The success Parker Meadows enjoyed during the Tigers’ just-completed homestand was about as seamless of a transition as a hitting prospect has enjoyed coming up from Triple-A Toledo to debut in Detroit since the team began its youth movement a couple of years ago. Not even Riley Greene made as much of an impact in his first 10 games when he debuted with the Tigers last summer.
As the Tigers prepare another batch of hitters to supplement their lineup, led by Colt Keith and Justyn-Henry Malloy, Meadows provides the template for making the increasingly challenging jump to the big leagues. That template, ironically, is one reason neither Malloy nor Keith are ready to debut just yet.
After weeks of anticipation about potential September callups, the Tigers announced two promotions from Triple-A Toledo Thursday night to fill their extra two spots for September. The only additional hitter is Andre Lipcius, a previously ranked prospect who quietly put together a solid season for the Mud Hens with his combination of impact power and plate discipline. The former third-round pick from the 2019 Draft batted .272 (98-for-36) with a .363 on-base percentage, supplemented by 52 walks, and a .419 slugging percentage with 16 doubles, 11 homers and 58 RBIs. He did so while playing first, second and third base as well as left field.
Lipcius showed steady improvement after a slow start in Toledo; he hit .218 in April, .237 in May, then .304 in June. After an injury stint cost him most of July, he returned to bat .343 over 18 games in August with five home runs, 21 RBIs and a 1.050 OPS. He drew almost as many walks (12) as strikeouts (14). Now, he’ll get an opportunity to prove if he can keep up that approach against Major League pitching.
Even if Lipcius makes it, he’s not expected to be an impact prospect on the same level as Keith and Malloy. However, president of baseball operations Scott Harris has repeatedly referenced unfinished business with the latter two before they’re viewed as ready to stick in the Majors and contribute on both sides of the ball.
“We talked a lot about this when we called up Parker Meadows, what we need to see from those two guys and all of the other future big-leaguers in Toledo,” Harris told 97.1 The Ticket earlier this week. “We need to get comfortable that they’re going to contribute in all facets of the game. Tiger fans have seen Parker already contribute on the bases, in the field and at the plate. We have to feel equally good about the rest of those guys.
“As I said last week, I think their bats are pretty close. I think both of them are pretty close to being able to help us at the plate. We have to make sure that we’re investing in the other facets of their games so that they’re ready to get here.”
Yes, it helps that Lipcius is on the Tigers’ 40-man roster already. But it’s not viewed as the main reason. If either Malloy or Keith were viewed as ready to stick, they’d be added.
Still, the fact that the Tigers have so many prospects to consider is a refreshing turn.
“I think you’re going to look up at some point in the near future, most likely into 2024, and you’re going to see a really young, really talented team,” Harris told 97.1. “We have an emerging nucleus on both sides of the ball that, if I were just a fan, that’s what I would want an organization to do. I would want them to have a steady stream of young players that are filtering into the big leagues that are really high-upside players that can fill out an entire lineup, or fill out an entire rotation. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we start to have the pieces in place, we’re starting to fill in at all positions and throughout the pitching staff.”