Around the Tigers’ farm: Are these prospects poised to move up minor-league ladder?

Detroit News

As with all MLB teams, the Tigers tend to be gentle when moving players up the chain. You can over-promote and under-develop if you’re not careful with timing.

But at four levels there are players pushing for promotions, which at the top rungs include a ticket to Detroit. Among those likely to follow Double-A Erie dazzler Wilmer Flores and others who already have been bumped up:

Triple-A Toledo

Because of attrition, relief pitchers generally are the Most Likely Guys to guys to succeed, and the Tigers have a pair of easy options:

Garrett Hill, RH starter: 2.25 ERA, 0.91 WHIP in seven starts in Erie. He is an example of how quickly, even in May, a player can get new stripes. Hill’s started only once since moving alone the Ohio Turnpike to Toledo, and here’s why he was shipped to Triple A: 32 innings at Erie, 19 hits, 10 walks, 52 strikeouts. He easily could be Detroit-bound at some point in the coming weeks/months.

Derek Law, right-hander: He’s 31 and has 176 games of big-league experience (Giants, Jays, Twins). The Tigers signed him as a minor-league free agent and have watched this spring as Law has been Law-and-order for Toledo skipper Lloyd McClendon: 14 games, 18 innings, 20 strikeouts, five walks, 0.50 ERA, 1.06 WHIP.

Ricardo Pinto, RH: Another minor-league signee who has big-league stripes (2017, Phillies; 2019, Rays). He’s been with the Tigers since last season, which followed a year pitching in Korea. Pinto has been another trusty option for the Mud Hens: 11 games, 21.2 innings, 18 hits, 25 strikeouts, seven walks, 1.66 ERA, 1.15 WHIP.

Luis Castillo, RH: Yes, indeed, Ye Olde Minor League Free Agent Market has been paying off for a team from Detroit. Castillo, who worked earlier in the Diamondbacks’ farmlands, is 27, and, after beginning the spring at Erie, has been another loyalist for McClendon: 13 games, 14.2 innings, 10 hits, four walks, 13 strikeouts, .192 opposing batting average.

Kody Clemens, 2B/3B/1B/OF: Clemens is the position candidate for work at Comerica Park. He’s blocked, basically, by the Castros — Willi and Harold — but should AJ Hinch need a general plug-in player, who sports a left-handed bat with pop, Clemens is the easy pick. He’s played in 45 games, has eight home runs and an .843 OPS, as well as a .283 batting average.

Double-A Erie

It’s pitching, primarily, at Erie.

Reese Olson, RH starter: He’s headed either to Toledo, or in a pinch, to Detroit as his steady 2022 spring evolves. Olson came to the Tigers last July as the Brewers’ payment for Daniel Norris. He has blossomed in 2022: Nine games (eight starts): 0.92 WHIP, thanks to 40 innings, only 28 hits, nine walks, and 62 strikeouts. Again: It could be Detroit rather than Erie for Olson’s next move.

Austin Bergner, RH starter: The Tigers snagged him three years ago, in the ninth round, after he had pitched impressively at the University of North Carolina. Bergner just turned 25 and has been behind Erie manager Gabe Alvarez’s more comfortable moments in 2022, thanks to a SeaWolves rotation that offers this from Bergner: eight starts, 2.39 ERA, 0.93 WHiP, 37.2 innings, a mere 19 hits, with 35 strikeouts and a few too many walks (16).

Brendan White, RH reliever: He was one of those late-round picks (26th, 2019, Siena) who has found a home with the Tigers, just as a 27th-rounder named Beau Brieske, also from 2019, blossomed. White has a 1.71 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, courtesy of these crunches: 13 games, 21 innings, 13 hits, five walks, 28 punch-outs.

Single-A West Michigan

Colt Keith, 3B/2B: Ah, the numbers are there: .295, five homers, .860 OPS. But don’t expect any sudden move to Erie. Not soon. And that’s all because Keith is but two years out of high school. There is plenty to learn at high-A for a 20-year-old the Tigers will burnish slowly.

Wenceel Perez, SS: You can make a safer case for Perez, who is 22, and who has just about outgrown his time in A ball. Perez, a switch-hitter, is batting .274, with an .874 OPS, courtesy of 21 extra-base hits (including three homers) in 41 games. He also carries a .345 on-base percentage. He could be seeing Lake Erie’s shores, quickly.

Ty Madden, RH starter: Yes on Madden, who was last year’s second-overall Tigers pick. Madden’s time as University of Texas ace suggested his stint at high-A might be limited. He has back-to-back starts allowing only three hits in each game. Madden’s mission at Comstock Park is dwindling.

More: Lakeland’s 2022 cast has true teen talent for Tigers to shape

Single-A Lakeland

It’s pitching, almost exclusively, at the Tigers’ low-A stop, where various college pitchers taken a year ago are closing in on a plane ticket to Grand Rapids and to the West Michigan clubhouse.

Brant Hurter, LH starter: He turns 24 in September and is a bit long-in-the-tooth for low-A, which the Tigers probably soon will concede a year after he was a ninth-round prize out of Georgia Tech. No surprise, his numbers glisten: 2.01 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 31.1 innings, 23 hits, four walks, 45 punch-outs. West Michigan — or even Erie — here Hurter comes.

Garrett Burhenn, RH starter: Same deal with Burhenn, who a year ago was finishing his time at Ohio State. Burhenn turns 23 in September and is over-matching low-A batters: 2.94 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 26 hits, seven walks, 45 whiffs.

Aaron Haase, RH reliever: He turned 22 last week, came to the Tigers last July by way of Wichita State and a 17th-round draft turn, and has not a lot to prove at Lakeland. Haase is all of 5-foot-8, but tell that to hitters who have struck out 27 times in 17 innings. Haase has walked five and allowed 10 hits, which are two reasons why his ERA is 1.59 and his WHIP 0.88.

Hitters headed for West Michigan?

We shall see. But unless roster needs dictate a quick move, or Izaac Pacheco shows he has little more to gain on Florida’s low-A sand lots, it will be arms that will be shipped to Comstock Park.

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

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