Around the Tigers’ farm: Ryan Kreidler off to scorching start for Triple-A Toledo

Detroit News

Not bad, Ryan Kreidler. The Tigers promote you to Triple A following a three-month stretch at Double-A Erie and you act, in your first six games at Toledo, as if you’re attacking Single-A pitching:

Six games, 20 at-bats, 11 hits, two doubles, .550 batting average, three walks as part of 23 plate-appearances, good for a .650 on-base percentage, .609 slugging average, and 1.559 OPS.

And, take another bow for but two strikeouts in those six Toledo games.

Uh, this won’t continue, not at those celestial levels as Kreidler and all of baseball knows. But neither is it a sign the Tigers were overly aggressive in sending Kreidler last week to Toledo, along with Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, and Brady Policelli, all of whom had torn it up at Erie.

What makes Kreidler’s season and steady ascent more noteworthy is the position he plays: shortstop. The Tigers are looking for a few good men (or, OK, one guy) at the infield’s wheelhouse position.

The Tigers aren’t necessarily surprised by this.

Kreidler, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder who was a fourth-round pick from UCLA in 2019, was deliberately ordered to Double A at the season’s outset for a reason: The Tigers liked his potential. The move was bold, but tactical, even after he had only a half-season of low-Single-A ball at Connecticut in 2019.

There is, first of all, with Kreidler a brand of defense the Tigers believe will play more than fine in Detroit. So, it becomes a matter of his bat. Kreidler batted .256 in 88 games at Erie, with a .754 OPS — and 15 home runs.

Project those homer numbers over 162 games, and well, while the pitching is indeed tougher at MLB parks, one can see why the Tigers are thinking Kreidler might — just might — be a regular very soon in Detroit.

Jake Boes, a Monroe-based scout who formerly wrote for ProspectsLive.com, and who now writes steadily for MotorCityBengals.com, caught Kreidler during his Toledo baptism. He also had taken notes on Kreidler this spring at the Toledo alternate developmental site that preceded Erie’s season start in May

Boes’ observations:

“I was concerned more about his range after getting a first look at the alternate site,” Boes said Sunday. “But then I saw him in a couple of games at Erie, and he was sure-handed, and then Friday he made a nice diving play to his left. He’s been impressive — and that arm, he can sling it, for sure.

“There’s power, and it’s legitimate. He’s had some swing-and-miss issues. But he’s taking his walks, too, so it’s not like if he’s getting down in the count he’s laying down. He’s battling and taking his walks, too.”

Kreidler was having hassles earlier in the season, particularly, with the high fastball. But a player, only 23, is making gains there.

“It’s a fixable issue,” Boes said. “Look at Castellanos (Nick, former Tigers prodigy now thriving with the Reds) when he first came up. Sliders down and away — and he fixed it.

“The thing, too, with Kreidler is his power is not dead-pull power. He’s going to all fields.”

He’ll also be going to the Arizona Fall League this autumn, probably alongside Torkelson and Greene, as the Tigers continue to groom three potential starters — and perhaps an answer to their long and lamented hole at shortstop.

Packard’s tough season

He has not played in a game since July 18 when a back injury knocked Bryant Packard from West Michigan’s lineup.

He is near a rehab stint with the Florida Complex League Tigers, who work on the back lots at TigerTown in Lakeland, Florida. And if he makes it back to West Michigan, he’ll say thanks.

Because this wasn’t a pleasant diagnosis Packard received this month: spondylosis, a common wear-and-tear on spinal discs that medical journals confirm is a condition that worsens with age.

Packard, 23, is a left-handed hitter and outfielder who in 2019 was a fifth-round pick from East Carolina.

He had a nice 23-game stay at West Michigan in 2019 when he batted .309, with three homers and an .898 OPS.

Even after last year was lost to COVID’s farm-season cancellation, it was expected Packard would pretty much pick up in 2021 where he exited in 2019.

But that hasn’t been the case.

Packard was batting .222 with a .678 OPS in 54 games. The rugged spring and summer follow a devastating offseason during which Packard lost his mother, Cherry, to cancer.

The Tigers, and Packard, are pushing to make his FCL warm-up the start of an eventual return to West Michigan, and to a brand of offense that had made him a top 10 Tigers prospect heading into 2021.

Dingler healing, preparing

A broken finger on his left hand put Dillon Dingler on the shelf Aug. 5, with expectations he might be back in two weeks.

No go.

Dingler is progressing, but it will be no earlier than Sept. 1 that he is expected to reunite with Double-A Erie for games of any kind.

He is a right-handed hitting catcher who was alongside Torkelson, Greene — and, as matters developed, Kreidler — in offering the Tigers hope for major lineup reconstruction as early as next season in Detroit.

Dingler, 22, was shipped along with Torkelson to Erie from West Michigan in June after showing he had no further business at Single A (.287 in 32 games, eight homers, .925 OPS). Life hadn’t been as pleasant at Double A, where in 36 games he is batting .201 with a .597 OPS.

He was the Tigers’ second draft pick (38 overall) after finishing his junior season at Ohio State.

FCL ‘kids’ sweating, evolving

That spanking-new creation, the Florida Complex League, which formerly was known as the Gulf Coast League, is where the Tigers’ youngest, domestic talents and hatchlings are stationed.

A few standouts to date:

Manuel Sequera, shortstop: He is 18 years old, a right-handed batter, and has seven home runs in 29 games for the Tigers East team. He was signed out of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, and has had one of those could-be-something tags on him. Sequera is 6-foot, 170 pounds.

He isn’t hitting for average (.239), and doesn’t have exciting walks-to-strikeouts ratios (9/37). But at 18, the Tigers like what they’re seeing very, very early.

Jose De La Cruz, outfield: He, of course, is 19, and he, of course, is one of the Tigers’ supposed bright-light, power-laden prospects for whom the Tigers paid a princely sum ($1.8 million).

De La Cruz spent most of the season’s first half striking out at Single-A Lakeland, but given his age and the level at which he was exposed, the Tigers weren’t overly concerned.

He has since returned to the FCL fields and is thriving: .319 in 37 games, .397 on-base, .504 slugging, for a .901 OPS. He has four homers for Tigers East.

De La Cruz bats right-handed and has a physique heavy on muscle that makes up the brunt of his 6-foot, 201-pound frame.

Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and former Detroit News sports reporter.

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