Four players considered top-30 Detroit Tigers prospects by Baseball America or MLB Pipeline (two pitchers and two position players) will be with the West Michigan Whitecaps early this season. Unfortunately, two of those players — including the highest-ranked one — won’t be active with the team on Opening Day as they get healthy from injuries.
As I previously wrote about here, RHP Matt Manning will return to West Michigan after he recovers from a low-level oblique strain (a process that includes working in extended spring training until he is ready to be activated). The top Tigers draft pick in 2016 (No. 9 overall), Manning is highly ranked in Detroit’s farm system (No. 2 by MLB Pipeline, No. 3 by Baseball America). He throws a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, an above-average curveball, and a below-average changeup. His results varied last season, which was split between the short-season Connecticut Tigers and the Whitecaps, with more of his success coming with the former team. He did finish strong in the Midwest League playoffs, striking out 10 batters while allowing only one run on four hits and two walks in five innings of a first-round game the Whitecaps eventually lost in extra innings. Overall during the regular season last year, Manning went 4-2 with a 3.18 ERA, 62 strikeouts and 25 walks in 51 innings/14 starts.
Outfielder/first baseman Reynaldo Rivera, a second-round draft pick last year, also will start the season on the disabled list and join the Whitecaps when he is healthy. Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 22 Tigers prospect, Rivera is considered to have raw power and a strong arm, but he struggled offensively in his pro debut season, batting only .187 with 2 HR and 26 RBI in 52 games with Connecticut.
Two top-30 Tigers prospects who will start the season with the Whitecaps are RHP Wladimir Pinto (ranked No. 21 by Baseball America) and catcher Joey Morgan (ranked No. 21 by MLB Pipeline).
Pinto missed half of last year because of injury, but didn’t give up a run in the 10 innings he pitched during the regular season (9.2 innings for Connecticut and 0.1 innings for West Michigan). Baseball America says he has the potential to be a closer someday if he can stay healthy and improve his breaking ball.
A third-round draft pick in 2017, Morgan batted .250 with 1 HR and 10 RBI in 34 games with Connecticut last season. MLB Pipeline says “Morgan will have to show how he can stand up to the rigors of a long season, while continuing to add strength and showing he can be an all-around catcher. If not, a future backup role seems extremely feasible.”
Nine players who suited up for the Whitecaps last year, including Manning and Pinto, are slated to return to West Michigan. The others are pitchers Eudis Idrogo, Clate Schmidt, Brandyn Sittinger and Burris Warner, third baseman Zac Shepherd, and first baseman/outfielder Jose Quero. (Shepherd also played for the Whitecaps in 2015.)
The Whitecaps are being managed by former MLB catcher Lance Parrish. You can read about him here and the rest of his coaching staff (including two more former major-leaguers) here.
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