Alvarez headlines Tigers’ Minor League hires

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are turning to a familiar face to join the managerial ranks in their farm system. Gabe Alvarez, who played parts of three seasons in Detroit in the late 1990s, was named the new manager at Double-A Erie. Detroit announced his hiring on Thursday as the club also unveiled its Minor League staffs for the 2022 season.

Alvarez replaces Arnie Beyeler, who managed the SeaWolves to a 64-55 record last year in his only season in Erie while working with top position prospects Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene and Ryan Kreidler. The move is the latest change in the Tigers’ system under new vice president of player development Ryan Garko since his arrival last fall.

Alvarez returned to the organization last summer as an instructor following 11 seasons at USC as an assistant coach. The former Trojans All-America shortstop had become the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater, where he assembled one of the top defensive infields in college baseball.

Alvarez’s old college job should give him some familiarity with a few of the top infield prospects in the Tigers’ system from the Pac-12 Conference. Though former Arizona State first baseman Torkelson will likely open next season in Detroit or Triple-A Toledo, and former UCLA shortstop Kreidler is expected to begin the year with the Mud Hens, former Arizona State infielder Gage Workman split last season between Low-A Lakeland and High-A West Michigan.

Alvarez can relate to their paths. His career at USC earned him a second-round selection by the Padres in the 1995 MLB Draft. He joined the Tigers from the D-backs as a prospect in the Travis Fryman-Joe Randa trade following the 1997 season, then made his MLB debut at Tiger Stadium on June 22, 1998. Alvarez played 55 games with Detroit that year, then played parts of two more seasons there before he was traded back to San Diego.

The 47-year-old Alvarez fits into the Tigers’ recent emphasis on developing young coaches and managers, an idea Garko emphasized when the Tigers hired him. While Alvarez has more than a decade of college coaching experience as well as his pro playing career to lean on, he has limited pro coaching work.

Among other notable names among the 2022 staffs, Detroit announced that Brayan Peña will return for his second season as manager at High-A West Michigan after leading the Whitecaps to a 58-62 record in his inaugural campaign. Peña, who caught for the Tigers in 2013, saw his squad post the fourth-best run differential in the Central League and allow the fewest runs in the Eastern Division.

Andrew Graham, who played for the Tigers from 2003-07, will also return as skipper at Low-A Lakeland, a position he’s held since 2017. Max Gordon, who spent five years with the prestigious data-driven baseball player development academy Driveline Baseball in Washington state, has also joined the Tigers’ Minor League ranks as a hitting coordinator. Gordon served as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Michigan in 2020, helping the Wolverines to their third consecutive berth in the NCAA Regional tournament in the past four seasons.

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