The Detroit Tigers are sending eight prospects to the Arizona Fall League, including one pitcher — 24-year-old left-hander Joey Wentz — who is finishing the regular season in the major leagues.
The eight will compete for the Salt Rivers Rafters: Wentz, right-hander Jack Anderson, left-hander Andrew Magno, right-hander Tyler Mattison, catcher Dillon Dingler, infielder Colt Keith, infielder Gage Workman and outfielder Parker Meadows.
“It’s just the process of innings,” said Wentz, who has thrown 70⅔ innings this season in the minors and majors combined. “I understand the innings. I’m building for next year. Hopefully, I finish up the year here doing well and go down there and do well and roll it into next year.”
FRIDAY’S GAME:Detroit Tigers lineup vs. Chicago White Sox
WENTZ’S WORDS:Rookie has a simple goal with Tigers: ‘Don’t beat myself’
The AFL season begins Oct. 3 and concludes with the AFL Championship Game on Nov 12. The Fall Stars Game, which highlights the best players, is Nov 6.
The AFL will enforce several rule changes for the 2023 MLB season (though they’ve been in effect throughout the minors in 2022), including a pitch clock. Pitchers get 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on. Two other already-approved rule changes — larger bases and a ban on the shift for defensive positioning — will be enforced in the AFL, too.
In late May, Wentz suffered a left shoulder injury in the second MLB start of his career. He has a 1.69 ERA with two walks and 10 strikeouts over 10⅔ innings in two starts since returning to the Tigers in September.
JEFF SEIDEL:Hype for Tigers’ Colt Keith grows: ‘I never seen anybody hit the ball harder’
“It’s been in the works since the time that he got injured,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We knew his season was going to be shortened. We didn’t know how many innings he was going to be able to get toward the tail end of the season, with or without the big leagues. These starts that he’s getting are important at this level. They’re also important for his conditioning heading into next season. The Fall League will factor into that as well.”
Keith is the Tigers’ No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and arguably the best hitting prospect in the farm system. The 21-year-old third baseman, who was drafted out of high school in the fifth round in 2020, suffered a right shoulder injury June 9 and hasn’t played since. He is back to full health and will start the AFL season on time. Before the injury, he hit .301 with nine home runs, 22 walks and 42 strikeouts in 48 games.
Dingler, the Tigers’ No. 10 prospect and a 2020 second-round selection, hasn’t played since Sept. 4 because of shoulder soreness and won’t return to action for Double-A Erie this season, though he will be ready for the start of the AFL schedule. The 23-year-old batted .238 with 14 home runs, 45 walks and 143 strikeouts in 107 games with the SeaWolves.
So in Erie, Meadows — the No. 17 prospect and the Tigers’ second-round pick in 2018 — is one of the most improved players in the farm system. After 14 games with High-A West Michigan, the Tigers promoted Meadows, the younger brother of Austin Meadows, to the Double -A level. Spanning 110 games, the 22-year-old has a .280 batting average with 16 homers, 50 walks and 84 strikeouts.
GETTING A JUMP:Defense reveals why Tigers are ‘scratching the surface’ of Riley Greene’s talent
Workman spent 2022 with Erie, too, but has an extreme strikeout problem. The 22-year-old struck out 202 times (with 34 walks) over 503 plate appearances in 125 games this season alone. He also has 14 homers and 30 stolen bases. In 2021, Workman was punched out 157 times in 118 games but had 12 homers and 31 steals.
Of the four pitchers, only Wentz (No. 25) and Mattison (No. 26) rank among the Tigers’ top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline.
The Tigers drafted Mattison, 23, in the fourth round in 2021 out of Bryant University and sent him to the bullpen. He posted a 5.23 ERA with 17 walks and 46 strikeouts over 32⅔ innings in 24 relief appearances for Low-A Lakeland, after three outings (and seven innings) in the Florida Complex League.
Anderson, 22, pitched as a reliever for Lakeland (21 games) and West Michigan (18 games) this season, with a combined 3.47 ERA, 14 walks and 72 strikeouts in 59⅔ innings. The Tigers drafted him in the 16th round in 2021.
Magno has pitched at three levels this season: West Michigan (47 games), Erie (three games) and Triple-A Toledo (one game). For the Whitecaps, the 24-year-old logged a 2.37 ERA, 31 walks and 62 strikeouts over 49⅓ innings. He also notched 12 saves.
Miggy ‘feeling really good’
Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera (left biceps strain) took batting practice on the field Friday afternoon and will do the same before Saturday’s game. The 39-year-old took 40-50 swings in the batting cage Wednesday and reported “feeling really good,” Hinch said.
Before returning, Cabrera will need to hit off the velocity machine.
He has been sidelined since leaving a Sept. 2 game with his injury.
Brieske finishes bullpen
Right-hander Beau Brieske (right forearm soreness) completed an up-down bullpen, simulating two innings, on Thursday. He came out of the bullpen session healthy. The Tigers will soon determine the next three weeks of Brieske’s schedule.
The 24-year-old could make a rehab assignment start in Triple-A Toledo, or the Tigers could end his rehab and begin his offseason program. Brieske, who has thrown 99 innings (81⅔ in MLB), wants to return to the majors this season.
“There’s some real conversation going on about what the best route is for him,” Hinch said.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Colt Keith, Parker Meadows among Detroit Tigers’ prospects in AFL