Detroit Tigers Minor League First Half Recap: Colt Keith isn't the only one making a name for himself

Tigers pitching prospect Keider Montero throws spring training minor league minicamp on Monday, Feb.
Tigers pitching prospect Keider Montero throws spring training minor league minicamp on Monday, Feb. / Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Scott Harris Leads Overhaul of Tigers' Farm System, Bolstering Pitcher Performance and Implementing Nutritional Improvements

The first half of the Detroit Tigers minor league season was a mix of excitement and growth across the system as the Erie SeaWolves qualified for the playoffs mainly behind the hitting of Colt Keith and a good starting rotation that we will revisit later.

Under the guidance of Scott Harris, the Tigers' farm system has undergone significant transformation, from enhancing nutritional practices to midseason pitch additions by pitchers like Sawyer Gipson-Long. This proactive approach has proven impactful in boosting the performance of budding prospects. Notably, the organization has not shied away from tough decisions, reducing the playing time of, or even releasing, players who fail to meet the mark. This strategic approach signals a new era in the Tigers' developmental philosophy.

Fresh talent has arrived at the Tigers' farm system through the recent draft, led by Max Clark, the impressive 3rd overall pick. Scott Harris and Director of Scouting Mark Connor have highlighted critical player tools such as strike zone control and robust mental makeup. As these new players embark on their professional careers, it will be intriguing to monitor their development under the Tigers' revamped system.

The focus in this year's draft was prep bats, as Rob Metzler and Mark Connor explained in their call after the draft.

But let's move on from the new players in the system and look at the players who stood out the most in the first half of the season.

Colt Keith: A Rising Star in Baseball, Drawing Inspiration from Hall of Famer Alan Trammell and Demonstrating Exceptional Dedication

During a pre-season conversation with Colt Keith, his deep-seated passion for baseball was unmistakable. Drawing guidance from Hall of Famer shortstop Alan Trammell and investing in personal fitness, Keith demonstrated readiness to make a significant impact in the game. His unwavering commitment to the sport signals promising potential in the upcoming season.

He leads all Tigers minor leaguers in hits and home runs, with most of the damage done at Erie. He played a key role in the SeaWolves playoff berth and as soon as they clinched; he got the call to Toledo. One of the biggest moments of the minor league season came from when he hit for the cycle.

He, along with Justyn Henry-Malloy, headed to Seattle for the Futures Game. Speaking of Malloy, he, too, made a lot of noise with his bat, second only to Keith in home runs with 14. With Keith in Toledo, Malloy should continue to see more time in the outfield.

Biggest surprises

In the first half of the season, two players have particularly shone in the Tigers' farm system - Justice Bigbie and right-hander Keider Montero. Bigbie, a 19th round draft pick from 2021, has showcased his power at both High-A West Michigan and Double-A Erie, leading the system in batting average (.350) and wRC+ of 173 among those with a minimum of 100 plate appearances. His compelling performance underscores the depth of talent emerging from the Tigers' revamped player development system.

Right-hander Keider Montero, called up to Double-A Erie in early May, now leads the organization with an impressive 84 strikeouts and a K/9 of 11.75. So, what's behind his success? In a recent conversation, Montero revealed that altering the grip on his changeup was a key factor. Coupled with a curveball that spins around 3,000 times and a well-tuned fastball, this adjustment has significantly improved his pitch mix, enabling him to become one of the season's standout performers.

Other surprises include:

  • Left-hander Jack O'Loughlin, who made the jump from High-A to Triple-A and has been managing the assignment well.
  • Thanks to a cutter, Sawyer Gipson-Long has become a much more effective pitcher in Erie, with 70 strikeouts in 60 innings of work. He was acquired in the Michael Fulmer trade last summer.
  • OF/1B Chris Meyers: It appears Meyers lost some weight and he started off strong at West Michigan as he adjusts to a new position in the outfield.
  • In the complex league, catcher Josue Briceno is off to a good start, slashing .383/.469/.642.

Another name to look out for in the second half of the season is Lael Lockhart. Lockhart, who was signed after being let go by the Dodgers, posting an ERA of 11.40 in Double-A Tulsa, has been a completely different pitcher in Erie. So far, in 23.2 innings of work, he has allowed 18 hits, while striking out 25. If he can keep the walks down, he could be an effective lefty for Detroit.

The second half kicks off tonight, and it should be one with more growth. Could several more prospects make a name for themselves? We will find out.

dark. Next. Tigers Draft Analysis: First-round pick Max Clark. Tigers Draft Analysis: First-round pick Max Clark