Tigers prospects get taste of tougher competition with late-season promotions

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Daz Cameron

That was some wave of job promotions the Detroit Tigers made Friday.

A dozen farm prospects were bumped to a higher rung in Detroit’s chain, all because, in the team’s mind, they had earned it, and because the Tigers want them to at least taste tougher competition before the minor-league regular season closes in two weeks.

Those getting tickets to the next level included:

Daz Cameron, Troy Montgomery, Brock Deatherage, Parker Meadows, and Matthew Jarecki, all outfielders; infielders Kody Clemens, Wenceel Perez, Reece Hampton, Jose King, and Herlis Rodriguez; as well as pitchers Alfred Gutierrez and Alfredo Silva.

“We talked to our scouting staff, and to our pro scouting staff, and got a wide range of opinions,” said Dave Littlefield, the Tigers' vice president of player development. “There’s a little less than three weeks, and we think it’s a better idea for some of our prospects to get a sense for the next level and what’s to come next year: the travel, the level of competition, the breaking balls.”

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Cameron, Montgomery, and King came to the Tigers as part of 2018 trades. Clemens, Deatherage, Meadows, Hampton, and Jarecki arrived by way of June’s draft. Perez, Gutierrez, and Silva were Tigers international signees, while Rodriguez was signed in January as a minor-league free agent.

Each player had shown during the season’s second half, Littlefield, said, that it was time for a taste of tougher life.

Cameron, CF, to Triple A Toledo from Double A Erie: This is a second in-season boost for Cameron, 21, who began the year at Lakeland, where he batted .259 before heading for Erie, where in 53 games he hit .285, with an .837 OPS.

“He’s one we have real high hopes for,” Littlefield said of a right-handed batter the Tigers got in last August’s deal for Justin Verlander “He’s got the full package. He has physical talent, and he’s mentally strong, with good character. We have high hopes.”

Cameron likely will be sent to big-league spring camp in 2019. He could be in Detroit at some point next season, with 2020 a more likely timeline for regular work at Comerica Park.

Clemens, 2B, to Single A Lakeland from Single A West Michigan: Clemens was the third round’s first pick in June, and the Tigers are forgiven for thinking they might have gotten a steal.

Clemens, 22, hit .302 with an .864 OPS in 41 games for the Whitecaps, at which time the Tigers decided he needed a new home. Clemens is a left-handed batter from the University of Texas who has power (four homers at West Michigan) and who could start the 2019 season at Erie.

If ideal plans take shape, he’ll be in Detroit by 2020.

Deatherage, OF, from West Michigan to Lakeland: He hit .313 (.812 OPS) in 46 games at West Michigan and liked this professional baseball gig so much he decided to go 2-for-4, with a triple and a double, in his Friday night Flying Tigers debut.

Deatherage was a 10th-rounder in June from North Carolina State. He’s fast (15 stolen bases for the Whitecaps), and a sharp defender, which invites questions as to why he was a deep draft pick.

The answer is strikeouts. He had plenty of them at N.C. State and carried on with 51 whiffs in his 46 games at West Michigan. The Tigers hope he can trim the swings and misses, which might or might not be realistic. In the meantime, they’ll live with pluses they saw when he played for the Wolfpack and has since shown in his first two months of pro ball.

Littlefield said there was a consensus among West Michigan manager Lance Parrish, special assistant Alan Trammell, and Scott Bream, vice president of player personnel, that Deatherage, who bats left-handed, and who is 6-1, 175, has a shot.

“They all like his aggressiveness,” said Littlefield, who acknowledged Deatherage’s strikeouts but insisted there are ample stories of hitters who have survived.

Meadows, OF, from Gulf Coast League to Single A Connecticut: Meadows was Detroit’s second-round pick in June and was paid $2.5 million to forgo his Clemson scholarship.

He’s another left-handed hitter, 6-4, 195, and played prep ball at Grayson (Ga.) High.

Meadows batted .284 with four homers in 22 games for the GCL West Tigers, which made him an easy move to Connecticut.

“For a high school kid,” Littlefield said, “he’s handled himself very well.”

Perez, SS, from Single A Connecticut to West Michigan: Not bad when a switch-hitter who’s all of 18 years old gets promoted and instantly goes 4-for-4, which is what Perez did Friday for the Whitecaps.

Then again, the Tigers had a hunch he’d dazzle two years ago when they signed him out of the Dominican Republic and wrote a check for $550,000, which is a brand of money only the best international teens draw.

Perez is 5-11, 170, and will add size and sinew as he moves from his teens into his 20s. The Tigers know they could have a prize evolving in Perez.

Jose King

King, IF, from GCL to Connecticut: King arrived as part of the Tigers trade with Arizona 13 months ago that sent J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks. He was a kid liked much by Mike Russell, the longtime Tigers scout who had a brief interlude with the D’backs before returning to Detroit.

King is, and remains, a project. He’s 19, he is 6-foot, 160, and he runs in the fashion of Reds fireball Billy Hamilton. King bats left-handed and had a rough go when the Tigers earlier this summer moved him to Connecticut, where he batted .208. But during a 24-game retooling at GCL, King batted .314 with an .849 OPS.

“We like him,” Littlefield said. “He scuffled some at Connecticut the first time, and this is what happens – you get some struggles along the way. But he came back and played well and we want to get him back to Connecticut.”

Other promotions include Gutierrez, 23, a right-hander who had earlier moved from Lakeland to Erie. Hampton, a 12th-rounder picked in June from the University of Charlotte, and a switch-hitter, impressed the Tigers more with his overall play and bat than with his average (.185) and moved to West Michigan, where he debuted Friday with a 2-for-4 evening.

Silva, 20, is a Venezuelan left-hander who was strong for the GCL West team (2.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) and won a ticket to Connecticut.

“High hopes,” Littlefield said of Silva. “Big, tall (6-3) lefty, with a good arm.”

Jarecki, a 37th-round grab from Benedictine College, is moving from GCL West to GCL East, while Montgomery, who was shipped to Detroit as part of a trade that sent Ian Kinsler to the Angels, goes from Lakeland to Erie, where he had earlier had a rugged stint.

Jarecki and all of August’s advancers have a couple of weeks to see what the next minor-league level is all about – in competition, lifestyle, and preparation that on the farm tends to come step by step, year by year.


Twitter @Lynn_Henning