The Tigers sent seven players to the Arizona Fall League this year to suit up for the Scottsdale Scorpions; shortstop JaCoby Jones, outfielder Mike Gerber, first baseman Dominic Ficociello, right-handers Adam Ravenelle, Montreal Robertson, Austin Kubitza and Jeff Ferrell.
Each year, the Tigers use the AFL to serve a variety of purposes. In certain instances, they send players there who missed substantial time during the year and are still relatively fresh and need to get some more work in. Ravenelle fits that bill this year, as he missed much of the first half of the season with an illness. He’s appeared in one game so far, tossing a scoreless inning of relief.
In other cases, the Tigers use the league as a chance to challenge some younger players that might be looked at for a quick path up the ladder. Mike Gerber spent all year hammering the ball in West Michigan, and with a strong showing in Arizona, could be ticketed for Double-A Erie next season. Gerber has played in just a couple games so far, but has three hits in seven at-bats, including a double and a triple, good for a 1.232 OPS.
There’s also a case where the Tigers might want to see if a player can contribute at the big league level next season. Jeff Ferrell already made his big league debut, but struggled in it, and likely needs to make some strides to be able to contribute in a bullpen in dire need of assistance next season. Ferrell has yet to appear in a game yet.
And finally, there’s just the case where the Tigers want some prospects to face quality competition and see how they perform. JaCoby Jones and Dominic Ficociello both had good years across High-A and Double-A ball, and will face talented pitching in the league. Jones is off to a red hot start, with seven hits in 13 at-bats, including a pair of home runs. He’s second in the young AFL season with 13 total bases. Ficociello meanwhile has two hits in eight at-bats, including a double.
On the pitching side, both Kubitza and Robertson fall into that bucket as well. Kubitza struggled in 2015 with Erie, but with a devastating slider is still viewed as a prospect with a big league future. He has yet to appear in a game, but Robertson has, tossing 2 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball. Robertson pitched well in both the Lakeland and Erie bullpens this season, and has remained a prospect to keep an eye on. A strong fall could set him up to be in Toledo this spring, just a step away from the show.