Tigers minor-league report: Bump to Toledo no problem for Zac Houston

By Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Zac Houston


Who’s hot …

Dawel Lugo, 2B: He could be the Tigers’ second baseman in 2019. Lugo is only 23, but has been progressing at Toledo, hitting .368 in his last 10 games and .286 on the year. He needs some upgrades, for sure, on the on-base side (.296, four walks) and slugging sphere (.388). But time remains his friend. He is 6-foot, 190 pounds, and bats right-handed. He was part of the cargo the Tigers got last summer when they peddled J.D. Martinez.

Victor Alcantara, RH reliever: One of those gents who probably will be returning to Detroit soon, all because Alcantara in his last 10 games has a 1.10 ERA, with 21 strikeouts and three walks in 15.1 innings. Alcantara pitched in six games for the Tigers in 2017 after Detroit got him from the Angels as part of the Cameron Maybin trade.

Paul Voelker, RH reliever: Simply difficult to believe Voelker won’t be migrating to the Tigers at some point this season (September?) or in 2019. He strikes out reams of batters: 247 in 205 innings during his farm seasons with the Tigers. This year for the Mud Hens, he has a 2.90 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, and a .190 opposing batting average. He was a 10th-round pick in 2014 from Dallas Baptist.

Zac Houston, RH reliever: Another of the bullpen reliables chucking for manager Doug Mientkiewicz’s Toledo corps. Houston was bumped to the Mud Hens after earlier fulfilling duties at Double A Erie. In seven games at Toledo, he has a 2.16 ERA, an 0.96 WHIP, and a .167 enemy batting average. He has whiffed 14 in 8.1 innings. Houston, 23, is 6-5, 250, was drafted out of Mississippi State in 2016 (11th round) and has some appealing three-season numbers on the Tigers farm: 1.75 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. Batters he has faced are hitting .134 against him, cumulatively. He is 6-5, 250.

More: Franklin Perez close to return; timeline varies for other Tigers prospects

And who’s not …

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: Granted, this isn’t a prospect who’s suffering from too much fuzz on his cheeks. He’s 33, and he hit a big home run for the Mud Hens during Saturday night’s victory. But he’s batting .156 in his last 10 games.


Who’s hot …

Spencer Turnbull, RH starter: The Tigers have been waiting on Turnbull since they drafted him in the second round in 2014 (University of Alabama). In his last two starts, Turnbull has thrown 14 innings, allowed eight hits and two runs, struck out 18, and walked none. He’s 6-3, 215.

Kyle Funkhouser, RH starter: Two very strong back-to-back starts for Funkhouser: 13 innings, five hits, one run, 16 strikeouts, one walk. He was a Tigers fourth-rounder in 2016 (University of Louisville).

Matt Hall, LH reliever: Looks as if that curveball could earn Hall a ride to Detroit the way he’s been dealing at Erie. He has a 1.72 ERA in his last 10 games, with 26 strikeouts in 15.2 innings. He also is walking too many (12). The Erie development process will continue.

John Schreiber, RH reliever: This guy is merciless. No earned runs in his last 10 games, and only three hits against him. The man is becoming Public Enemy No. 1 among Eastern League hitters. He also is from Rockwood. The big leagues are getting closer, week by week.

And who’s not …

A.J. Simcox, SS: Ah, the cruelty of professional baseball: .056 in his last 10 games. Simcox has the glove to play big-league baseball. Doubtful the bat will ever allow it.

Cam Gibson


Who’s hot …

Cam Gibson, OF: Nice month for Gibson, who’s batting .314 in his last 10 games. He was a Tigers fifth-rounder (Michigan State) in 2015. Gibson, 24, bats left-handed, is 6-1, 215.

Alex Faedo, RH starter: Getting closer to an inevitable upgrade to Double A Erie as he continues to pretty much overmatch and out-finesse Single A hitters. Faedo has had only one bad game, an inexplicable, eight-run nightmare on May 11. Otherwise, he gives up maybe a run a game. It’s Erie time for last year’s first-round pick (University of Florida).

Alfred Gutierrez, RH reliever: He turned 23 earlier this month, but that’s not exactly retirement age for a Single A pitcher. Gutierrez is moving at a reasonable pace, with a 1.73 ERA in his last 10 games (12 hits, 31 strikeouts, in 26 innings). He’s 6-1, 200, and was signed out of Nueva Esparta, Venezuela.

Drew Carlton, RH reliever: 1.45 ERA in his last 10 games, which is nice stuff for a 32nd-round draft pick (2017, Florida State). He isn’t an overwhelming whiff machine (19 strikeouts in 18.2 innings), but Carlton rarely walks a batter and has given up on average less than a hit per inning.

Trent Szkutnik, LH reliever: He went to Michigan and hails from Jackson, and Szkutnik is doing one nifty job at Lakeland: 1.20 ERA in his last 10 games, 0.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP on the year. He’s 6-1, 195, and was a 20th-round pick by the Tigers in 2014.

And who’s not …

Anthony Pereira, 2B: A rather awful season for Pereira, who is only 21, but from whom was expected better numbers than these: .156 in his last 10 games, .193 with a .553 OPS for 2018.


Who’s hot …

Elvin Rodriguez, RH starter: He only turned 20 in March, so there’s no rush, but he’s been pitching well enough to invite thoughts about what could be ahead. In his last five starts (29.2 innings), Rodriguez has reluctantly allowed 19 hits and four runs, all while striking out 37 and walking seven. He was part of the Tigers’ compensation when they sent Ian Kinsler to the Angels.

Burris Warner, RH reliever: No runs in his last five games (11.1 innings), which has featured 11 hits, 11 strikeouts, and zero walks. Warner is 6-foot, 190, and in 2016 was a 22nd-round grab (Marshall University).

And who’s not …

Dylan Rosa, OF: That is some June chill-down by Rosa: .083 in his last 10 games. He was an 18th-rounder from Kent State in 2017.