What Tigers’ Minors moves mean for future

Detroit Tigers

Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene looked to be on a path to finish out the summer at Double-A Erie, head to big league camp with the Tigers next Spring Training, compete for a roster spot, then maybe open the season at Triple-A Toledo if they didn’t make the Opening Day club.

Then, with a flurry of moves around the Tigers system Sunday night, the plan changed.

Now, Torkelson and Greene, along with shortstop prospect Ryan Kreidler, are on track to get seven weeks of Triple-A competition before the season ends. They’ll head to Tigertown next spring with extensive experience at the two highest levels of Minor League ball, a pretty decent Minor League resume for players who had barely any professional experience before this year.

Tigers fans, meanwhile, have a chance to catch the future in Toledo with barely an hour-long drive from Detroit. The Mud Hens are home at Fifth Third Field for the next two weeks. And when Matthew Boyd makes a rehab start there later this week with Torkelson and Kreidler likely in the infield and Greene in the outfield, it won’t be difficult to envision them together at Comerica Park at some point next year.

Here’s a full rundown of Sunday’s moves, with prospect rankings courtesy of MLB Pipeline:

To Double-A Erie: RHP Reese Olson (Tigers No. 11), IF Cole Peterson, OF Dylan Rosa, IF Andrew Navigato, C Cole McLaren

To High-A West Michigan: LHP Jack O’Loughlin, IF Jake Holton, OF Austin Murr

That’s a lot to digest, especially this late in the Minor League season. But here are five takeaways from the moves:

Triple-A still means something

Some organizations value Triple-A ball differently than others in terms of player development. For some top prospects, it’s a brief stop to get ready for the big leagues. Some prospects bypass Triple-A altogether. The Tigers have traditionally seen it as an important step. Nick Castellanos essentially played a full season in Toledo in 2013 before getting the call to Detroit. That said, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal both bypassed Triple-A, largely because of last year’s lost Minor League season.

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, a former farm director, summed up the value of Triple-A well when talking about potential promotions on Sunday morning, before the moves were announced.

“The next level will teach them something that they’ve never experienced before,” Hinch said. “Maybe it’s more offspeed pitches in Triple-A, or you start having game planning, or the lefties are a little bit better. Now you’re facing guys with Major League service time. That’s going to be new for them.”

Two extra weeks on Triple-A schedule

This wrinkle went relatively overlooked when it was announced last month. The Minor League season was set to end on Sept. 19, but Triple-A schedules have been extended by two weeks in what is being called the Final Stretch. The Mud Hens will be in Louisville, Ky., from Sept. 22-26, then host St. Paul from Sept. 29-Oct. 3.

The extended Triple-A season now ends on the same weekend as the Major League schedule. With September callups limited by 28-man rosters, the extended season is a boon for clubs looking to get prospects more actual games down the stretch. Assuming Greene, Torkelson and Kreidler finish out the season in Toledo, they’ll get seven weeks of Triple-A experience. It could result in a solid split at three levels for Torkelson, who spent six weeks at West Michigan and nine weeks at Erie.

Reese Olson looks better than a footnote prospect

When the Tigers acquired Olson from the Brewers for Daniel Norris at the Trade Deadline, general manager Al Avila forecast that Olson would be promoted to Double-A soon. After all, he had spent all season in the High-A Central at Wisconsin. Still, nobody was expecting his brief West Michigan stop to go like this: 11 scoreless innings, six hits, two walks, 14 strikeouts. Add in his final start in the Brewers system, and he has thrown 16 consecutive scoreless innings on seven hits with 18 strikeouts, and he has held opponents to two runs or less in six of his last seven starts. Double-A will be a good test for the 22-year-old.

Austin Murr is moving quickly

Murr was part of North Carolina State’s wild run in the College World Series just over seven weeks ago. Now the Tigers’ sixth-round Draft pick is headed to West Michigan after just 13 games at Low-A Lakeland, where he batted .262 with no home runs and an .825 OPS but posted a 17-to-9 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 61 plate appearances. He’s not the first NC State product to make that jump; Brock Deatherage did it as a 10th-round pick in 2018. Still, it’s impressive.

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