Around the Tigers’ farm: Sawyer Gipson-Long shines in Detroit organization debut

Detroit News

In terms of celebrity, it wasn’t much of a trade Tuesday — for Tigers followers.

Michael Fulmer was gone — to the Twins ahead of the summer 2022 trade deadline. In return, the Tigers were getting a prospect pitcher, a starter named Sawyer Gipson-Long, who sounded more like a law firm.

What was known in terms of essential data about Gipson-Long ahead of Friday was this:

He was 24 years old, threw right-handed, was 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, and was a sixth-round pick by the Twins in the 2019 MLB Draft after pitching for Mercer University.

His three-season numbers on the Twins farm: 16-15 record, 4.49 ERA, 202.2 innings, 206 hits, 50 walks, 244 strikeouts.

Decent numbers. They were more decent Friday night in his first start for Double-A Erie, a 3-2 loss for the SeaWolves at Portland:

Five innings, four hits, one run, one walk — and seven strikeouts.

“I was really impressed with him,” said Gabe Alvarez, who is Erie’s manager. “I thought the first thing that stuck out to me was how well he competed on the mound.

“He was good: sat 93 and was up to 95 on quite a few pitches; a good slider he used both early in the count for a strike and he was able to throw sharper late in the count.

“His change-up, to me, was his best secondary pitch. And he was able to throw it both to left-handers and to right-handers. Whenever you can throw a right-on-right change it can really mess up a hitter.

“So, I was really impressed with him. The guy’s going to be — I’ve got to be thinking — not just help for us but help for the Tigers.”

More: For Tigers catching prospect Josh Crouch, talent shining through

Meadows making moves

The Tigers could use a legitimate prospect outfielder, one who might arrive in a hurry, to pair with Riley Greene as two-thirds of a sector screaming for a makeover.

Parker Meadows would do — if he would do what the Tigers envisioned when they plucked him in the second round of the 2108 MLB Draft.

The data has been getting better, overall: .301 batting average in June, with a .385 on-base percentage and .891 OPS. The numbers dipped a bit in July, but in the last 28 days heading into Sunday, Meadows was at .329/.398/.521/.918.

Since arriving at Erie in May, Meadows is at .258/.336./420/.756, with nine homers.

There is one not-so-little issue: He isn’t hitting left-handers (.174 in 43 games, with .208/.275/.484, and only two walks in 72 plate-appearances).

And that’s rather essential to any move that ultimately involves Detroit.

Given that he’s only 22, and has athleticism in excess, the Tigers will work on that lefties hang-up and hope the younger brother of Austin Meadows can get tougher there, as well.

“He’s really starting to come into his own,” Alvarez said, “and I can tell you he can impact the game in so many ways.

“He’s a Gold Glove center fielder who can really run the bases. And it’s not only because he’s fast, but he has base-stealing and baserunning instincts.

“The knock on him has always been: The swing’s there but it has to come — and I think he’s really starting to come.

“They’ve pitched him extremely tough. He’s hitting third for us, so he’s getting the pitchers’ best stuff every at-bat. And he’s been patient at the plate — not chasing too far out of the zone and hitting balls hard.”

Meadows is 6-5, 205. His range makes center field appealing, should he win that ticket to Comerica Park. But there’s work ahead — and not only for a left-handed hitter against same-side pitching.

“Arm-strength from center field — that still has to come, especially at Comerica (Park) when you have to chase down balls in the gaps,” Alvarez said. “He’s got to make those throws quickly and accurately.

“That’s one thing he can really improve on, and he has. He’s gotten a lot more accurate.”

Getting that bat to become a weapon? Against left- and right-hand pitching? There’s the test.

And will remain so.

Bergner wins an upgrade

Nothing about that jump from Double A to Triple A bothered Austin Bergner in his Saturday start for Toledo.

Same stuff. Same general outcome: five innings for the Mud Hens, three hits, no runs, one walk, five strikeouts.

Bergner, who works right-handed, has shoved a .194 opposing batting average down the throats of hitters in 2022, spanning 20 starts at Erie — and Saturday at Toledo.

He is 25, was a ninth-round pick by the Tigers in 2019 (University of North Carolina) and has a starter’s physique: 6-5, 210, which helps explain why he twice was drafted before the Tigers snatched him. The Red Sox had gambled on him with a 38th-round pick in 2016, out of Windermere Prep in Windermere, Florida; and the Diamondbacks had made a bid with a 32nd-rounder in 2018 at the end of his junior year with the Tar Heels.

His work in 2022 has been a two-level effort in consistency: 20 starts, 2.26 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 95.2 innings, a mere 68 hits, with 32 walks and 98 strikeouts.

“Yeah, he’s everything we’ve looked for in terms of results, strikes, and swing-and-miss,” said Ryan Garko, who oversees Tigers player development.

“He’s one of those guys we weren’t sure what he was — starter, reliever, but he’s one of those guys who’s gone out and performed and he’s definitely opened some eyes.”

It won’t surprise pitching-prospect scholars that Bergner’s size does not correspond to fastball heat.

“It’s command over stuff, but it’s good enough,” Garko said. “Low-90s fastball, really good change-up against right-handers and left-handers.

“The difference this year is he didn’t want to throw his slider last season. He wasn’t confident with it. But he needed something that would spin away from hitters, and we may have gotten it.

“What he’s throwing isn’t a big sweeping slider, but is kind of a tight cutter that we’re adding as a third pitch.”

Command over stuff. That’s in the Garrett Hill mode. In the Drew Hutchison sphere.

It can put a man in the big leagues, especially when in seasons to come, the cry for at least 10 starters seems each year to grow louder.

Decent debut for Pacheco

He got the word last week: No more vacancy at Single-A Lakeland.

Izaac Pacheco was on his way to high-A ball at West Michigan.

He didn’t find it necessarily intimidating.

Pacheco, in his debut for the Whitecaps Friday at Lansing, blasted an 0-and-2, outside fastball to the opposite field, over a tall wall at Jackson Field.

He followed with another homer, as well as a single, Saturday.

Not too shabby for a 19-year-old shortstop/third baseman who bats left-handed and who looks as if he could be one of the Tigers’ best, most recent, position picks.

Brayan Pena, his new skipper at West Michigan, acknowledged the sample is small — but impressions, likely enduring, already were being made.

“You see a lot of potential in his swing, and in his body,” Pena said. “Very powerful young player.

“We just told him to have fun and continue what you did at Lakeland — we believe in your talent.”

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

Articles You May Like

Henning: These five players deserve the Baseball Hall of Fame nod
Miguel Cabrera: 2023 Likely To Be Final Season
Jeimer Candelario signs one year pact with the Washington Nationals
Keeping RHP Miguel Diaz in the mix could pay future dividends for Tigers
Cabrera: ‘I think it’s time to say goodbye to baseball’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *