The Erie SeaWolves are next up on projecting the starting rotations for the Detroit Tigers minor league system.
As the Detroit Tigers mini-camp resumes tomorrow, as far as arms that are in camp that might shape the 2022 Erie SeaWolves rotation, we have to look back at their 2021 season for a moment.
The SeaWolves finished 64-55 under manager Arnie Beyeler as their offense was one of the more potent ones in the new Double-A Northeast division alignment. They finished second in the league in hits with 981 and also finished second in home runs behind Somerset with 170. There was a regular core of players that stuck around a majority of the season like Riley Greene, Andre Lipcius, Josh Lester, Kerry Carpenter and Ryan Kreidler that powered the SeaWolves bats.
As far as their pitching staff was concerned, four starters made 10 starts or more. A.J. Ladwig (21), Elvin Rodriguez, (18), Jesus Rodriguez (13) and Joey Wentz (13). Paul Richan went on the 7-day IL list after his start on June 22nd and never appeared in another game for the rest of the season.
The IL woes
With the injuries to the Tigers rotation, Toledo got busy with the pitching call-ups to Erie as Ricardo Pinto, Mark Leiter Jr, and Pedro Payano all headed down towards the Ohio Turnpike. But with these call-ups, we saw the debuts of Beau Brieske, Garrett Hill and Reese Olson by necessity, but it proved to be valuable.
Unlike in 2019, where Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and later Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Joey Wentz, were among the top pitching prospects in the organization, the SeaWolves were starting the 2021 season was a mix of organizational pitchers, Elvin Rodriguez (recently added to the 40-man roster) and Paul Richan, who was the only one among MLB’s Pipeline Top 30 Tigers prospects in 2021.
Complete sidebar but worth noting. If you include Gregory Soto, Kyle Funkhouser, Drew Carlton, Bryan Garcia and former Tiger pitchers Anthony Castro and Spenser Watkins, all saw time in the majors in the last two seasons among the pitching prospects in the Tigers’ system.
For the 2022 season, similar to West Michigan, the SeaWolves will have a solid projected rotation in my estimate.
- Garrett Hill
- Reese Olson
- Adam Wolf
- Elvin Rodriguez
- Ricardo Pinto
So this is where several factors for this first projection may change in the coming weeks. For one, the Major League Rule-5 draft has not happened yet and two pitchers in the rotation, Hill and Wolf are both eligible. Both may not be drafted, but Garrett Hill opened some eyes towards the end of the season.
Hill went 3-1 with an ERA of 3.20, striking out 28 in 19.2 innings of work after his call-up to Erie in late August. He continued his impressive fall with strong performance in the Arizona Fall League. There, he posted an ERA of 1.98, striking out 21 in 13.2 innings of work and walked just three batters.
Wolf showed some inconsistences at West Michigan, but the lefty was solid in the months of July and August, posting an ERA of 3.90 and 3.52, respectfully.
Olson only has five starts under his belt for the SeaWolves, so he will continue to get more work. As far as Pinto is concerned, it was a tough call to project him here, but the reason I did is the Tigers may target another pitcher for the rotation, which would have a domino effect on the rest of the pitchers between Toledo and Erie. If Pinto starts the season with Toledo, Chance Kirby may start the season in the rotation.
Elvin Rodriguez had 18 starts in Erie before finishing the season in Toledo and could start the season in Erie and once Alex Faedo and Wilkel Hernandez can throw on a regular again, Rodriguez could be back with the Mud Hens by mid-season.
Of all the projections so far, this one was the toughest. I debated to have Beau Brieske start the season there, but in 44 innings of work in Erie; he seemed to handle the assignment well.
With the offense having the lions’ share of attention last season in Erie, it’s time for the starting rotation to take center stage.