Tigers minor-league report: Hicks on roll for Hens

Lynn Henning, The Detroit News


Who’s hot …

John Hicks, C: Hicks will be forgiven for wondering exactly what he must do to get a big-league job. He batted .303 in 70 games at Toledo in 2016 after the Tigers got him on waivers from the Twins. Through the Mud Hens’ first nine games of 2017, Hicks, 27, was hitting .467, with a home run, and a plump OPS of 1.118. Hicks bats right-handed and was a fourth-round pick by the Mariners in 2011 (University of Virginia).

Efren Navarro, 1B: He’s 30 years old and has 130 games of big-league experience, so this left-handed hitter isn’t exactly a prospect. He’s important organizational support, and he’s hitting accordingly: Ten games, two home runs, .424 batting average, and 1.131 OPS.

Arcenio Leon, RH reliever: He bid for a job during spring camp and is still pushing the Tigers thanks to six games, covering five innings, in which Leon, 30, has allowed one hit, zero runs, while striking out three and walking one. The Tigers signed him during the offseason as a minor-league free agent after he earlier threw in the Astros, Brewers and White Sox systems. He is 6-3, 222.

Blaine Hardy, LH reliever: Eliminate him, too, from any “prospect” designation, given his many innings for the Tigers. Hardy was expected to soon return to Comerica Park, and he will be. He has a 3-0 record, 1.35 ERA, and 0.75 WHIP.

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Drew VerHagen, RH starter: Returning to rotation work has so far been a fit for VerHagen through two starts: 1.80 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, courtesy of 10 innings, six hits, two earned runs, seven strikeouts, and three walks. He was a fourth-round grab by the Tigers in 2012 (Vanderbilt).

Buck Farmer, RH starter: Some curious numbers on Farmer through two starts, two victories, and 11 innings: 13 hits and 10 strikeouts (one walk), good for an ERA of 3.27 and a WHIP of 1.27. Farmer, of course, has spent time in Detroit and was a fifth-round pick by the Tigers in 2013 (Georgia Tech).

Chad Bell, LH starter: Tigers got him last year from the Rangers in a trade for catcher Bobby Wilson, which has worked out niftily for the Mud Hens. Bell’s numbers after two starts: 2-0, with a 1.69 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. He has a whopping 15 strikeouts, and only two walks, in 10 2/3 innings. Bell, 28, was 14th-round pick by the Rangers in 2009.

Daniel Stumpf, LH reliever: Six games, 5 1/3 innings, two hits, four strikeouts, one walk, for an ERA of 1.69 and a WHIP of 0.56. Stumpf was a Rule 5 pick by the Tigers from the Royals and, as a two-time Rule 5 selection, chose to sign with the Tigers rather than return to the Royals system. He’s 26, is 6-2, 200, and was a ninth-round pick by Kansas City in 2012.

And who’s not …

Steven Moya, OF: Been a lousy spring for Moya, who cleared waivers and headed back to Toledo, where life hasn’t been much brighter: .138 average and .408 OPS in eight games.

Angel Nesbitt, RH reliever: He nearly made the team out of spring camp, and that’s as close to Detroit as he’ll get if things don’t turn around dramatically. Nesbitt’s numbers through four appearances: 18.00 ERA and 3.00 WHIP due to three innings that have featured six hits, three home runs, and three walks.


Who’s hot …

Jason Krizan, OF: Big start for Krizan, an eighth-round pick in 2011 (Dallas Baptist). He was batting. 361, with three home runs and three doubles in nine games. He’s a left-handed batter, 6-foot, 185.

Victor Alcantara, RH reliever: SeaWolves pitching has been on the shaky side early in April. Alcantara, who arrived in November’s trade of Cameron Maybin, has a 1.42 ERA through three games (6 1/3 innings), with four strikeouts and two walks. He turned 24 earlier this month and is 6-2, 190.

And who’s not …

Pretty much the entire SeaWolves team, which is tied for seventh among 12 teams in Eastern League WHIP (1.40) and is eighth in batting (.244).


Who’s hot …

Ross Kivett, OF: He’s batting .300 in 11 games, which is keeping hopes alive for Kivett, 25, who was a sixth-round pick from Kansas State in 2014. He’s 6-1, 195, and bats right-handed.

Drew Smith, RH reliever: Tigers got him in the third round in 2015 (Dallas Baptist) and he’s been on a nice path since he signed. Through four games and five innings with the Flying Tigers, Smith has rationed three hits and one earned run against seven strikeouts and one walk. He is 6-2, 190.

Jeff Thompson, RH starter: Big year for this third-round pick (Louisville, 2013). Thompson in two starts and six innings has a .143 opposing batting average and an 0.83 WHIP.

And who’s not …

Spencer Turnbull, RH starter: These numbers will get better rapidly, but Turnbull’s last start (five earned runs) raised his ERA to 6.75. He has walked eight and hit a pair of batters in 9 1/3 innings.


Who’s hot …

Jacob Robson, OF: He’s a bit old (22) for low Single A, but Robson wasn’t drafted until last June when the Tigers made him an eighth-round pick out of Mississippi State. His first eight games for the Whitecaps: .344, with a .417 on-base percentage. Robson is 5-10, 175, and bats left-handed.

Eudis Idrogo, LH starter: 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, with eight hits, eight strikeouts, and a pair of walks. Idrogo is 21, 6-1, 198, and was signed out of Anzoategui, Venezuela.

Alfred Gutierrez, RH reliever: He’s another Venezuelan, 21, and has started crisply: two games, six innings, three hits, seven strikeouts, no walks.

Zac Houston, RH reliever: He was strong out of the gate after signing last June (11th round pick, Mississippi State). Houston’s numbers in three games (5 2/3 innings): three hits, no runs, eight strikeouts, two walks. Houston is a hefty 6-5, 250.

Austin Sodders, LH starter: He was a seventh-round snag by the Tigers last June (U-C Riverside) and was superb in his first start: five innings, two hits, zero runs, six strikeouts, one walk. Sodders is sturdy: 6-3, 180.

Gregory Soto, LH starter: A single start, which covered five innings and produced these digits: one hit, no runs, four strikeouts, two walks. Soto, 22, is from Haina, Dominican Republic.

Joe Navilhon, RH reliever: He was another of the 2016 draft class (21st round, Southern Cal). Through three games for the Whitecaps: five innings, four hits, four strikeouts, no walks.

Eduardo Jimenez, RH reliever: three games, 4 2/3 innings, with two hits, no earned runs, six strikeouts, two walks. He is 6-foot, 183, from Cumana, Venezuela.

And who’s not …

Kyle Funkhouser, RH starter: No concerns here, all because Funkhouser had a brilliant first start (five innings, one hit, nine strikeouts), which was followed by a disaster: two innings, six hits, seven earned runs. Funkhouser will be fine, as the Tigers anticipated when they got him in the fourth round last June (Louisville).