LAKELAND, Fla. — Six of MLB Pipeline’s top 10 Tigers prospects will be part of Major League camp as non-roster invites. The Tigers announced 17 invites on Saturday just ahead of reporting day on Sunday.
Another Tigers signing, reliever Miguel Diaz, will receive a non-roster invite once his Minor League contract becomes official. The Tigers agreed to terms with the former Padres reliever on Saturday, according to a source with knowledge of the agreement. The club has not confirmed.
For first baseman Spencer Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene, the invites are the route they’ll take to compete for spots on Detroit’s Opening Day roster. The Tigers’ top two prospects are expected to not only make their Major League debuts this year but find spots in Detroit’s everyday lineup. Whether that happens on Opening Day April 7 at Comerica Park or following some final seasoning at Triple-A Toledo will depend in part on their Spring Training performance.
Infielder Ryan Kreidler also has a chance to put himself in position for his MLB debut, though the offseason addition of shortstop Javier Báez makes Kreidler more likely to be an in-season callup.
Torkelson, Greene and Kreidler, like the rest of the announced non-roster invites, all have the benefit of having spent the past few weeks in Minor League minicamp. They’ve seen live pitching and played in a handful of scrimmages, including a Minor League game against the Phillies in Clearwater last Tuesday.
At the other end of the experience level, right-handers Ty Madden and Dylan Smith received non-roster invites after being drafted last summer. The Tigers have invited recent picks who were college pitchers to big league camp in recent years for the purpose of letting them watch and talk with Major League pitchers and learn the importance of establishing a between-start routine. Alex Faedo and Casey Mize had the same benefit in their first full pro seasons.
Jackson Jobe, the Tigers’ top pick in last year’s Draft, did not receive an invite. Unlike Madden and Smith, Jobe was drafted out of high school and will likely take a longer path up the farm system.
Catcher — Dillon Dingler (4)
Infielders — Spencer Torkelson (1), Ryan Kreidler (10), Josh Lester, Jack Lopez
Outfielders — Riley Greene (2), Jacob Robson (28)
Pitchers — Ty Madden (5), Dylan Smith (7), Beau Brieske (27), Jacob Barnes, Drew Carlton, Garrett Hill, Ricardo Pinto, Nivaldo Rodriguez, Logan Shore, Will Vest
Add in left-hander Joey Wentz (13), right-hander Alex Faedo (15), infielder Kody Clemens (18) and reliever Jason Foley (23), and 10 of the Tigers’ top 30 prospects will be part of Major League camp.
As for Diaz, the 27-year-old right-hander joins the competition for a bullpen spot after spending parts of four big league seasons with the Padres. He posted a 3-1 record with a 3.64 ERA in 25 appearances last year, allowing 31 hits over 42 innings with 19 walks and 46 strikeouts.
Diaz was stingy last year against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .172 average (11-for-64) with 11 walks and 17 strikeouts. In that sense, he fits manager A.J. Hinch’s inclination to look past simple lefty-righty balance in his bullpen and keep an open mind toward pitchers who can get opposite-sided hitters out.
Diaz’s lefty success came in no small part from a low-spin changeup, which he threw for more than half his pitches. Opponents hit just .190 against it with a 23.6 percent whiff rate, according to Statcast. His fastball averaged 94.4 mph and allowed a .224 batting average but with a 94.2 mph exit velocity.