Detroit Tigers mailbag: Explaining Casey Mize's dominance ... and McDonald's Coke
On Sunday afternoon, after another intrasquad game, I wanted a Coke.
Not a Pepsi, but a Coke. So in soliciting questions for this week's Detroit Tigers mailbag, I wanted to know: What's the best Coca-Cola from a fast food restaurant? I also wanted to know what you guys are thinking about the first half of summer camp.
Watching from a social distance, the vibe is undoubtedly different, seeing guys such as Matt Manning, Casey Mize, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene at Comerica Park. It's just a different setting, and their performances are making you think.
There is still a long way to go, but almost overnight, you can see the light at the end of the rebuild tunnel. The Tigers won't bring up all of those players this year, as they would be making a grave mistake, but the pieces are in place for now.
As far as the Coke, I stopped by White Castle on Sunday. I like the crushed ice. But, as my Twitter poll showed, McDonald's is the king of fast-food Coke. To the mailbag for a handful of Tigers questions:
At this point, it certainly looks like Jeimer Candelario.
To his credit, Candelario has looked better in summer camp than he did in spring training. He has been barreling balls during intrasquad games and though both he and Dawel Lugo struggled in the spring, he's the choice.
As one Tigers person said recently, Candelario looks this summer like he did in his first two months as a full-time player, at the start of the 2018 season, before teams started exploiting his weaknesses.
Candelario has adjusted in spurts, but he needs to be more consistent. Out of options, it's likely Lugo will make the roster, too.
Prospects are tough because they're still developing.
But at Comerica Park, there are a few players who stand out, including Candelario, who was covered in the previous question. Though it's hard to see the Tigers viewing him as a rock at third, a solid season would go a long way toward building some confidence.
Five other players who aren't necessarily on the "hot seat," but are facing an important season: Outfielder Christin Stewart, who is hitting the ball hard this camp and appears hungry; closer Joe Jimenez, who could either pitch his way into being the true closer of the future — dominantly — or become a trade chip — inconsistently; also, the Tigers have been waiting on JaCoby Jones to mature at the plate for two years now — if he can't in 2020, they probably won't look at him as a long-term option anymore.
As far as prospects, I see right-handers Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser as facing important seasons.
By fielders, I assume you mean position players.
I think it starts with drafting, and over the past two years, the Tigers have shown a willingness to devote the necessary picks to position players, instead of sticking to a "best overall player" philosophy.
The Tigers are building around pitching; they have proven to develop pitching and likewise are probably more confident analyzing it. They might have gone a little too far, but by and large, they have their studs in the system and now have supplemented them with other players.
The addition of a player development leader specialized in hitting (Bryan Graham) was necessary.
Though the Tigers tout their improvements in analytics, I have my reservations: The organization has so much baseball knowledge and yet there are indications they are going overboard and teaching players the game by template technology.
Either way, I think they can only be judged on what they've brought in with the draft, though I would be interested in seeing the kind of position players vice president of player development Dave Littlefield could have developed if they were at his disposal.
I think it's Casey Mize.
On the first day of summer camp, I noticed the difference in physiques between Mize and fellow right-handed top prospect Matt Manning, who is more projectable.
But as camp has progressed, Mize has only given one impression: He's ready.
Quite frankly, he's more advanced at pitching. While he doesn't pop the eye physically, Mize knows what he's doing out there and he's a pitching rat, tinkering with his pitches at an almost obsessive level.
One scout provided this comparison last week: Mike Mussina.
Given the status of the Tigers' starting rotation, the significantly-shortened 60-game season and Mize's performance thus far, I don't think it's going to be long. He will not open the season in the starting rotation and the Tigers will not prematurely yank a veteran just because, but I think Mize's words have rang true: The best way to develop him in 2020 is to get him as many big league innings as possible.
I don't know if Spencer Torkelson will eventually handle third base.
He looks athletic enough, with a good enough arm, and I could certainly see it working out. I'm not going to agree with the Tigers' decision to play him at third base, and that's fine.
In camp, Torkelson has played third sparingly. He has been working out with third-base coach Ramon Santiago and special assistant Alan Trammell diligently. He was eaten up by a ground ball in his first action there this spring, and I almost feel unfair writing that — again, Torkelson has not played third base since high school.
That's why it didn't make sense. Instead of taking pressure off the kid, they put more on him. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt: He can play there. But I think he's going to be a first baseman and he could help the organization better there.
As for Isaac Paredes, who has yet to report to camp for undisclosed reasons, I think the Tigers think he has flexibility. They believe in his instincts. I don't see him in the outfield, but maybe second base becomes a possibility. There's still a split camp on Paredes, but I like his instincts.