Around the Tigers’ farm: Things are looking up for Erie’s Andre Lipcius

Detroit News

Not one to make dramatic splashes, not one for box-score pyrotechnics, is Andre Lipcius.

He shows up for a Double-A game, at either UPMC Park or at another port within the Eastern League, and plays baseball. Good baseball.

Third base. Second base. First base. All that Erie manager Gabe Alvarez must do is decide where a right-handed hitter, a month after turning 24, best fits.

This month has been a dream — for a skipper and for a third-round pick (2019) from the University of Tennessee who arrived for Sunday’s game with some heavy June data: 18 games, .351 batting average, three homers, .487 on-base percentage, 1.031 OPS.

It might be that this man has been treated too casually by those sifting through the Tigers’ bushes looking for more drama than dependency, the latter of which can bring you to the big leagues.

“I do think he has a chance of possibly hitting his way to the big leagues because of the things he does right,” Alvarez said during a weekend phone conversation, citing data the Tigers had forwarded.

“Out of the entire organization, he has had the best swing-decision scores as far as not chasing out of the strike zone.

“He has a very mature approach. He’s heating up, and I see a very strong second half from him. The fact he can play multiple positions helps, and while I haven’t seen him play in the outfield, I’m sure if I threw him in left field, he’d be fine.”

Alvarez wasn’t through. An invitation for him to talk about Lipcius is like asking a senior to speak about his/her grandkids.

“Probably his best quality is that he is, without question, the leader on this team,” Alvarez said. “People kind of gravitate to him. He’s the one who makes us go. If you talk to anyone on the team, they’d say, ‘Lip is the leader.’

“Maturity, definitely. Baseball IQ? He knows not just where he has to be on the field, but where others must be.

“He’s going to be a heck of a coach someday, because he’s extremely intelligent. He always seems to be faster than the game. He’s an extremely bright kid.”

So, what’s the hang-up for a man who, in three minor-league seasons (245 games) has a .258 average and .351 on-base percentage, which is part of an overall .750 OPS?

That’s it: power. You need it to play infield in the big leagues. Lipcius has only seven homers in 62 games. That’s part of a .450 slugging percentage, which isn’t what big-league clubs always are looking for, even if Lipcius this season is batting .273, with a .417 on-base percentage (47 walks in those 62 games).

Lipcius is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and probably needs to go on one of those muscle-mass missions that propelled famous Tigers handyman Don Kelly into a useful role a decade ago.

That might or might not happen. That might or might not need to happen. Those words from Alvarez matter, the testament to Lipcius, a manager’s tribute to “the things he does right.”

Erie’s bullpen bruiser

You want a fun, light-hearted evening or afternoon of entertainment and pleasure?

Don’t bat against Brendan White.

Heading into Sunday’s game against Bowie, Erie’s most persistently punishing reliever had welcomed 124 batters in 2022. They were hitting .179 against him, which would also explain why White’s ERA was 2.03 and his WHIP was 0.93.

He had allowed 20 hits in 39 innings, struck out 37, and walked nine. Tough stuff from a 23-year-old, right-handed artist who is 5-11, 185 pounds, and who was no more than a 26th-round pick in 2019 from Siena College.

“He’s got real stuff,” Alvarez said. “It’s a fastball (mid-90s, up to 96) that gets in on guys, and he’s got a slider he can throw either for a strike or throw off the plate to get swings and misses.

“To me, looking at it from a hitter’s standpoint,” said Alvarez, who once played for the Tigers, “it’s a very uncomfortable at-bat. There’s a little funk in his delivery. The ball comes out of a different slot, so it’s hard to time up. He’s driving down, with a little lower release point, so the ball just jumps out of his hand. Guys don’t take good swings off him.”

The path to getting White? He doesn’t have a triple-digit heater.

“The only times he gives up hits are when guys are cheating dead-red on his fastball and time it,” Alvarez said. “But he’s got big-time spin on the slider — probably the highest on the team.

“The thing with him is, you want a guy at the end of the game who is pretty sure of himself, and that’s Whitey. He doesn’t back down from anyone. He knows he’s good.”

Returns happily accepted

Demotions aren’t easy. Especially following promotions.

Just ask outfielder Daniel Cabrera, the Tigers’ third-round pick in 2020, and an outfielder who in May was shipped from Single-A West Michigan to Double-A Erie.

He proceeded to bat .182 in 37 games, convincing the Tigers they had acted rashly and that Cabrera needed a refresher course at West Michigan.

Presto: Cabrera since returning to Comstock Park has batted .349 in 20 games, with a .394 on-base percentage and .870 OPS. His power is still lagging (two home runs on the year), especially for a left-handed batter who is 6-3, 190. And that might mean Cabrera isn’t going anywhere but to various farm venues for the remainder of his professional baseball days.

But some corrective measures have been taken — and employed.

“Too many ground balls,” said Ryan Garko, who heads player development for the Tigers. “So, we talked about trying to get the ball in the air a bit more, getting the bat more on plane, and especially pull-side in the air.

“Also, some timing things — just making sure he was ready to hit the fastball. His fastball performance wasn’t great. He’s got to be ready to hit the fastball, then adjust to speed.

“And he’s been much better.”

Tough transition (not)

The Tigers finally concluded they had seen enough of Kerry Carpenter — at Erie, anyway.

After blasting 22 home runs in 63 games for the SeaWolves, Carpenter was finally ushered Friday into the sealed sanctum in which Alvarez is housed at UPMC Park and notified that he was going to Triple A. It wasn’t much of a boat ride — just up the Lake Erie shoreline. And the absence of travel fatigue was apparent in Saturday’s debut for a left fielder and left-handed basher, who, in 2019, was a 19th-round pick out of Virginia Tech.

Carpenter drilled a home run, and added a double, in his Toledo debut, an 8-3 clobbering of Scranton.

“It was good to see him get off to a good start,” said Garko, explaining that part of Carpenter’s wait at Erie was tied to making space at Toledo. “There wasn’t anything left for him to do at Erie.”

Carpenter’s numbers at Erie were explosive in those 63 games: .304 batting average, in addition to the 22 homers, along with a .359 on-base percentage and 1.005 OPS.

He also struck out 72 times. Thus, if good pitching figures to be a hitter’s soft spot, Triple A should further reveal just that.

Or, he could continue to mash. And make that latter point moot.

“The nice thing about Triple A is he’ll probably see more experienced pitching,” Garko acknowledged. “But that’s just what the minor leagues are for — to show you can move to another level.”

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