Gage Workman hits for the cycle, while Riley Greene stays hot for Erie

Bless You Boys

Toledo Mud Hens (7-10)

Matt Manning has had a home run ridden start to his 2021 season. Through four starts, he’s already allowed nine long balls, and while many of them were somewhat cheap, there have been plenty of hard contact and deep fly balls as well. Manning is still striking out more than a batter per inning with a nice walk rate, but he really hasn’t had much consistent command of either his curveball or particularly his changeup, putting too much pressure on the fastball.

He posted a strong outing on Saturday, allowing a solo shot on a curveball and a second run in the second inning before settling in to pitch into the seventh. Manning obviously didn’t pitch much in 2020 and ended his season with a forearm strain, so he’s still working up to full power again. His easy arm action and developed fastball command continue to argue for a long major league career in a starting role, but it’s about time to start seeing progress with his secondary stuff again.

The real frustration is the ongoing inability to develop a hard breaking ball. Manning has already ditched the harder curveball he was trying in spring training, and while the standard 12-6 curveball remains a plus pitch, it just appears telegraphed and doesn’t pair so well with his fastball. Manning will steal strikes with it, but rarely draws whiffs. He’s had such a smooth path to this point that we’re frankly happy to see him challenged and forced to start developing his secondary weapons, and the tale will be told by how he responds over the course of the season.

Derek Holland’s rehab outing on Saturday did not go well at all. He allowed three runs, including two home runs to the Columbus Clippers in his inning of work.

Relief options Jason Foley and Drew Carlton are both throwing reasonably well, but still look to need some more tuning before potentially providing any assistance to the Tigers.

CF extraordinaire Derek Hill had two hits in each of his last three games. he holds an .882 OPS thus far. Isaac Paredes hit his first homer of the year on Sunday and had a two-hit game, but still holds just a .697 OPS. Infielder Zack Short has posted a huge walk rate so far and played excellent defense and carries an .807 OPS so far.

Coming Up Next: After the six-game home series against the Columbus Clippers, the Hens are off Monday as they travel to Kentucky for a six-game set against the Louisville Bats this week.

Erie SeaWolves (12-4)

In terms of prospects, there isn’t a lot to watch where the Erie SeaWolves are concerned. The roster has a few potential relief arms, but is largely stacked with older veteran minor leaguers who have already hit their high water mark. However, the two key names had strong weekends.

Riley Greene has really caught fire and was fantastic in our looks this weekend. He appears unphased and unfooled by anything, spitting on tough breaking balls and changeups down, and has even climbed the ladder and drilled a high fastball here or there. Generally, he’s just mashed with authority and had zero trouble recognizing pitches and adjusting his approach from pitcher to pitcher.

Greene doubled and walked in Erie’s win over Binghamton on Friday. On Saturday, he homered, his fourth of the young season, in a loss to the Rumble Ponies. That was after hitting two homers on Thursday. Greene went 1-for-3 on Sunday, as the SeaWolves won again.

Shortstop Ryan Kreidler had a rather aggressive assignment to Double-A this year, as the Tigers have numerous shortstops at the A-ball levels. As a result, Kreidler has scuffled a lot so far, but he deserves time to acclimate himself this year. He had a big game in Sunday’s victory, colleting four singles.

As for RHP Elvin Rodriguez, he was finally scored against on Sunday. The 23-year-old was a recent subject of our own Trevor Hooth’s video study. Through three starts he was absolutely dominant, but on Sunday he finally was hit to a degree, as the Rumble Ponies scored three runs on six hits in Rodriguez’s five innings of work. He still holds a 1.40 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, with 23 strikeouts in 19 13 innings of work.

Coming Up Next: The SeaWolves head to Altoona for a six-game road set with the Curve starting Tuesday night.

West Michigan Whitecaps (8-9)

The Whitecaps and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were rained out on Friday, so they played two on Saturday, with the Rattlers winning both. The ‘Caps did bounced back to win 4-0 on Sunday, taking the six-game set 4-2.

Spencer Torkelson went 4-for-9 over those three games, and as his bat has heated up, so too has the power started to flex. Here, at long last, is his first professional home run. Unfortunately, Torkelson left Sunday’s game with a strained left hamstring. Sounds precautionary, and we approve of these precautions…

3B Andre Lipcius went 3-for-12 over the weekend, but did hit his third home run on Saturday. He holds an .831 OPS to date.

After his hot start, catcher Dillon Dingler—2nd round pick in the 2020 draft—has seen pitchers trying to keep him from extending his arms. He went 2-for-7 over the weekend. After launching several balls the opposite way, the game at the moment is to turn on a few and make pitchers pay for trying to jam him. Defensively, Dingler continues to look excellent considering his relative newness to the position.

The big surprise in the early going is the resurgence, or perhaps the surgence is more accurate, of Rey Rivera. The big fella was the Tigers surprise 2017 second round pick as they schemed to land prep catcher Sam McMillan further down the draft board. And until this season, he’d done nothing to make one think he had a major league future ahead of him. A Double-A future even seemed unlikely based on looks in 2018-2019. However, he went 4-for-8 this weekend, homering on Saturday and then collecting a double and another home run—his fourth—in the winning effort on Sunday. We’re a long way from real intrigue here, but a .922 OPS to start is pretty interesting.

Daniel Cabrera, the Tigers 2020 selection with their Comp Round B pick, is off to a bit of a slow start, but he hit his second home run over the weekend. Parker Meadows is still not doing much of anything but has put together more competitive AB’s over the past week.

RHP Keider Montero has shown good stuff so far, but his fastball command in particular has been really sketchy. He was lit up for six runs in a loss on Saturday.

Coming Up Next: The ‘Caps welcome the Lake County Captains this week on the Monday off, followed by a six-game series, schedule they’ll follow this season.

Lakeland Flying Tigers (9-9)

The Flying Tigers took their series in Bradenton four games to two against the Marauders. They did so with an outrageous 20 run outburst over the final four innings on Sunday, including a 12-run ninth inning. In the process, infielder Gage Workman—Tigers fourth round pick in 2020—hit for the cycle in an outstanding performance. Workman is off to a nice start, posting a .922 OPS with a pair of home runs thus far.

Infielder Wenceel Perez and corner outfielder Eric de la Rosa hold a .826 and .886 OPS, respectively so far, while catcher Cooper Johnson has shown well behind the plate and has an .815 OPS in the early going. He is 23 years old, however, and has a strikeout rate over 30 percent to date.

Outfielder Jose de la Cruz hasn’t done much of anything at the plate in his first look at full season A-ball. Still just recently turned 19, he has plenty of time to get it going, but it’s certainly been a rocky start. However, we did get a good look at his cannon on Saturday.

Coming Up Next: The Flygers welcome in the Fort Myers Miracle for a six-game set starting on Tuesday.

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