Pat Caputo: Why Mize, Manning, Skubal Should Pitch For Tigers In 2020

Ideally, you would have a transition period at Triple-A, but that obviously isn’t going to happen in ’20.

Pat Caputo
June 24, 2020 - 2:08 pm

If the Tigers are to put their best team on the field in 2020, Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal will pitch in MLB.

It’s the bottom line, especially under the circumstances.

The trio represent high-ceiling prospects, who have performed well at a high-level of the minor leagues. Each dominated for extended periods during 2019 for Double-A Erie.

Ideally, you would have a transition period at Triple-A, but that obviously isn’t going to happen in ’20.

Mize and Skubal are 23, Manning 22. The average age for an MLB debut is typically 24, the top prospects - and these three are generally considered among the best 25 in the sport - even younger.

When spring training was halted because of the pandemic in March, they were all throwing exceptionally well - high 90s with the fastball and good command of off-speed pitches. They were not overwhelmed by MLB regular hitters. Manning hit 100 mph.

With a rushed and condensed training camp at Comerica Park, pitchers will be working in very short spans - two or three, four innings maximum - at the beginning of the 60-game MLB season.

Pitching depth could be a strength for the Tigers - if they use Mize, Manning and Skubal.

The shortened schedule and what figures to be an improved lineup gives the Tigers a chance for respectability, perhaps even to contend. 

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Matthew Boyd has emerged as an ace and club leader. Daniel Norris pitched exceptionally well last season when limited to three innings per appearance. Spencer Turnbull (2.4 WAR) had an underrated season in ’19 when advanced stats are considered. Michael Fulmer could be back. Buck Farmer and Joe Jimenez provide the makings of a solid back-end of the bullpen.

If you add the Big 3 prospects into the mix, the Tigers could have a solid staff built particularly for this unusual situation.

General manager Al Avila didn’t commit to anything during a virtual news conference Wednesday, although manager Ron Gardenhire seemed more receptive to the notion.

The idea Mize, Manning and Skubal should not pitch in MLB this season so as to not get their service time clock started doesn’t mesh.

The player development process is especially chaotic because of the pandemic. There is uncertainty how minor league players will develop, either via each organization having full Arizona Fall League rosters or an enhanced instructional league at spring training bases. Pandemic cases spiking in Florida and Arizona has added even more uncertainty. 

It is also unpredictable whether the 2021 season is going to be normal given the pandemic. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and the Players Association is up after 2021. Given the acrimonious nature of the negotiations between the two sides recently, it is possible - perhaps even probable - there will be a labor stoppage. One of the bargaining points will likely be service time. The rules may very well change.

There is also the broader sense about MLB and the Tigers that needs to be considered.

The fans and the sport deserve the best possible team on the field at the MLB level. That doesn’t mean going out and signing free agents to ridiculous contracts, but it does mean if players in an organization are better than others, they belong in MLB.

It’s clear, right now, Mize, Manning and Skubal are among the top dozen pitchers in the Tigers’ organization - top-to-bottom.

And it would definitely add interest in the upcoming games.

If they don’t perform well, they can learn from the experience. If they do produce, they can grow from it. Yes, there is a possibility of injury, but that can happen at anytime - even in meaningless intra-squad games or the instructional league.

The Tigers should let their Big 3 pitch in MLB in ‘20.

It’s common sense, and what would be right for the organization, its fans and the game.​