In a somewhat surprising move a couple of years ago, the Tigers elected to not hold their annual Fall Instructional League, a roughly one-month long endeavor down at Tigertown in Lakeland.
The reasons given were multiple, including that after a six-month grind, players weren’t ready for another month of baseball, and that efforts redirected elsewhere at player development could be more effective. Minicamps were held during the winter months instead, and some more experienced players got in work in various winter leagues, especially in Latin America.
That changed this year, when the Tigers elected to bring back the Fall Ball club. That decision was driven largely by new leadership atop the baseball organization, including general manager Al Avila and Brad Ausmus. According to Littlefield, “We spoke with Al and Brad, and they both felt that there were some players, especially some of the younger guys, that could use some extra work.”
When expanding on which players they were focusing on, Littlefield continued to specify, “those guys, that missed time because of injury, or were recent draftees and could use some more work, or just younger guys in A-ball, we felt we had an opportunity to hold the session and it’d be beneficial to them – focus more on their fundamental and provide them more reps.”
The Tigers however aren’t shifting back to the old way entirely, as they’ll still hold a minicamp. The camp this time around however will instead be held when big leaguers report for spring training, lasting for a few weeks between big leaguers reporting and the minor leaguers reporting for camp.
This minicamp will be focused as well, according to Littlefield. “The minicamp in spring will be focused one some more of our top prospects, and will allow for some specific and focused instruction for those prospects that would benefit from the additional work.”
Finally, the topic of the Arizona Fall League was broached – currently, the Tigers have pegged seven players to attend the AFL, including JaCoby Jones, who is currently with the big league club as part of the expanded roster. Littlefield said as of now that group in its entirety is still slated to head to Arizona in October to compete among the MLB’s best young talent.
As Littlefield appropriately caveated though, “In our business, things are always subject to change, but as of now, those guys that we selected to head to Arizona next month are all going to be going there.”
Those seven players are right-handers Artie Lewicki, Adam Ravenelle, Jeff Thompson and Spencer Turnbull, catcher Grayson Greiner, outfielder Christin Stewart and utility man JaCoby Jones.
So based on direction from the club’s GM and manager the organization is bringing back Fall Ball while keeping their minicamp concept introduced a couple of years ago, with more targeted efforts for development in each endeavor.