Detroit Tigers prospects: Updates on Dillon Dingler, Colt Keith, Cristian Santana, Jackson Jobe

Detroit Free Press

Entering this season, the Detroit Tigers wanted to see if catcher Dillon Dingler could adjust to Double-A Erie.

The 23-year-old was drafted by the Tigers in the second round, No. 38 overall, in 2020 out of Ohio State. He is the third-best prospect in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline, and has been called the catcher of the future.

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“He’s been able to out-physical the game up to this point,” Tigers vice president of player development Ryan Garko said. “The Double-A level is where it does get real. The pitching gets a little bit better. We’re just continuing to try to make adjustments with him to get more consistent quality contact.”

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Dingler hit .287 in High-A West Michigan last season, but he struggled in July after advancing to Erie. He suffered a fractured finger on his left hand and didn’t return until September, finishing with a .202 batting average for the SeaWolves.

Through 52 games for Erie this season entering Thursday, Dingler is hitting .242 with five home runs, 19 walks and 73 strikeouts. His 33.8% strikeout rate, though, is keeping him from a promotion to Triple-A Toledo.

Dingler’s defense behind the plate, Garko said, has matched expectations, but his offense isn’t keeping up at the Double-A level. When the Tigers drafted Dingler, they were enamored by his athleticism and offensive upside.

In 2022, Dingler is striking out too much.

“There’s things that we’re working really hard on with him,” Garko said. “We talk about the swing and miss, the chase, and the pitches that he’s swinging at. He wants to be perfect all the time, and I think some of it is just trying to simplify for him.”

Here’s what Garko said about other prospects (all stats through Wednesday):

Affiliate: Double-A Erie.

Age: 24.

Acquired: 19th round (No. 562 overall), 2019 draft.

The buzz: Among 75 qualified players in the Eastern League, Carpenter leads the way in batting average (.314), home runs (21), RBIs (46), slugging percentage (.672) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.039). He has played 55 games, also posting 13 walks and 61 strikeouts. In 2021, Carpenter hit .262 with 15 homers in 112 games for the SeaWolves. Before this season, Carpenter wasn’t viewed as a legitimate prospect. Now, the Tigers are considering promoting him to Triple-A Toledo.

What Garko said: “It’s well documented now that he made some swing changes. He brought them to spring training and worked with our hitting guys on them. You can certainly change your station in the game of baseball by going out and performing extremely well. That’s what Kerry has done. Power is not as easy to find as it was just three or four years ago with some of the changes in the ball and different things. All the power numbers that teams value, Kerry is dominating those. When I talk to Al (Avila, general manager), he’s one of the guys we talk about. The conversation is getting him to Triple-A and seeing how he does there. He’s put himself in those conversations. At the beginning of the year, while we still valued him, he’s elevated himself. Everybody in baseball knows who he is.”

Affiliate: High-A West Michigan (injured list).

Age: 20.

Acquired: Fifth round (No. 132 overall), 2020 draft.

The buzz: Keith, a left-handed hitter, singled to right field in the first inning June 9 against the Lansing Lugnuts and dived back to first base on a pickoff attempt. On the dive, he injured his right shoulder. Keith doesn’t need surgery, meaning the Tigers avoided the worst-case scenario, but he won’t play again until later this year, either in the minor leagues or in the Arizona Fall League. In the meantime, he will rehab his shoulder in Lakeland, Florida, home of the Tigers’ spring training facility. Before the injury, Keith was leading the Whitecaps by hitting .301 with nine home runs, 22 walks and 42 strikeouts in 48 games. He played 27 games at third base, 13 at second base and eight as the designated hitter.

What Garko said: “It’s definitely tough, just because of the year he’s having. Age-to-league is the number we always talk about. He’s 20 years old. He really was dominating that league as one of the youngest players in the league. It’s a setback. It’s something he’s going to have to work through. The bat, at that age and in that high of a league, is definitely something that we’re really excited about. It’s a real left-handed bat. Where he’ll play in the field, we’ll see. He was getting much, much better at third base, which was also just as exciting to see as the offensive numbers.”

Affiliate: Low-A Lakeland.

Age: 18.

Acquired: January 2021 international signing period.

The buzz: Santana showed up to minor-league minicamp this spring with a heavy dose of confidence, from his massive chain to his flashy shades to his talk of one day being better than Alan Trammell. His performance at the time backed up his personality, and he skyrocketed to No. 5 on the Tigers’ MLB Pipeline prospect list. He agreed to a $2.95 million signing bonus, the franchise record for an international player. This season, Santana is hitting .152 with three home runs, 16 walks and 35 strikeouts in 26 games for the Flying Tigers. He’s also splitting reps at shortstop and second base. The Tigers were debating a quick reset in the Florida Complex League when Santana suffered an oblique injury in May. He missed one month before starting his rehab assignment in early June. He played two FCL games before returning to Low-A.

What Garko said: “Splashes of talent that make you dream about what he’s going to look like when he’s 23, 24, 25 years old, also knowing he’s one of the youngest and least experienced players on that Lakeland club and in that whole league. He came out of the gate, and he’s a very confident young man, and we love that about him. But now he’s realizing other teams have good players too. … But the defense has been great at short and second. He controls the strike zone, too. The one thing we were concerned about: Is he going to strike out too much, is there going to be too much chase? He’s controlling the zone. The hits will come. He’s still one of the most exciting young players we have in the organization.”

Affiliate: Low-A Lakeland.

Age: 19.

Acquired: First round (No. 3 overall), 2021 draft.

The buzz: Nine starts into his career, Jobe is built up to five innings and 80 pitches and on track to pitch once every six days. He reached the inning and pitch caps in his most recent start, throwing five innings of one-run ball on 75 pitches on June 10. He got 10 swing and misses (on two four-seamers, five sliders and two changeups) but only eight called strikes. Jobe has a 3.91 ERA with 13 walks and 29 strikeouts in 25⅓ innings. Teammate Izaac Pacheco, hitting .259 with seven home runs in 55 games, is Jobe’s roommate. They’ve lived together from the beginning of their pro journeys. Jobe seems to be getting comfortable in his six-day routine. His 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings is impressive, but his 4.6 walks per nine must improve. That should happen as he continues to learn how to pitch with his arsenal.

What Garko said: “It’s exactly what we hoped to see with Jackson. All the noise around being such a high pick has slowed down, and now he’s fitting in great with his teammates. … On the pitching side, the slider, I think it’s a major-league pitch right now. The changeup is really good. He’s up to 97 (mph). Everything we hoped he would do, he’s now going out there every six days and doing it.

“We have inning floors for everybody. Once we get to that floor, then we start having conversations about how much farther he can go. We’ll let his body tell us. We definitely have a hard cap on all of them, where they can get to. It’s a little bit harder with a first-year prep player like Jackson. We’re thinking about when he’s 21-22: Can he be the guy to throw 180 to 200 innings? It’s kind of a four-year plan that we have for all our young pitchers.”

Affiliate: Low-A Lakeland.

Age: 19.

Acquired: July 2019 international signing period.

The buzz: One of the biggest surprises this season is Campos, for a few reasons. He is hitting .268 through 55 games in Low-A Lakeland. He isn’t drawing as many walks as last season, but his strikeout rate improved, from 26.5% in the FCL in 2021 to 21.4% in Low-A in 2022. Last year, Campos hit just .228 in 39 games. His strike-zone awareness impresses the organization. On the flip side, Campos isn’t hitting for power with the Flying Tigers. Of his 52 hits his year, only 15 have resulted in extra bases. Three of those were home runs. His isolated power is down, from .213 to .125, as well as his slugging percentage, from .441 to .396. Campos hit 37.6% flyballs in 2021. In 2022, it’s 20.4%. He signed for a $2.85 million bonus.

What Garko said: “He hits the ball really hard. It’s not just about home runs. It’s about getting the ball in the air more, which now we’re getting into mechanics and swing change. The batted ball data is as good as it gets. He’s playing a really good center field. He plays really hard. He’s become one of the leaders on that team, emotionally. Andrew (Graham, manager) and his staff are doing a great job. That team is so young for that league. They’ve had growing pains early on, but scouts going to watch that team talk about how talented that group is. Campos is right in the middle stirring that drink.”

Affiliate: FCL Tigers (rehab assignment).

Age: 24

Acquired: Justin Verlander trade, August 2017.

The buzz: Perez began his rehab assignment June 10 in the FCL, his first minor-league game since 2019. He allowed two runs on one hit and four walks with three strikeouts in 2⅓ innings. Due to injuries, he has thrown just 29⅓ innings since joining the Tigers organization. Perez underwent right shoulder surgery in May 2021 and needs a couple more starts at the rookie level. The goal is to get the former top prospect stretched out to five innings and 80 pitches. Once he gets to four or five innings, the Tigers will consider sending him to Low-A Lakeland. His velocity, Garko said, sits in the low-90s.

What Garko said: “He’s gone through a lot and continues to work really hard. He’s on track to probably start in Lakeland, just to be safe, with the Flying Tigers there and see how he reacts to seeing hitters again and go from there. … But it’s coming back. It’s not just the velocity. It’s the pitch characteristics. They’re getting there. We still think there’s more in the tank, and so does he, so we’ll continue to progress at his body allows us.”

Affiliate: Triple-A Toledo (injured list).

Age: 24.

Acquired: Shane Greene trade, July 2019.

The buzz: Wentz has pitched two games for the Tigers this season. He got rocked in his MLB debut, but three weeks later he fired four scoreless innings of one-hit ball with four strikeouts before departing with a shoulder injury. There isn’t a timetable for his return. Wentz also made seven starts for Triple-A Toledo, with a 4.73 ERA, 12 walks and 34 strikeouts in 26⅔ innings.

What Garko said: “It’s a pinch, almost like a football injury, a stinger in the front of the shoulder. Better news than some of the things it could have been, but he’s progressing nicely down in Lakeland with the rest of the group. He’s coming along. It’s another one that could have been much, much worse. He’ll probably start throwing again and work through his progression again.”

Affiliate: FCL Tigers (injured list).

Age: 23.

Acquired: Fifth round (No. 135 overall), 2021 draft.

The buzz: Kohlhepp started the season on the injured list with a forearm injury, which led to Tommy John surgery. He is six to eight weeks into a recovery process that typically takes 12 to 18 months. His unorthodox mechanics, including his arm slot, resemble the way a shortstop throws to first base.

What Garko said: “He’s attacking rehab as best he can and is excited to get back. But it’s going to be next summer the next time we see him on the mound.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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