Tigers minor-league report: Catchers go cold at plate

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Triple-A Toledo

Who’s hot …

■ Ronny Rodriguez, 3B: Having a blistering May (.366 and a .973 OPS), batting .439 in his last 10 games, and reminding everyone why the Tigers thought they might be getting a steal when they signed Rodriguez as a minor-league free agent and refugee from the Indians system. He was the early favorite to become the Tigers’ next Andrew Romine, all because Rodriguez can play about eight positions. Niko Goodrum beat him out, but Rodriguez, who last month turned 26, remains within an hour’s drive from Comerica Park. He bats right-handed, is 6-foot, 170 pounds, and was signed out of Santiago, Dominican Republic.

■ Edwin Espinal, 1B: Another of the minor-league free-agent cavalcade that joined the Tigers farm during the past offseason, Espinal, 24, is batting .414 in his last 10 games and on the year is hitting .319 with a gaudy .409 on-base percentage. He only has three home runs and a .429 slugging percentage, which doesn’t help when you’re playing first base, but Espinal’s been a nice addition after spending earlier years in the Pirates system.

■ Jim Adduci and Chad Huffman: Both of these outfield-first base elders, while not prospects, are hitting and playing well enough to qualify for work in Detroit. Huffman: .324 in his last 10 games, Adduci .308 in his last 10 (.843 season OPS).

■ Drew VerHagen, RH reliever: Destroying batters since he dealt with the past month’s stress of being designated for assignment, ignored on the waiver wire, and outrighted to the Mud Hens. But the Tigers are happy, all because they knew the arm was there, and it has been: 34 strikeouts in 201/3 innings since he returned, with a 1.77 ERA. VerHagen is only 27 and was a fourth-round pick by the Tigers out of Vanderbilt in 2012.

■ Paul Voelker, RH reliever: Only scored on in one of his last 10 games. Voelker has been pushing for a big-league ticket since the Tigers drafted him in the 10th round (Dallas Baptist) in 2014. Take away one lousy inning in April, and his numbers since April 27: 152/3 innings, 10 hits, 18 strikeouts, three walks. On the year, he has a 1.01 WHIP and .183 opponents’ batting average in 14 games.

And who’s not …

■ Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: Not exactly a kid prodigy at 33, and not a full-time player, so take that .190 batting average in 18 games into consideration. But on a hot Hens team, this qualifies as a cold snap, however, and against whomever, it’s measured.

More:Prospect Daz Cameron emerging as ‘beauty’ for Tigers

Double-A Erie

Who’s hot …

■ Will Maddox, 2B: He was an 18th-round pick (University of Tennessee) in 2014 and is hitting the ball hard: .364 in 20 games, with a .931 OPS. He bats left-handed, is 5-10, 180, and is slipping into a team’s thoughts when his slugging percentage is .519 and his on-base average is .412.

■ Beau Burrows, RH starter: You know all about him: first-rounder in 2015 and has been on a north-bound train since he signed. This season, same story: 2.61 ERA in eight starts, 1.14 WHIP. He is 21 years old.

■ Zac Houston, RH reliever: Stay focused on this young man, who quietly is having another bang-up season: 11 games, 151/3 innings, seven hits, 24 strikeouts, nine walks. Command and strikes need to pick up, but that’s why he’s at Double A. Houston was an 11th-round pick in 2016 (Mississippi State).

■ John Schreiber, RH reliever: Just keeps humming. No runs in his last five stints (72/3 innings) with one hit, nine strikeouts and one walk. He’s from Rockwood and pitched at Northwestern Ohio University before the Tigers grabbed him two years ago in the 15th round. He’s done nothing but wreck hitters the past two seasons and, at 6-3, 215, looks like one of those rare Metro Detroit talents who could make it with the Tigers.

And who’s not …

■ Jake Rogers, C: Four strikeouts in Saturday’s game. He’s batting .163 this season and it’s turning worrisome for one of the integral pieces from last summer’s Justin Verlander trade.

Single-A Lakeland

Who’s hot …

■ Alex Faedo, RH starter: One crazy game (eight earned runs) in a May 11 start. Otherwise, last year’s first-round pick is doing fine: four earned runs in five starts sandwiched around his May 11 clunker. On the season, a 1.06 WHIP, and a .225 opponents’ batting average, even after allowing 10 hits in two innings during that nightmare outing against Port St. Lucie.

■ Alfred Gutierrez, RH reliever: Having a nice season: 12 games, 281/3 innings, 24 hits, 34 strikeouts, seven walks. He’s 22, and was signed by the Tigers out of Nueva Esparta, Venezuela. Gutierrez is 6-1, 200.

■ Drew Carlton, RH reliever: He’s 4-0, with a 2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and has batters hitting no better than .209. He was a 32nd-round pick from Florida State in 2017 and was born in Lakeland, Fla., where the Tigers of course have some familiarity. He has struck out 24 batters in 241/3 innings and has walked six.

And who’s not …

■ Tom de Blok, RH starter: The tell-all statistic is 52 hits in 372/3 innings. That isn’t going to cut it, nor will it leave you with much less than the 6.69 ERA that de Blok is carrying after eight starts.

Single-A West Michigan

Who’s hot …

■ Luke Burch, CF: He was hitting so well, he got promoted last week to Lakeland. That’s what happens when you’re batting .486 in your last 10 games. Burch, a left-handed batter, was a ninth-round pick last June (Kent State).

■ Cole Peterson, SS: When he’s not making viral online video plays (a web gem last week), he’s also been hitting: .325 in his last 10 games and .297 for the year. He is 5-11, 160, and last June was snatched by the Tigers from St. Bonaventure (13th round).

■ Reynaldo Rivera, 1B: Good signs from one of the most important hitting prospects on all the Tigers farmlands: .316 in his last 10 games, .279 on the year, with an .848 OPS. Playing with real promise. He was a second-round investment by the Tigers last season when he played at Chipola Junior College in the Florida Panhandle. He is 6-6, 250, and next month turns 21.

■ Burris Warner, RH reliever: The Tigers got him out of Marshall University in 2016 (22nd round) and he’s doing nicely, even if he’s 23, which bears acknowledging: 1.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 46 strikeouts and eight walks over 37 innings in 13 games.

And who’s not …

■ Joey Morgan, C: Been a tough year for some of the Tigers’ young catchers, Morgan included. He was a third-round pick last June (University of Washington) and is colder than Puget Sound: .125 in his last 10 games.