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How 10 of Detroit Tigers’ top prospects performed in first weekend of spring training

Three of team’s top pitching prospects excel in early spring training action

Alex Faedo #76 (L) and Matt Manning #83 of the Detroit Tigers run together during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 13, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida.
Alex Faedo #76 (L) and Matt Manning #83 of the Detroit Tigers run together during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 13, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (2020 Mark Cunningham)

DETROIT – The first weekend of spring training is in the books, and fans have already gotten a glimpse of most of the Detroit Tigers’ top prospects.

Seven of the team’s top 20 prospects are off to excellent starts this spring, while three of the team’s young talents didn’t play nearly as well.

The Tigers began spring with a walk-off win Friday against Southeastern University. They played the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday and then had split-squad games Sunday against the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates. Detroit tied against the Phillies and won both Sunday contests.

Here’s a look at how the prospects looked over the weekend:

NOTE: All organizational rankings are based on MLB Pipeline’s lists for the end of 2019. New lists for 2020 are expected to be released this week.

Casey Mize

Prospect ranking: No. 1 in organization, No. 7 overall

Casey Mize pitched one inning in relief of Zack Godley against the Pirates, and it wasn’t exactly a smooth outing.

Mize, the team’s No. 1 pick in 2018 and the centerpiece of the young pitching core Al Avila has created, allowed two earned runs on three hits and a walk while recording just three outs.

He struck out two batters, but Mize struggled overall, allowing the first four batters to reach on back-to-back doubles, a walk and then a shallow single.

The silver lining is Mize used two strikeouts to get out of the inning without any further damage. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve his spring numbers.

Matt Manning

Prospect ranking: No. 2 in organization, No. 24 overall

Some publications consider Matt Manning the top prospect in the Tigers organization, and he had a smoother outing than Mize while pitching against a better lineup.

Manning retired six of the eight batters he faced, allowing one hit and one player to reach on a throwing error. He faced legitimate Braves hitters, too, including superstars Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman, as well as regulars Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley and Adam Duvall.

The Tigers are high on Manning because of his ability to miss bats, but he didn’t get any strikeouts in his two innings of work. It’s difficult to nitpick his first outing, though.

Riley Greene

Prospect ranking: No. 3 in organization, No. 31 overall

Talk about making a first impression. The team’s first-round pick from 2019 got his first taste of spring action Sunday, taking over for Christin Stewart midway through the game against the Pirates.

Detroit Tigers prospect Riley Greene runs the bases during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 20, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida.
Detroit Tigers prospect Riley Greene runs the bases during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 20, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (2020 Mark Cunningham)

Greene went to the plate three times, drawing a walk his first two at-bats and then blasting a solo home run the third time up. He also made a great running catch in right field.

One of the reasons the Tigers liked Greene at No. 5 overall last June is because of his power-plate discipline combination. He showcased both tools Sunday, as well as some defensive acumen.

Greene was promoted twice last season as a recent draft pick, and he’s a candidate to continue moving quickly through the organization if his bat stays hot.

Tarik Skubal

Prospect ranking: No. 4 in organization, No. 46 overall

Tarik Skubal’s first outing comes with a caveat: He pitched against college hitters. He did exactly what he was supposed to, though, overwhelming the six batters he faced.

Southeastern’s lead-off hitter managed to hit a soft ground ball to third base to start the game, but Skubal struck out the last five batters he faced.

His final line -- two innings, no base runners, five strikeouts -- is about as good as the Tigers could have asked for to kick off spring training.

Alex Faedo

Prospect ranking: No. 9 in organization

The team’s fifth-ranked pitching prospect got some work in against the Pirates, allowing two hits in 1.2 innings.

Faedo got the ball in the fourth inning and allowed a one-out triple to J.T. Riddle. He whiffed starting third baseman Colin Moran and got a popup from Gregory Polanco to get out of the jam.

In his second inning of work, Faedo allowed a lead-off single before getting a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play to end his outing.

Paul Richan came in to get the final out of the fifth inning.

Willi Castro

Prospect ranking: No. 11 in organization

Willi Castro was one of the busiest Tigers over the weekend, sandwiching a Saturday backup appearance with starts against Southeastern and Pittsburgh.

Detroit looks prepared to give Castro every opportunity to earn the starting shortstop job, though he’ll likely have to beat out Niko Goodrum -- one of the team’s best offensive players -- to do so.

Willi Castro #49 of the Detroit Tigers throws a baseball during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 15, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida.
Willi Castro #49 of the Detroit Tigers throws a baseball during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 15, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Castro reached base five times in eight appearances, hitting two singles and a double while drawing two walks. He only struck out once.

A high batting average with some doubles power is exactly what the Tigers are hoping to get from Castro, who hit over .300 for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in 2019 before a promotion to the big leagues.

Beau Burrows

Prospect ranking: No. 14 in organization

It’s never smart to overreact to spring training results, especially this early in the process. But the biggest concern of the weekend was Beau Burrows, who couldn’t even work his way through one inning.

Burrows began the spring with concerns. He’s two years removed from any top 100 prospect lists because of injuries and an inability to miss bats. He was the team’s first-round pick in 2015, but the last two seasons have been far from kind.

On Saturday, Burrows allowed five earned runs on four hits and a walk against the Phillies, while striking out one batter. He pitched in the eighth inning, when none of the players expected to make the Phillies’ Opening Day roster were in the game. The only big name Burrows faced was Philadelphia’s top hitting prospect, Alec Bohm.

It was a rocky first outing for a player who really needs to have a bounce back year. With the likes of Mize, Manning, Skubal, Faedo and others expected to invade Triple-A, Burrows could be in danger of getting squeezed out of the picture.

Kyle Funkhouser

Prospect ranking: No. 18 in organization

Another older prospect who needs to make a move this season is Kyle Funkhouser, who has missed parts of the last two seasons due to injuries.

Funkhouser pitched one inning against the Phillies, retiring them in order with one strikeout.

The 2019 season was a rough one for Funkhouser, but he has swing-and-miss stuff and could give the Tigers a reason to give him a chance.

Anthony Castro

Prospect ranking: No. 20 in organization

Anthony Castro sometimes gets lost in the prospect conversation because of the starting pitching depth in the Tigers organization. But he can miss bats and is coming off a strong season in Double-A.

Anthony Castro #38 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 18, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida.
Anthony Castro #38 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 18, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (2020 Mark Cunningham)

He got his first spring action Friday against Southeastern, retiring all three batters he faced on a weak ground ball, a weak fly ball and a swinging strikeout.

Rony Garcia

Prospect ranking: No. 21 in organization

Detroit used the No. 1 pick of the Rule 5 draft to snag Rony Garcia from the New York Yankees, so he has to make the 26-man roster out of spring for the Tigers to keep him from heading back to New York.

Garcia put up an identical line to Mize, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk in one inning while striking out two batters. The difference is Garcia’s struggles came against college hitters.

The Tigers are working to convert Garcia into a reliever, so there’s no reason to overreact to one bad outing, no matter the opponent.


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