigers sent him to the AFL, where he’s one of the youngest players in the league ($).
Wins, saves, and strikeouts are all fun, but pitching is ultimately about preventing runs. So let’s finish with a couple of stats to see who did the best job keeping their opponents off the board.
Detroit Tigers Minor League ERA Leaders
We have an interesting mix of starters and relievers here, and a couple of names that haven’t shown up on previous lists. Australian lefty Jack O’Loughlin has a fringy fastball and some interesting secondary offerings, but his strikeout rate plummeted from 26.5% to 10.3% when he moved up to High-A.
Rayner Castillo was one of Detroit’s big signings in the 2020 international class, and he definitely lived up to expectations in his first taste of pro ball. Castillo just turned 17 at the end of June, so he’s likely to be one of the youngest players in his league in 2022, whether he sticks in the Florida Complex League or gets an aggressive assignment to Low-A.
Detroit Tigers Minor League FIP Leaders
We’ll finish with Detroit’s FIP leaders. For those unfamiliar, FIP is an ERA estimator designed to tell us how a pitcher should have performed if we remove defense, luck, and timing from the equation. This can be particularly useful for minor-league pitchers, as lower-quality defense can have an outsized impact on a pitcher’s ERA.
The Detroit Tigers don’t have a farm system flush with pitching right now, which is probably why they made arms such a priority in the draft this year. But Beau Brieske, Rayner Castillo, Wilmer Flores, Garrett Hill, and Reese Olson all deserve some attention in 2022 and beyond, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see at least one of them develop into a quality MLB pitcher.