Prospects Hurt the Most by No Games in 2020

The MCB team created a ton of potential content for Detroit Tigers over the past month. As part of this process, we’ve all spent a lot of time thinking about the tiger’s farming system and the players within it. For me personally, one thought kept coming back to my mind, gosh, 2020 really created a lot of question marks for potential customers (which leads to questions for reviewers).

The lack of a minor league season led to considerable uncertainty for all interested parties. However, individual prospects each had a unique experience in the past season, which led to different effects on their development. Only playing in live games (remember these? How awesome were these?) Is the greatest development tool players have. Games allow players to collect bats and innings. These allow them to make adjustments and gain the experience needed to advance their careers. In 2020, the pandemic took away some, if not all, of them.

Of course, I wasn’t the only person to think about it when Fangraphs’ Kevin Goldstein wrote a piece breaking down the types of perspectives most affected by the 2020 season break. After reading the article, I started thinking about how each category affected Detroit and which players fit into each category. (Note that some players may be considered in multiple categories, but will only be discussed once.)

“Teenagers with Zero Plate Performances”

This category is pretty obvious. These players are just starting their careers and need time and bats to develop. Many players from recent international cycles fit into this category along with the 2019 high school draftsmen.

Fortunately for the Tigers, they were very college-intensive in the 2019 draft, which means they were less affected than other teams. The obvious exception is Riley Greene, but like some other interested parties in the organization, he has been able to work with the organization in Toledo which offsets some of the impact.

Affected perspectives: Roberto Campos, Raudy De Los Santos, Abelado Lopez and Dany Martinez

More information on the above perspectives

“2020 Draft Picks”

The 2020 Draft Picks missed the opportunity to play by their draft this summer. The missed development time and really just contacting the development staff will certainly slow down your schedules. Goldstein gives several reasons why this category was included, but this one seemed particularly interesting as it seems very impactful and perhaps less obvious.

“These players have spent years receiving instructions that are often in direct contradiction to what their new employers are trying to convey to them.”

From a development point of view, the Tigers seem to be a little better off than other clubs when it comes to the youngest conscripts. Since Detroit was unable to compete, there were more roster slots available last summer that could be made available to the conscripts. Given the importance of these two perspectives to rebuilding, it was hugely beneficial that both Torkelson and Dingler could spend time at the alternate location (alongside Riley Greene). Hopefully this time around by practicing / scrimmaging with more advanced players they can make up for some of the missed games. However, this does not mean that Detroit was affected as some players were unable to get their professional careers off the ground.

Affected perspectives: Daniel Cabrera, Trei Cruz, Gage Workman and Colt Keith

“Pitchers ready for a workload increase”

For young beginners, it is believed that slowing down the build-up of their workload over several seasons will reduce the potential for injury. It has generally been considered the best approach by most organizations to allow the developing musculoskeletal systems of these prospects to slowly absorb the additional wear and tear. This will force the teams to change the normal development path for many of their prospects, and Goldstein summed it up best.

“A big question the teams will have to ask this spring is not just how to make up for lost time, but also how to ramp up their guns.

On the surface, it seems that the lack of starting depth beyond the top minors is benefiting Detroit from a development perspective (compared to some clubs, the lack of time is clearly still a net negative). However, the lack of workload is likely to have such wide-reaching implications that I have a feeling this will be an issue at the start of the minor league season. As Goldstein said, the teams will be using a make-it-up-as-you-go approach, which is causing me problems.

Affected perspectives: Wilkel Hernandez, Elvin Rodriguez, Garrett Hill and Paul Richan

“Tools Dudes Who Need Representatives”

The title of the category sums up why this group is quite well received. “Repetitions” are particularly important for those interested in using large tools. Goldstein described it well again (not surprisingly).

“The most valuable development tool for players looking to hone their skills is replay, and some players didn’t get any of them last year.”

The Tigers will need some position players to break through to supplement the pitching they have amassed in the top minors. Because of this, this category seems to have hit Detroit a little harder than other teams. The Tigers getting more aggressive in the international market adding some higher conscripts have rallied some people who need as many reps as possible.

Affected perspectives: Parker Meadows, Jose De La Cruz, Adinso Reyes, Nick Quintana, Ulrich Bojarski, Alvaro Gonzalez, Wenceel Perez, Kingston Liniak, Akil Baddoo

“Players Almost Ready”

Players who are ready (or almost ready) to advance to the big leagues are at a crucial point in their careers. We’ve all heard the old adage that the biggest leap in a player’s career is from triple-A to the big leagues. If that’s true (and I have no reason to believe it isn’t) then not playing for a year seems to be a problem and your skills may stagnate (or worse, step backwards). Two lines from Goldstein’s article seem particularly relevant to Detroit.

“Would the angels have acted differently with Jo Adell if he could have started the year in Salt Lake? Does Joey Bart’s season look different after 250-300 recordings in Triple-A? “

Obviously, Adell and Bart aren’t Tiger’s prospects (but I’d happily accept them), but the point made here is, would we behave differently when it comes to elite prospects if they had a full season in 2020. It is possible that Mize, Skubal and Manning would have been blocked from rotation if last season had been more traditional and they had succeeded. We are currently asking what impact the reduced workload will have on their future.

“And what about the potential RPG players who need to work on a new position to hone their versatility, or potential bullpen poor on the verge of a call when the command becomes more consistent?”

This category seems to have had a pretty far-reaching impact on a lot of franchises, including the Tigers. Every team has a number of perspectives approaching the big leagues and these players need time to hone their skills. Detroit specifically has a number of bullpen guns being debated for big league roles, and it sure would have been nice to see them in the game last year. The outfield was also affected. Derek Hill and Daz Cameron both made brief appearances at Detroit, but both could have enjoyed a full season with bats at Triple-A. Short and Clemens fit into this group as potentially versatile players who would increase their chances of a longer career in the big leagues by playing multiple positions. The other pitchers listed below would have benefited greatly from a full 2020 season as they could be ready for the big league with some small tweaks.

Affected perspectives: Derek Hill, Daz Cameron, Zack Short, Kody Clemens, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, Franklin Perez, Beau Burrows and Jason Foley

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