DETROIT - Detroit Tigers fans are trapped in one of the team's most discouraging stretches since the rebuild began, but there are still two prospects providing hope in the minor leagues: Casey Mize and Matt Manning.
It's fitting that the top two prospects in the organization appear to be the last reasons for optimism. Mize is the No. 1 pitcher and No. 6 overall player in MLB Pipeline's prospect rankings. Manning is ranked No. 48 overall but could be in line for a mid-season rise.
At a time when the organization is struggling both at the major league level and in terms of prospects, these two young pitchers have continued to excel.
Mize bounced back from his first difficult start of the season Monday, shutting out the Hartford Yard Goats over six innings, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out six batters.
Manning followed suit Tuesday, whiffing 10 batters over 6.2 scoreless innings against the Yard Goats. He allowed two hits and two walks.
Pitching prospects were the only real positives for Tigers fans entering the season. Alex Faedo, Beau Burrows, Franklin Perez and Kyle Funkhouser have all battled injuries or poor results this season, leaving just Mize and Manning as beacons of hope.
In nine starts this season, Mize has struck out 54 batters over 56.2 innings and allowed just 25 hits, six walks and seven earned runs. He threw a no-hitter in his first Double-A start, but his season has been highlighted by consistency. Seven of Mize's nine starts have excellent, and the other two weren't disastrous.
The No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft looks like he could be a future ace for the Tigers.
Manning was the No. 9 overall selection by the Tigers in the 2016 draft, and all he's done is overpower minor league hitters for three seasons. His career 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings combined with low home run and walk rates suggest Manning dominates the aspects of the game he can control.
This has been Manning's best season so far: a 0.833 WHIP, 2.17 ERA and 5.23 strikeouts per walk.
As frustrating as it is for fans to watch pitchers like Ryan Carpenter and Gregory Soto get lit up in spot starts, Mize and Manning likely aren't getting promoted to the MLB level anytime soon. As they plummet toward last place and lose home games to the worst team in baseball, the Tigers have no incentive to chase wins this season at the expense of rushing their top prospects.
Mize and Manning could very well get promoted to Triple-A Toledo at some point this season, but fans will have to settle for watching them in the high minors.
The Tigers have little offense in the farm system, but it looks like Mize and Manning will someday give them a chance to win at least two out of every five games.
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