Slugging outfielders help power Detroit’s development machine
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each organization and honors the players — regardless of age or prospect status — who had the best seasons in each farm system. Next up in our 2022 Organization All-Stars series are the Detroit Tigers.
2022 Organization Summary
Triple-A Toledo: 87-63
Double-A Erie: 80-58 (division winner)
High-A West Michigan: 72-59
Single-A Lakeland: 66-64
FCL Tigers: 18-37
DSL Tigers 1: 22-38
DSL Tigers 2: 31-25
Overall record: 376-344 (.522 winning percentage, ninth among MLB organizations)
Tigers Organization All-Stars
Catcher: Josh Crouch
An 11th-round pick out of Central Florida last year, Crouch hit his way into Tigers prominence with a .286/.361/.433 line, 11 homers and 25 doubles in 107 games between Lakeland, West Michigan and Erie. The bulk of that time (90 contests) came in the Midwest League, but he likely could have reached Double-A even quicker if not for the presence of Dillon Dingler at that level.
“He has a short swing, and he’s able to generate pop to the middle of the field,” said Erie manager Gabe Alvarez. “That’s what successful hitters do — when you can drive the ball to the middle or the other way, you know, that having big boy pop — and he can definitely do that.”
The Tigers’ No. 29 prospect was also a solid defensive catcher with good pop times and a solid throwing arm that helped him nab 29 percent of attempted basestealers across all three levels.
Nieporte reaches 30 home runs
First base: Quincy Nieporte
After a stint in the Phillies system, Nieporte spent the 2019 and 2021 seasons in indy ball, mostly with Schaumburg in the Frontier League. The Tigers brought him in with a Minor League deal in March, and the 28-year-old slugger responded by becoming Eastern League MVP.
Nieporte led all Tigers Minor Leaguers (and the entire Double-A level) with 31 homers over 123 games. His .536 slugging percentage also topped all qualified full-season Minor Leaguers in the system, while his .867 OPS placed second. Perhaps just as impressively, the right-handed slugger hit for all that pop while fanning in only 16.4 percent of his plate appearances, numbers that certainly solidify his case to stay in affiliated ball.
Second base: Wenceel Perez
Perez had appeared in the Tigers’ Top 30 Prospects list for three straight seasons from 2019-21 but dropped out after he managed just a .661 OPS in 90 High-A games last year. The 22-year-old switch-hitter added strength in the offseason and provided a little more lift in his swing as well to produce a breakout season in 2022.
The Dominican native hit .295/.369/.534 with 14 homers, 10 triples, 23 doubles and 18 steals in 94 games between West Michigan and Erie. He was remarkably consistent at the two levels too, posting an .893 OPS at High-A and .914 at Double-A, and his .903 mark between the spots led Detroit’s full-season Minor Leaguers. He saw time at second and third base at High-A, but only played second following his Erie promotion in mid-June.
“He’s definitely stronger than last year,” Alvarez said. “Being a switch-hitter, sometimes guys like him end up getting half the work from each side. But he understands what it takes to be a good switch-hitter and that’s putting in double the work, making sure you’re getting all your work from both sides of the plate every day. He definitely does that.”
Keith collects 4 knocks
Third base: Colt Keith
Normally a player whose season ended on June 9 due to a shoulder injury doesn’t wind up an Organization All-Star, but Keith was simply so dominant before then that he commanded inclusion.
The 2020 fifth-rounder batted .301/.370/.544 with nine homers in 48 games at High-A before hitting the injured list. His 150 wRC+ (which adjusts for league factors in the Minors) was second-best among Tigers Minor Leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances.
Shortstop: Corey Joyce
The 2019 12th-rounder played at the top three levels of the Detroit pipeline and hit (and walked) everywhere he played, finishing with a .264/.411/.450 line over 88 games.
That .411 OBP was second-best in the system (for players with a minimum of 300 plate appearances), and his 15.8 percent walk rate placed fourth. Joyce’s best stretch came at Triple-A Toledo, where he played only seven games but went 10-for-16 (.625) with two homers, two doubles and five walks.
Carpenter drills two homers
You can’t tell the story of the Tigers system in 2022 without featuring Carpenter prominently. The 2019 19th-rounder underwent swing adjustments in the offseason that enabled him to get more lift and power in his swing, and the proof was in the pudding.
The left-handed slugger was in the running for the Minor League home run lead for much of the summer before his Major League callup on Aug. 10. Instead, his 30 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A were second-most among Detroit farmhands, all the more impressive considering he played only 98 Minor League games. His .310 average, .645 slugging percentage, 1.025 OPS and 169 were all highest among the 47 Tigers Minor Leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances, and he doubled that standard with 400.
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“He needed all Spring Training at-bats and about 50 to 75 at-bats to start the year just to get the timing down of it,” Alvarez said of Carpenter’s new swing. “But once he did, I have never seen anything like it. He was driving balls from line to line, off of right-handers, left-handers, hard throwers, soft throwers. He was hitting everything. It was really fun to watch.”
Meadows hits inside-the-parker
Meadows’ OPS numbers over his past two full seasons entering 2022: .608 and .623 in 2019 and 2021, respectively. The 2018 second-rounder — and brother of fellow Detroit outfielder Austin — has long been lauded for his plus speed, good throwing arm and impressive defense in center, but the bat hadn’t broken through. That changed in 2022.
The left-handed slugger was an Eastern League All-Star after hitting .275/.374/.466 with 16 homers and 17 steals in 113 games with Double-A Erie. Toss in his four homers over a 14-game stint with West Michigan, and Meadows finished with a career-high 20 in the category, more than doubling his previous best of eight from 2021.
“He’s been more aggressive with his intent and really driving the ball to the pull side,” Alvarez said. “He learned to work counts and get into favorable hitters’ counts. That’s the process of any young hitter — figuring out what you can do, what pitches you hit well and finding out how to get to those counts where you get the pitches you want. He definitely did that.”
Perhaps no Tigers Minor Leaguer understood and utilized the zone better than Mendoza did this summer. The 22-year-old led full-season qualifiers with a .425 OBP and 19.4 percent walk rate over 402 plate appearances at Single-A and High-A. He also did a good job of protecting the plate by walking more than he struck out (14.4 percent of the time). Mendoza’s .266 average, .344 slugging percentage and 17 extra-base hits in 99 games show he has some room to grow in terms of making a powerful impact at the plate.
Right-handed starter: Wilmer Flores
Detroit signed the 6-foot-5 right-hander as an undrafted free agent following the five-round 2020 Draft. Two years later, he’s a Top 100 prospect.
Pitching at High-A and Double-A, Flores ranked among the Tigers’ top three Minor Leaguers (with a minimum of 100 innings pitched) with a 2.79 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, .209 average-against, 30.8 percent K rate, 5.5 percent walk rate and 3.19 FIP. His 3.01 ERA in Erie specifically was third-best among 21-year-olds at Double-A (min. 70 IP), trailing only fellow Top 100 prospects Taj Bradley (1.70) and Quinn Priester (2.87).
Flores’ mid-90s fastball and high-spin curveball were the two plus pitches he needed to dominate the Eastern League and could make him an impressive Major League starter on their own.
“It is amazing to see,” Alvarez said. “Sometimes he could go out there and just use the fastball to get swings and misses. He could throw a whole inning and just punch out the side going off fastballs and then come back and do the same throwing all breaking balls. He has that type of stuff.”
Left-handed starter: Brant Hurter
Detroit snagged Hurter in the seventh round out of Georgia Tech last year and he climbed three levels from Single-A to Double-A in his first full season. The 6-foot-6 southpaw mixes in three pitches and has no issue filling up the zone, as evidenced by his system-best 4.8 percent walk rate and 6.5 K/BB ratio. Because he threw so many competitive pitches, low-level batters didn’t know what to do with him and struck out 31.1 percent of the time against Hurter, giving him the second-highest qualified K rate in the Detroit Minor League ranks.
His other numbers were more solid (3.71 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) than special, but a 2.52 FIP speaks better to his true level of performance.
Reliever: Brendan White
Utilizing a mid-90s fastball and high-spin slider out of his three-quarters delivery, White was tough to touch in the Eastern League this season. His 0.91 WHIP and .180 average were all the best among Tigers farmhands with at least 60 innings, and his 2.67 ERA over 67 1/3 frames (all with Erie) placed second among that group.
What’s more, the 5-foot-11 righty was just as tough against lefties (.496 OPS) as he was against righties (.521 OPS) and didn’t give up any homers to the former group over 122 plate appearances, thanks to the way he kept them off balance with the breaking ball.