Younger Meadows among 5 protected from Rule 5 Draft

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers added five prospects to their 40-man roster Tuesday to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft:

Why he’s protected: The 23-year-old Olson is part of the next wave of prospects who could serve as starting depth next season, following the path of Beau Brieske, Garrett Hill, Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo. Olson fanned 168 batters over 119 2/3 innings this year at Double-A Erie, an impressive rate of 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He also slashed his walk rate to 2.9 BB/9, nearly a full walk below his career average. Not bad for a former 13th-round Draft pick acquired from the Brewers in last year’s Daniel Norris trade.

2023 outlook: After 30 starts for Erie over the last season-plus, the next logical step for Olson is Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers’ early-season callups of Brieske and Hill this year showed a willingness to bring up prospects quickly if they perform and can fill a need in Detroit. That said, Olson still has room to become more consistent with his command, especially with secondary pitches.

Why he’s protected: Perez had fallen off prospect rankings, hindered by nagging injuries, until he emerged as an impact bat this season. He hit .295 with 23 doubles, 10 triples, 14 homers, 66 RBIs, 18 stolen bases and a .902 OPS over 94 games between High-A West Michigan and Erie. The home run power was a revelation from someone who entered the season with 10 homers for his Minor League career. The speedy switch-hitter just turned 23 years old a couple weeks ago.

2023 outlook: Perez has just 39 games above Class A ball, so the Tigers could exercise patience to let him smooth out his defense and further polish his hitting approach. Still, the athleticism and ability are enticing enough that Detroit, a team in need of impact hitters, couldn’t risk losing him.

Why he’s protected: The younger brother of Detroit outfielder Austin Meadows was arguably the hitting jewel of the Tigers’ system this year, batting .270 with 25 doubles, seven triples, 20 homers, 58 RBIs and an .819 OPS across 127 games between West Michigan and Erie. After battling strikeouts for much of his pro career, he revamped his swing with help from an old high-school coach for better contact and more line drives. Despite a 6-foot-5 frame, he’s a tremendous athlete who can play all three outfield positions. Some evaluators believe he’s the closest to an impact hitter currently in the Tigers’ system. The second-round Draft pick from 2018 turned 23 on Nov. 2.

2023 outlook: Meadows still has work to do before he can join his brother in Detroit’s outfield, evidenced by some struggles in the Arizona Fall League. But after his ceiling seemed in question a year ago, he looks like an eventual Major Leaguer. A stint in Triple-A Toledo should test his approach against experienced pitching. The Tigers have enough left-handed hitters in their outfield that they don’t need to rush him.

Why he’s protected: Lipcius was off the radar compared to higher-ranked prospects in the system, but his advanced, disciplined approach opened eyes. The 24-year-old hit .277 with an .826 OPS between Erie and Toledo, including 33 doubles and 12 homers. He produced power while drawing almost as many walks (86) as strikeouts (89). If the Tigers are serious about hitters who control the strike zone, he had to stay.

2023 outlook: Lipcius likely returns to Toledo to begin next season. If he backs up his .302 average and .388 OBP with the Mud Hens, he could become part of the infield depth in Detroit.

Why he’s protected: White is an unranked prospect, but the former 26th-round Draft pick put up such an impressive season in Erie’s bullpen that the Tigers couldn’t risk losing him, keeping him over a flashier relief prospect in Elvis Alvarado. White posted a 2.67 ERA and 4.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a multi-inning reliever for the SeaWolves, allowing 44 hits over 67 1/3 innings with 17 walks and 73 strikeouts. His slider is a good swing-and-miss pitch, paired with a sinker.

2023 outlook: White should advance to Toledo, where a strong start could work him into Detroit’s relief picture.

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