Dillon Dingler and Wilmer Flores are bound for the MLB Futures Game

Bless You Boys

This year’s MLB Futures Game is scheduled for July 16, 2022 as part of All-Star weekend at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. As the lead in to the actual MLB All-Star Game, the Futures Game is a really fun event featuring a lot of the best prospect talent from around the game. Each of the 30 major league franchises will send representatives to take part in the seven inning exhibition game, and the 2022 rosters were revealed on Thursday morning.

In recent years, the Detroit Tigers’ were heavily represented with top prospects as the fruits of tanking for high draft picks were put on display. Matt Manning, Isaac Paredes, Spencer Torkelson, and Riley Greene, among others, have all taken part in the showcase in recent seasons. In 2022, starting pitcher Wilmer Flores and catcher Dillon Dingler have received the nod and will represent the Tigers in the Futures Game.

Currently, Dillon Dingler is ranked the Tigers’ third best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. His defensive game, leadership, and overall athleticism continue to draw strong grades from evaluators, but as of yet he hasn’t been able to take the next step with the bat. He currently holds a .725 OPS with seven home runs in 67 games this season, and a 32 percent strikeout rate. This despite having spent a full year with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves dating back to June 2021.

Selected with the first pick in the second round of the 2020 amateur draft, the choice was pretty well praised at the time. Dingler’s strong accurate arm, improving blocking, and thorough preparation, continue to draw praise from his coaches. However, with the automated strike zone looking more and more likely to arrive by 2024-2025, the catcher position is set to require more offense and less of the finer arts of receiving pitches to get strike calls. That puts more pressure on a catching prospect’s bat.

Unfortunately, so far Dingler continues to present as a defense-first catching prospect without the hit tool to get to his average raw power with enough consistency. He sprays a lot of line drives and racks up his share of extra base hits, but the chase and whiff rates are still too high to forecast any major development. That combination of factors is likely to see him slip a bit in the team rankings after the 2022 draft is completed.

As for the 21-year-old Flores, the big, rangy right-hander exploded onto the scene with eye-popping stuff for the Low-A Lakeland Flying Tigers in 2021. Undrafted out of Arizona Western College after making only a handful of relief appearances there in 2020, the Tigers were able to take advantage of the short, five-round draft by landing Flores for just a 20 thousand dollar signing bonus. That’s looking like a spectacularly good investment at this point as Flores currently ranks 14th on the Tigers’ list and should be higher than that when mid-season revisions are complete.

Younger brother of the San Francisco Giants’ infielder of the same name, Flores just turned 21 a few months ago, and would normally be part of the 2022 draft class as a junior in college. Instead, the hard-throwing right-hander is dominating at the Double-A level and looking as though he’s ready for a tougher test.

Since his promotion to Erie at the end of April, Flores holds a 30 percent strikeout rate and just under a five percent walk rate in 39 innings of work. His high spin fourseam fastball sits comfortably at 94-95 mph as a starter, and he’s capable of running it up near triple digits. Flores backs it with a nasty power curve in the low-80’s that draws a ton of whiffs. A firm cutter lags a little behind in quality, but really helps him keep hitters honest, generating weak contact and allowing him to jam lefties effectively. His changeup lags farther behind, and his long arm action doesn’t exactly forecast major progress. They are experimenting a bit to try to find him an offspeed pitch he’s comfortable with. Should that come together, his case as a future starter will be a good deal more convincing.

Flores is a big, aggressive pitcher with some attitude on the mound. He throws a lot of strikes, despite inconsistent fastball command and occasional shaky outings locating his power curve. His powerful delivery and effort level tend to scream reliever to most scouts, but the stuff, his frame, and his durable velocity argue for letting him continue to develop on the starting track. He’s also just way too young to start viewing him as a finished product. There’s a good argument to let him keep refining his delivery and overall conditioning to see if his can find the consistency to take another big step in improving his command.

By next year he should be settling in at Triple-A Toledo and preparing for his MLB debut. The speed with which that occurs will depend on how long the Tigers want to develop him as a starting pitcher.

You can find the full MLB Futures Game rosters here.

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