Tigers minor-league report: Greiner could play his way into 2019 plans

By Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Grayson Greiner


Who’s hot …

Grayson Greiner, C: Not sizzling, but .306 in his last 10 games with a .755 OPS for the year at Toledo, which includes a .352 on-base percentage. This is important when there is no guarantee James McCann will be offered a contract for 2019. As of today, it’s a reasonable bet the Tigers next season will go with John Hicks and with Greiner as their catchers. Greiner had a 14-game taste of Detroit earlier this season. He’s 25 and in 2014 was a third-round pick out of the University of South Carolina.

Christin Stewart, OF: Warming up after a cold spell that followed time away due to a calf injury. He’s at .306 in his last 10 games and, as is known far and wide, is one of the minors’ heaviest power hitters, with 20 for the year. Stewart will need to be added to the 40-man roster if there’s a September call-up. No decisions yet.

Dawel Lugo, 2B: He’s become the forgotten man at Toledo, mostly because he doesn’t hit for the power you need from a starter at second base. Lugo’s batting .306 in his last 10 games and a livable .265 on the season. But his OPS is .622. He doesn’t walk, and he doesn’t hit a lot more than singles and the occasional double. And that’s not going to get you regular work in the big leagues. Lugo is only 23, so allow him more time, anyway.

More: Henning: Kody Clemens looking like third-round steal for Tigers

Paul Voelker, RH reliever: He has done just about nothing but pitch well in 2018, which has been his habit. Voelker has a 1.65 ERA in his last 10 games and on the year has a 2.30 ERA (34 games), with a 0.97 WHIP, while batters are doing no better against him than .169. He’s going to pitch his way to Detroit, it would seem, at some point, with 2019 looking like his best shot. Voelker is only 5-10, 185, and was a 10th-round pick in 2014 (Dallas Baptist).

Zac Reininger, RH reliever: He easily could return to Comerica Park in September after a big second half with the Mud Hens. Reininger since June has pitched in 15 games and has an ERA of 1.55. He has struck out 22 and walked six in 23.1 innings.

And who’s not …

Edwin Espinal, 1B: Wretched 10-game stretch for Espana: .133 in his last 10. He’s batted .159 since the Triple A All-Star break (15 games). Espanal, 24, was signed last offseason as a minor-league free agent after spending earlier years in the Pirates system.


Who’s hot …

Willi Castro, SS: He’s gotten cozy in a hurry with his new organization after the Tigers snatched him from the Indians by way of a trade-deadline deal for Leonys Martin. Castro went 5-for-14 in his first four games for the SeaWolves, then early in Sunday’s game slammed his first homer for Erie. He’s a switch-hitter, 6-1, 165.

Danny Woodrow, OF: Woodrow batted .329 in June, .351 in July, and has cooled only slightly in August as he savors, overall, a .318 average in 66 games for the SeaWolves. He’s a left-handed hitter, a top-of-the-order type, is 23, and in 2016 was a Tigers 12th-round pick out of Creighton.

And who’s not …

Cam Gibson, OF, and Jake Rogers, C: Gibson had a hot start after jumping to Erie, but has been in a dip since: .148 in his last 10 games. Rogers has had a mostly bruising year at Erie and in his last 10 is batting .179. He’s at .203 for the year.

John Schreiber, RH reliever: Your weekly Schreiber round-up: He’s only been scored on in one game in his last 13. He’s a drop-down (sidearm, if you prefer) pitcher with a season ERA of 2.12 and a WHIP of 1.09. He’s also from Rockwood.

Luke Burch


Who’s hot …

Luke Burch, CF: The Tigers chose him a year ago in the ninth round (Kent State) and Burch has had a sweet first full season: .313 at West Michigan before getting boosted to Lakeland, where in 49 games he also has hit .313. He needs to work on muscle mass, with only a career .339 slugging percentage. That’s especially true when Burch is 6-2, 185. He bats left-handed.

Jose Azocar, OF: He still isn’t taking any walks, but he’s at least hitting: .353 in his last 10. Azocar is 22, can definitely play the outfield with polish and with an arm, but to date hasn’t been able to develop a relationship with the strike zone.

Troy Montgomery, OF: He went to Ohio State, was an eighth-round pick by the Angels in 2016, and came Detroit’s way last December as part of the Ian Kinsler trade. He turns 24 next month and thus is a bit gray for Single A. But he’s a left-handed batter, 5-10, 185, is batting .400 in his last 10 games and .351 in 30 games after having an earlier bumpy stint at Erie.

Cole Peterson, SS: He’s had some spotlight moments during a first full season in professional baseball that saw him promoted from West Michigan. In his last 10 games at Lakeland, Peterson is batting .294. He was a 13th-round pick in 2017 (St. Bonaventure).

Alfred Gutierrez, RH starter: Good summer for Gutierrez, who just turned 23 and will need next season to keep things going at Double A. But in his last 10 games he has a 2.72 ERA, with 48 strikeouts and 37 hits in 49.2 innings. He was signed out of Nueva Esparta, Venezuela, and is 6-1, 200.

Drew Carlton, RH reliever: He’s from the Tigertown neighborhood in Lakeland, Fla., and pitched at Florida State. He wasn’t a guy teams scrambled to draft in 2017 (32nd round) but there’s no quibbles with his work at Lakeland: one run in his last eight games and 10.1 innings, with 14 strikeouts, three walks, and six hits.

And who’s not …

Anthony Pereira, 2B: Four hits in his last 10 games, which is a .125 average, and part of an overall effort of .201 in his 58 games for the Flying Tigers, including a .579 OPS. Not much fun in 2018 for a 21-year-old right-handed hitter the Tigers signed out of Venezuela.

More: McCosky: Ex-Tigers skipper Ausmus keeps eyes trained on next managing opportunity


Who’s hot …

Tarik Skubal, LH pitcher: Tigers really – really – like Skubal, who might go down as a bit of ninth-round larceny after Detroit swiped him in June’s draft. He had Tommy John surgery and missed his 2017 season at Seattle University. The Tigers pounced in June and now have a pitcher who in 22.1 innings (GCL, Connecticut, and West Michigan) has struck out 33, unintentionally walked three, and allowed 15 hits. He’s 6-3, 215, and is from Hayward, Calif. This is a gent worth following.

Dylan Rosa, OF: The man has been ablaze of late: .484 in his last 10 games a year after the Tigers drafted him in the 18th round out of Kent State. He also can play the outfield, as at least one web gem has attested. Rosa bats right-handed and is 6-2, 200.

Elvin Rodriguez, RH starter: He has a 2.70 ERA in his last five starts, with 29 strikeouts and 15 walks in 30 innings, alongside 23 hits. He’s only 20 and will find his way into next year’s line of top Tigers prospects. Rodriguez came to the Tigers as part of last August’s trade that sent Justin Upton to the Angels.

And who’s not …

Reynaldo Rivera, 1B: Looks as if Rivera’s first full season in the minors is doing what first full seasons often do to hitters: wearing him down. He’s batting .167 in his past 10 games. The Tigers want Rivera, who turned 21 in June, to survive this 2018 campaign and continue finding his way next year. He was a second-round pick in 2017 and the Tigers need his big left-handed bat, badly.


Who’s hot …

Wenceel Perez, SS: Not bad for an 18-year-old: .333 in his past 10 games after the Tigers moved him to Connecticut from their Gulf Coast League laboratory. Perez is a switch-hitter and is one of the Tigers’ bigger investments from their most recent Latin American forays. He’s 5-11, 170.

And who’s not …

Darwin Alvarado, RH: Because he’s 19 and playing at a level above GCL, Alvarado’s bosses won’t fret that he’s hitting .121 in his last 10 games. He’s a left-handed batter, 6-1, 170, from Venezuela.


Who’s hot …

Kilber Santana, RH reliever: He’s 19, which beats stats so many of the college kids, just drafted, rack up in the early weeks. Santana had one game he’d just as soon tuck in the incinerator (seven runs) but otherwise has pitched neatly: 22 strikeouts and only three walks in his past 23.1 innings. He’s 6-1, 160, and was signed out of Venezuela.

And who’s not …

Jheyser Azuaje, C: Has been having as difficult time at the plate as some have pronouncing his name: .152 in his last 10 games. He’s from Venezuela and is 5-9, 165.


Who’s hot …

Parker Meadows, OF: Shook off a mild hamstring problem and is doing splendidly eight weeks after the Tigers made him their second-round pick out of Grayson High in Loganville, Ga. Meadows is hitting .310 in 14 games, with a .968 OPS and three home runs. He’s left-handed stick and is a towering 6-5, 185.

Jose King, SS: He wasn’t ready for Connecticut, but at 19 in the GCL he’s doing fine: .306 in his last 10 games a year after the Tigers got him in the deal with Arizona that sent J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks.

And who’s not …

Jeremiah Burks, SS: This isn’t anything an eighth-round pick from Fresno State expected in the GCL hatchery, but it’s baseball: .086 in his last 10 ordeals, er, games.


Twitter @Lynn_Henning