While Jeff Jones is the pitching coach of the big league club, he obviously has an interest in the youngsters within the organization – because when the Tigers are in need of a reliever or a new pitcher due to a trade or injury, it’s likely going to be pulling from the farm system to fill that hole. And spring training gives Jones the chance to see a number of those pitchers up close.
When asked about which young pitchers had stood out, the first name out of his mouth was no surprise to anyone that has been paying attention this spring. “Nesbitt probably more than anybody else has stood out,” said Jones.
Nesbitt of course refers to Angel Nesbitt, who has been the surprise of camp, and is still in contention for a spot in the bullpen. At 24, Nesbitt dominated in both Lakeland and Erie last season, and has a power fastball that sits in the mid-90’s, and has been registering 97 and 98 MPH readings on the radar gun this spring.
Manager Brad Ausmus had similar praise for Nesbitt, when talking about one of his better outings. “He uses all of his pitches. He threw his cutter, some good cutters, threw some excellent changeups. He still throws strikes; he was around the strike zone,” Ausmus remarked about Nesbitt.
But when evaluating Nesbitt and the possibility of him making the big league roster, Ausmus caveated that they’ll look at much more than just the results Nesbitt got. “Like I’ve said we’re looking more at his delivery, how hitters are reacting to the ball, I’ll talk to Alex Avila and ask him what he thinks for a catcher’s perspective because they have a unique perspective seeing a bunch of different pitchers and see the action on the ball better than anyone else, so we take all of those into account.”
For the full rundown on the scouting report on Nesbitt, check out TigsTown’s scouting report on the big right-hander:
Besides Nesbitt, the other name Jones mentioned might come as a surprise to many.
“Rafael Dolis has thrown the ball very well this spring - we got him as a six year free agent,” said Jones. Similar to Nesbitt, Dolis has had impressive velocity readings on the radar gun as well. “He throws 95 or 96,” quipped Jones, a common theme among Tigers pitching prospects that garner praise.
Dolis is 27, and someone the Tigers signed this off-season from the Giants, after he had spent most of his career with the Cubs. He pitched in the big leagues over three seasons, from 2011 through 2013, with a career 5.48 ERA.
His spring has been rather inconsistent, with a 7.56 ERA over nine appearances. He’s struck out seven in just over eight innings, but as noted, is once again showing the velocity that made him a top ten prospect in the Cubs system a few years ago. He’s likely to find his way to the bullpen in Toledo to start the year, where he’ll be a part of a large cadre of relievers with big league potential.
As the herd of prospects has thinned out, one guy that was recently trimmed from the big league roster, but is pegged for a rotation spot in Toledo, is right-hander Buck Farmer. When asked about him, Ausmus stated: “He does have good stuff – we've got a few guys with good stuff. But, developmentally, I think you saw an example of how we have some youngsters that are developing. Yes it’s a gradual process, but long-term the stuff could produce an excellent pitcher, whether starter or reliever.”
One final guy that is also in contention for a relief spot, like Nesbitt, is left-hander Kyle Ryan. It’s been an up-and-down spring for Ryan, who has been used almost exclusively as a starter in his career, but is being focused on as a reliever for now. The assessment from Ausmus on his spring performance has acknowledged the ups and the downs: “He’s been extremely good or extremely bad so far. But overall I still think he has very good stuff, especially to get a left-hander out. Obviously he struggled with his command last night, especially early in the outing.”
Whether he ends up claiming a spot in the bullpen or not though, Ausmus is still optimistic about Ryan’s future. As he concluded, “I still like Kyle Ryan, especially as a guy that can get a left-hander out. That’s more based on stuff than anything else.”