'That's what I strive for': Tigers' top prospect Casey Mize not surprised by early success

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Casey Mize.

Casey Mize sure had his fun in the sun, even if his stay was short.

Mize, last year's No. 1 overall draft pick and the Tigers' top prospect by most experts' opinions, was promoted to Double-A Erie on Thursday after a dominating run at High Single-A Lakeland.

Mize made four starts for Lakeland and posted some sick, sick numbers: In 26 innings, he allowed just seven hits, one walk and one earned run. He struck out 25. His WHIP was 0.31. His ERA was 0.35.

The stats were so eye-popping, did Mize actually surprise himself?

"Umm, honestly, that's a tough question," he said in a conference call with reporters Thursday night. "Honestly, to do it for four starts in a row is pretty challenging, and obviously I'm very happy with what the numbers are.

"But I don't think I'll ever be surprised by my success. That's what I strive for."

In three of his four starts at Lakeland, Mize allowed one hit.

Yet, what was working and what wasn't varied from start to start, as often is the case with pitchers. Sometimes this is on, and sometimes that is off. The key is adapting. Mize said the one consistent element was good fastball command. The first two starts, the cutter was off. The second two starts, all he threw was fastballs and cutters.

Many analysts believe Mize has the stuff to pitch in the majors right now, but with the Tigers rebuilding, there's no sense in rushing him.

"If they were contending this year, he'd appear in the majors," ESPN's Keith Law told The News in January. "But they don't really have any incentive. 

"But he could help a major-league roster right now."

Mize, 21, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander, joins an Erie rotation that now will feature the Tigers' last three first-round picks, with Alex Faedo (2017) and Matt Manning (2016). Both of them are pitching extremely well, too, with Manning posting a 0.62 WHIP, 1.59 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 22.2 innings, and Faedo having just tossed the front seven innings of a combined no-hitter.

On social media Thursday, it was being called arguably the top rotation in all of minor-league baseball.

"Being part of that rotation is really cool," Mize said.

"I know what we could be capable of."

Another top starting prospect, Beau Burrows, is off to a fine start at Triple-A Toledo.

The Tigers selected Mize No. 1 overall in last June's draft, out of Auburn. He pitched just 13.2 innings between rookie ball and high-A last year, as the Tigers felt no need to pile on his workload following his just-completed college season.

They wanted him fresh for this year, and boy, is he fresh.

"I like what he does. I think he can really push the envelop," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said from Boston on Thursday night. 

"I like that they're moving him up. He needs to be challenged." 


Twitter: @tonypaul1984