Scott Harris: Tigers won’t rush prospects through the system, not even Colt Keith

Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers president of Scott Harris met with the media for 13 minutes before the game Monday and he touched on a wide range of topics.

He didn’t necessarily break any news, but he provided a lot of insight, particularly regarding the development curve of the Tigers’ No. 4-ranked prospect Colt Keith. The 21-year-old third baseman/second baseman is destroying Double-A pitching (.325/.395/.597 with 14 home runs) at Erie.

The Tigers’ fan base, given the offensive struggles at the big-league level, has been pining for Harris to expedite Keith’s ascension through the system.

Spoiler alert: It’s not likely to happen.

“Colt has been very fun to watch,” Harris said. “In many ways he’s embodied the offensive approach we’re trying to build around in this organization. He’s swinging at the right pitches. He’s accessing his power almost every night. But if you don’t catch yourself, it’s easy to forget he’s the youngest player on the team and one of the youngest players in all of Double-A.”

He’s also missed significant playing time because of injuries.

“I see all the speculation about promoting him,” Harris said. “But the best thing Colt can do right now is focus on getting better every day. The standard he is setting at that level, being obsessed with getting better every day, is the standard we want to have at all levels.

“The development goals for him right now are to continue to see different types of pitching, working to refine his defense at third base and second base and making up for some of those lost reps he had. If he continues to do that, he’s going to be just fine.

“We’re really excited about his future, but there’s nothing really to report on promotions or anything like that.”

Harris pointed out, too, that there is a vast difference in the quality of pitching between Triple A and the big leagues, let alone between Double A and the big leagues.

“As a general point, we’re going to prioritize in this organization seeing different types of pitching,” he said. “We’re going to prioritize getting as many reps in as many different game situations and against as many different pitchers as possible.

“If you study offensive performance around the game right now, especially over the last four or five years, this level is littered with players who raked throughout the minor leagues and got to this level and struggled. The gap between Triple-A pitching and big-league pitching has never been wider than it is now.”

▶ Harris didn’t sugarcoat the offensive struggles and inconsistencies at the big-league level.

“Part of that is due to us missing key bats that should be hitting in the middle or top of our order,” he said, referencing outfielders Austin Meadows, Riley Greene and Akil Baddoo, all on the injured list. “Also some players are not performing at the level they would want to be.”

But, he said, there are underlying metrics that point to a positive turn.

“If you look under the hood at some of the things we’re doing offensively, there are some impressive notes,” he said. “We are walking more than we did last year. We are making more contact than we did last year. We are hitting the ball hard a lot more frequently. We are lifting the ball more frequently. And we’re seeing a lot more pitches.

“The top line is not where we want to be. Our offense is not where we want to be as a whole. But those are some positive trend lines that are predictive of future improvement.”

More: Tigers president Scott Harris: ‘Signs of progress’ are evident despite rocky start

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▶ Meadows is back in Tampa and Lakeland working through his treatment for anxiety. Harris, as he has since Meadows requested time away from baseball to deal with the issue, was careful not to breach any confidentiality.

“The reports we have received from Austin are positive,” Harris said. “He’s working through treatment and he’s also working out. He is in a very healthy environment for himself and for his progress. We are keeping tabs on him and we’re rooting like hell for him.”

The Tigers have not discussed any timetable for his return to full baseball activity or competition.

▶ Harris met with ace lefty Eduardo Rodriguez on Monday and came away encouraged.

“He feels good,” Harris said. “And how a player feels definitely influences the future in terms of his plan.”

Rodriguez, who is on the injured list with a ruptured pulley in his left index finger, has been throwing for the last week. It’s possible he could be ready to begin a rehab assignment.

“We will have some news tomorrow,” Harris said, referencing the club’s twice-weekly medical update which is released Tuesdays and Fridays. “He feels good and he’s itching to get back on the mound and we’re itching to get him back on the mound.”

▶ Harris was asked about right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who is on the injured list with a neck injury and played catch Monday for the first time since May 7.

“Spencer is really talented,” he said. “You guys have heard me talk about him on the record quite a bit already. We just need to get him healthy. We need to get him pitching so we can see it. Beyond that I don’t really have any information to share.”

▶ Harris also said his search to hire a general manager is on hold.

“Based on all the questions I’ve gotten today, I’ve got a lot on my plate,” he said, smiling. “I’ve not been working on that. We still intend to hire a GM. I will pick that back up when things slow down. But I’m not actively working on that now.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

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