TIGERS IN THE MINORS
It’s the best time of year, y’all. Well, if you like dozens of games a day, wacky promotions in beautiful ballparks in obscure cities across the country, and watching young aspiring ball players chasing their dreams. After over 600 days, the minor league baseball players finally got to resume their paths on the road to The Show. While MLB resumed after the COVID 19 pandemic created a temporary postponement to the beginning of the major league season last year, the players not a part of the big league club didn’t get to participate in their MiLB organizations in 2020, so this season had been both long and anxiously awaited for them. The 2021 season kicked off on May 4th and here’s how the Tigers in the Minors have started out their respective seasons and a little bit about how they’ve been doing since they were in Purple and Gold.
Former All-SEC, All-American outfielder Greg Deichmann, who slugged 30 homers and drove in 130 runs in his stellar LSU career and was drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft by the Oakland Athletics, is off to a fantastic start with Triple-A Las Vegas. He was selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League in 2019, which is reserved for top prospects, where he was named a Rising Star after slugging nine homers in just 23 games. He was added to Oakland’s 40 man roster and has been named the no. 9 prospect in the A’s organization by Baseball America.
Through 40 games this season he’s slashing .324/.457/.475/.932 including 3 HR, 21 RBI, swiped 6 bags, and taken 35 walks to 38 strikeouts. He leads the league in walks.
Two year starting catcher for the Tigers, Michael Papierski, a ninth rounder in 2017 for the Houston Astros, also began 2021 in Triple-A with the Sugar Land Skeeters. Pap enjoyed time with the big league club this Spring Training. He has slugged 17 homers and driven in 85 in his minor league career.
An interesting theme this minor league season for the Tigers in the Minors is that they have teamed up with former LSU players. Three different pairs of former Tigers are on the same minor league teams this season. Papierski is joined by recently signed free agent right handed pitcher Ryan Eades, who made his Major League debut in 2019 with the Minnesota Twins, who drafted him in 2013 with the 43rd overall pick.
Through 39 games Pap is hitting .290/.423/.444/.867. He’s hit two HR with 23 RBI and has 25 walks to 26 strikeouts. In six appearances out of the bullpen with the Skeeters, Eades has racked up 9 strikeouts in 6 innings. He was placed on the 7-day injured list on June 17.
Originator of LSU’s no. 8 tradition, first rounder of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2011 MLB Draft, and one of the greatest Tigers ever, outfielder Mikie Mahtook, who signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox in the off-season, is with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. He’s spent time in the majors in parts of five seasons since 2015, and has collected a line of .265/.335/.426/.761 over his nine year career. Through 34 games with Charlotte this season he’s swatted 8 homers and driven in 18 runs.
Former Tiger closer, right hander Nick Goody has resigned a minor league contract with the New York Yankees and has joined the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders bullpen. He originally signed with the Yankees after being drafted by them in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Across his minors career prior to 2021, Goody has struck out 273 batters in 185.2 innings. In 17 games out of the bullpen in 2021, Goody is 4-1 with a 2.86 ERA and has struck out 31 batters in just 22 innings.
Former All-American and St. Louis fourth round selection, infielder Kramer Robertson has started his season with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds after joining the Cardinals spring training at the major league site earlier this year. You may know his mom, I think she coaches a sport at LSU. Since the calendar flipped to June, Kramer has driven in 20 runs. Through 47 games as a utility man, Kramer is hitting .245/.369/.435/.804 and has hit 5 homers and driven in 28 runs.
Known for his big stature on the mound with his 6’6” frame, righty reliever Parker Bugg, selected out of LSU in the 2016 draft by the Miami Marlins in the 27th round, has started 2021 in Triple-A with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. In 12 appearances he’s 2-0 with a 4.44 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.
Son of former Chicago Cubs pitcher Scott Sanders, right handed pitcher, Cam Sanders, who spent 2018 with the Tigers and was drafted by the Cubs in the 12th round of the 2018 draft, had one of the most spectacular Double-A debuts with the Tennessee Smokies that a guy could have. He fired five no hit, shutout innings, striking out seven, walking just one. He was touching 98 on the radar gun. Through 10 appearances, he’s 1-3 with a 5.44 ERA and has struck out 55 batters in 46.1 innings.
Infielder Jake Slaughter, also drafted by the Cubs in that same 2018 draft is off to a good start to his pro career, hitting .254, and getting on base at a .322 clip. He’s at High-A South Bend where he has driven in 13 and swiped 7 bases.
First Baseman Chris Chinea, originally drafted in 2015 by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 17th round, signed a minor league free agent deal with the Miami Marlins this off season, and was assigned to Double-A Pensacola. Chinea has smashed 42 homers and driven in 210 in his minors career, and slashed .273/.319/.406/.725.
LSU’s spark plug, former no. 8, and a huge key to the Tiger’s 2017 run to the CWS finals, second baseman Cole Freeman started 2021 at Double-A Harrisburg. Freeman was selected in the 2017 draft by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round. In his three year professional career he’s slashing .285/.368/.386/.754, has stolen 63 bases, and has walked 113 times to 137 strikeouts. This season, in 41 games, his line is .261/.331/.376/.707 and he’s hit 4 homers and stolen 6 bags while spending some time in the outfield.
A 42 game starter at catcher for the Tigers after coming from LSU-Eunice, Hunter Feduccia—drafted in the 12th round of the 2018 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers—is in Double-A with the Tulsa Drillers. He’s gotten off to a great start to his pro career slashing .260/.367/.371 in 2 seasons.
Former Tiger Freshman All-American and Gold Glove center fielder, Zach Watson has been assigned to High-A Aberdeen by the Baltimore Orioles. He was selected with the 79th overall pick in the 2019 draft and in his first half pro season he slugged five homers and stole ten bases. In 2021 at High-A, Watson has hit 7 homers and stolen 14 bases while slashing .256/.314/.364/.778.
Former Tiger southpaw, Nick Bush, an eighth round selection by the Colorado Rockies in 2018, has started off in High-A Spokane. In three seasons, working primarily as a starter, Bush is 11-12 with a 3.86 ERA in 177.1 innings. This season, Bush is off to a fantastic start, going 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA, striking out 56 in 48.1 innings.
Another pair of Tigers in the Minors teammates, right handers Cole Henry and Todd Peterson, are joining one another in Wilmington with the High-A Blue Rocks. Henry was drafted in 2020 by the Washington Nationals in the second round after spending a year and a COVID year as LSU’s Friday night starter where he was named a Freshman All-American. He spun a gem in his second professional start, striking out ten batters in six one hit, shutout frames. Henry was also named the no. 3 prospect in the Nationals organization this season by Baseball America. He is 1-3 on the season with a 3.00 ERA while striking out 35 in 24 IP. He was placed on the 7-day Injured List on June 5th.
Peterson received a non-roster invite to big league spring training this spring and made the jump from short season to High-A in his second pro-season. He is currently on rehab assignment in the Rookie League after being placed on the 7-day Injured list on May 19th.
Outfielder Daniel Cabrera, selected in the competitive balance second round by the Detroit Tigers in the 2020 draft after enjoying a stellar career for the LSU Tigers, made his professional debut with High-A West Michigan. The former LSU Freshman All-American and no. 8 has begun his season by hitting 4 homers and driving in 32 in 46 games. Cabrera was named the no. 9 prospect in the Tigers farm system prior to the ’21 season by Baseball America. He is also joined by another former familiar face, Zack Hess in West Michigan.
Hess was drafted in the 7th round by the Detroit Tigers in the 2019 draft after a career at LSU where he garnered Freshman All-America honors, and got the attention of the college baseball world when he harnessed the character style of Charlie Sheen’s Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn from the “Major League” movies, and powered LSU to the 2017 CWS as LSU’s shutdown closer. Hess has struck out 30 batters in 20 innings out of the WM bullpen and has picked up two saves and two holds.
The LSU career leader in hits and games played and no. 2 in SEC career hits, outfielder Antoine Duplantis began his season with the New York Mets High-A affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones. After completing one of the most decorated 4 year careers in LSU baseball history, Duplantis was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round of the 2019 draft. On May 6th, he hit his first professional home run and is slashing .236/.311/.333/.645 on the season.
Freshman All-American and 2019 2nd round pick of the New York Yankees, second baseman Josh Smith began the season on the injured list with an injury sustained in spring training and was assigned to class A where he promptly hit 6 HR and drove in 15 in 11 games and earned a promotion to High-A Hudson Valley where he has continued his stellar start with 13 extra base hits in 19 games, and is slashing .347/.453/.625/1.078 with 2 homers (8 total) and 9 stolen bases at that level.
Former Tiger Ace and first rounder of the Chicago Cubs in 2017, Alex Lange did not originally break camp with the club, but made his debut in the Bigs with the Detroit Tigers on April 10, 2021. He has made 18 appearances and has struck out 20 in 16 innings out of the Tigers bullpen. He was placed on the Major League 10-day Injured List on June 15 with a right shoulder strain.
Former Tiger All-American outfielder JaCoby Jones, a third round pick in 2013 has spent time at both the Major League and Triple-A level this season with the Detroit Tigers. At Triple-A Toledo, Jones is hitting .235/.333/.382/.716, has hit two home runs and has driven in ten.
Catcher Saul Garza who came into his own as a Tiger at the end of the 2019 season, picking up Baton Rouge Regional MOP honors, and saw 2020 cut short by COVID, signed with the Kansas City Royals following the shortened draft last summer. Garza has started his professional career with the AZL Royals Rookie team. He’s played in just one game as their season started July 1st.
South of the border there are a pair of former Tigers playing in Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB):
Slugger Matt Clark, drafted in the 2008 draft by the San Diego Padres in the 12th round out of LSU, is slashing .309/.426/.527/.615 for two different clubs in 2021, most recently Bravos de Leon. However, since being traded to Leon on June 15, he’s hitting .383/.472/.767/1.239 with 6 homers, 5 doubles and 17 RBI in just 15 games.
Former Tiger third baseman, Christian Ibarra, drafted in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates but elected to return to LSU after a campaign when he was named to the All-SEC Defensive team and First Team All-SEC, is also playing in the Mexican League for the Mariachis de Guadalajara. He’s slashing .313/.430/.542/.972 in 26 games, mostly at 2nd base. He’s got 4 doubles, 3 triples, and 3 homers while driving in 18. His eyes for the strike zone have not changed since he left The Box, as he has taken a base on balls 18 times to 18 strikeouts.
My apologies for missing him on my first run, but one of last years fan favorites, who’s LSU career was cut too short by COVID, infielder Zack Mathis, signed with the San Diego Padres following the 2020 Draft. He started 2021 with Class-A Lake Elsinore, and is hitting .261/.375/.375/.750 with 2 homers and 5 RBI through 27 games. He even got 2 innings in as a #positionplayerpitching a few weeks back!