TigsTown.com - Bryan Green

Detroit Tigers Minor League Relievers Show Early Season Promise

As the Tigers’ bullpen continues to struggle before our very eyes, there remains promise at every level of the minor league system, both for the future and potentially, now. A trade for a top-tier reliever would be ideal prior to July’s trade deadline to stabilize the group, but a few in the farm system may be able to help in the Motor City beyond the names everyone is familiar with in Bruce Rondon and Joe Jimenez.

In Toledo, Arcenio Leon continues to pitch well. While it is early, Leon leads the Mud Hens in innings pitched among relievers with 17, allowing just nine hits and holding a 12:2 K:BB ratio to post a 1.06 ERA. Leon signed as a minor-league free agent this past winter after being he spent the 2016 season in the Mexican League in which he posted a 3.30 ERA in 62 2/3 innings with 36 saves. Now, Leon is featuring a fastball that runs at 94-95 MPH but has topped out at 97 and after a solid showing in the Grapefruit League, Leon continues to open eyes. Despite having several productive minor league seasons Leon has not yet pitched in the big leagues.

 

Another Mud Hen looking to make it back up to the majors is left-hander Daniel Stumpf. The 26-year old Texas native has pitched 14 2/3 innings in 18 appearances with a 3.07 ERA, striking out 17 and walking five. Stumpf specializes in winning the lefty-on-lefty matchups and has 11 strikeouts and a walk when facing lefties. This spring, Stumpf pitched nearly nine innings for the Tigers and allowed four earned runs while struggling with his command. However, his solid start to the 2017 season in Triple-A is a positive sight to see.

 

Fellow left-hander Chad Bell pitched well in the Glass City of Toledo, working as a starter for the club. Bell is now up with the Tigers and has shown well, not allowing an earned run in his 6 2/3 innings pitched. Bell was especially effective as a long reliever in the club’s game on Tuesday, going four innings without allowing a run, taking on the role that should be assumed by Anibal Sanchez. The 28-year old was acquired in last year’s trade with the Texas Rangers for catcher Bobby Wilson, a trade that has paid off for Al Avila, though it was small at the time. It remains to be seen if the Tigers could potentially utilize Bell in a late-inning role, but given the struggles of others, especially former closer Francisco Rodriguez, it could be entertained if he continues to find success.

 

In Double-A Erie, Victor Alcantara is catching some eyes at 24-years old. A native of the Dominican Republic, Alcantara has a 1.96 ERA in 23 innings pitched and has the ability to pitch in long relief. Tigers general manager Al Avila acquired the right-hander from the Angels for Cameron Maybin last season. While looking effective thus far in 2017, Alcantara has a history of wildness since being signed in 2011. In fact, a 4.6 percent K-BB rate in 2013 was especially worrisome, and his season he has already walked nine in his 23 innings. Alcantara was reportedly hitting 100 MPH when he was signed in 2011, according to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser but ow 94-95 MPH is the norm for the Erie reliever. The plus-fastball is complimented by a dominant slider. Could we be seeing the next version of Al Albuquerque in the Tigers’ farm system, with an ineffective plus-fastball and a power slider?

 

Jairo Labourt was finally finding his groove in Lakeland after two years of inconsistent performance. Labourt was acquired by the Tigers in the David Price deal which sent Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and the then 21-year old to Detroit. Labourt’s big question was if he could throw strikes in higher levels of the minor leagues as his career progressed, and in the remainder of 2015 as well as 2016, he didn’t show enough consistency to provide confidence that he was ready for the challenge of more advanced hitters. But early in 2017 with Lakeland over 18 2/3 innings pitched, he posted just five walks and 30 strikeouts. The native of the Dominican Republic is showing he can command his plus-fastball and effective slider so far this season and since his promotion to Double-A Erie, Labourt only has tossed five innings with eight strikeouts, two walks, and three earned runs. If the command continues, Labourt has the arsenal that could put him on the fast track to Detroit.

 

Bryan Garcia is another intriguing name to keep an eye on. He was West Michigan’s closer until Wednesday when he was promoted to High-A Lakeland. The 2016 sixth round pick has a fastball that sits in the upper 90’s. Garcia was nine-for-eleven in save opportunities with the Whitecaps, one of those blown saves came on the road in a one run game at Fort Wayne. In just over 14 innings this season, Garcia has registered a staggering 27 strikeouts versus just four walks and a respectable 3.14 ERA. As an experienced arm with college experience and already age 22, Garcia could be another one on the fast track to the Detroit, even if he may not be ready this year.


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