Beyond the Boxscore: Detroit Tigers prospects Wilmer Flores and Ty Madden

Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Ty Madden warms up before throwing live batting practice during
Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Ty Madden warms up before throwing live batting practice during / Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Breaking down Detroit Tigers' prospects Ty Madden and Wilmer Flores

Scott Harris signed several minor league free agent starters in an effort to provide depth to the Detroit Tigers bullpen and to the system. Heading into the 2022 offseason, I thought Detroit had enough depth arms ready to roll at Toledo, but upon a deeper look, it's makes sense to have the cliché “you can never have too many arms” handy to say.

With all the injuries to the staff last season, Detroit had to stock up in an effort to have a few more arms on call. The Tigers have seen injuries already to Beau Brieske and Reese Olson. While Olson is back and pitching in Toledo, he has struggled early on with command.

Which leads us to Erie, where reside two of the top Tigers pitching prospects reside in Wilmer Flores and Ty Madden. Flores, number three on Baseball America's Top 30 preseason Detroit Tigers list and Madden, right next to him at number four, have made three starts each so far for the SeaWolves. On our Tigers Minor League Report Top 25, we had Flores at three and Madden at six.

During the offseason, Flores was working on a third pitch to add to his fastball, a cutter/short slider and another type of slider. When I had the chance to talk to him at spring training, he was trying to increase his stamina and make his changeup an effective pitch. He pitched in 103.1 innings last season between West Michigan and Erie, and showed no signs of fatigue late in August and September as Erie made their run towards the post-season. He was able to hold velocity.

Wilmer Flores in 2023: What we see

We were able to get out live to see his Erie Opening Day start against Altoona. The first thing that is noticeable is his command was off. The few times he was trying to throw his changeup, the pitch hung up in the zone, showing no type of fade to the pitch

The fastball sat 91-94 with the slider 85-87 and the few changeups he threw on Opening Day were sitting 81-83. His release point on his fastball at times has not been consistent as it is traveling higher in the strike zone. He was able to spot the corners, but Altoona was able to adjust, poking a few hits through the infield. Overall, Flores was just trying to overpower hitters with his fastball to get out of early jams. The good news is the fastball has not been hit for hard contact.

Another issue in his last two games has been the defense behind him. Mario Feliciano in left has been an experience, as he never played the outfield before. Overall, Flores is off to a rough start but getting his mechanics and timing to be consistent again will help him, going forward. I rather Flores continue to try to throw the changeup as a third pitch in order to be effective, versus being a two pitch pitcher. It doesn't happen overnight, but we continue to track his progress.

Ty Madden makes a change

Before the start to the 2022 season, the Tigers made a change to Ty Madden's windup, which caused him to have more balance on the mound.

In 2023, Madden made another change as he changed his leg kick. His first start of the season is still the best by any Tigers minor leaguer. Four scoreless innings, striking out 10. 60 pitches, 40 for strikes. He struck out eight out of the first nine he faced.

His second start against Altoona did not go smoothly. After a quick first inning, he labored in the second and as a result, was pulled as he threw over 30 pitches in the inning. The Tigers have a rule with their arms, in which any pitcher who throws over 30 pitches gets the hook. This is an effort to prevent arm injuries. In last night's start, he was much better, throwing four innings, allowing just four hits, two unearned runs on some bad defense behind him and struck out five. He was able to generate seven swings and misses.

The swings and misses is the big difference so far this season. He has been attacking the hitters more, challenging them inside. Last season, I thought he tried too hard to nibble on the corners but so far, he has been able to trust his stuff and attacking the zone. He has hit 97-99 in his first start down in Akron with his fastball, which is a good sign. This was a pitch he was looking to improve on coming out of the University of Texas.

Thanks to the tweaks the Tigers development staff have made, it has made Madden a pitcher to watch out climb the various prospects lists this season. If he can continue to pitch this effectively in Erie, he could see a promotion by mid-summer to Toledo.

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