16-year-old Tigers prospect Jack O'Loughlin is already dominating batters in the ABL
Look through the Adelaide Bite's roster, and you'll see that most birthdays are between the late 1980s and early '90s. The team even has pitcher Hei Chun Lee, who was born in 1979.
But one birthday stands out: March 14, 2000. That belongs to 16-year-old hurler Jack O'Loughlin. At the age when most American teenagers are failing their driver's test, the talented pitcher caught the eyes of Tigers scout Kevin Hooker at the MLB Australian Academy, and he signed with the team over the summer. Don't look for him stateside for a few years, though. He'll be finishing school before coming over in 2018.
The Tigers today announced the club has agreed to terms with International Free Agent LHP Jack O'Loughlin from Australia.- Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) July 18, 2016
If you want to see him pitch, you'll have to head to the southern edge of Australia. Despite facing players much older than him, the left-handed O'Loughlin has been dominant in his debut season. And it all started from his first appearance. Coming out of the 'pen, O'Loughlin recorded his first ABL strikeout with this bender:
That debut showed too much promise to keep him in relief.
"The plan was to use some of our younger kids in rotation, but his performance on the weekend helped the situation, and we're happy to have him start a big game in front of a home crowd," Bite Manager Steven Mintz said before the southpaw's debut start in November.
When O'Loughlin took the mound that day, he didn't just have a promising first start -- pitching four innings and giving up two runs against the current league-leading Melbourne Aces -- he set an ABL record as the youngest pitcher to start a game. That's a Tiger Beat cover just waiting to happen.
Meanwhile, Jack O'Loughlin is getting his name out there as a record-breaker! Not bad for a 16yo who's in school right now. pic.twitter.com/rl16aKTZ5J- Adelaide Bite (@AdelaideBite) November 25, 2016
At the All-Star break, the real-life Henry Rowengartner has posted an impressive 1.99 ERA in 22 2/3 IP. That ERA is good for third-best in the league, behind Keisuke Honda, who made his debut in the NPB with the Seibu Lions this year, and former big leaguer Mark Hamburger.
Perhaps even more encouraging has been O'Loughlin's quick improvement. Not only has he allowed just two earned runs in his last 15 frames, but after striking out just four batters in his first 12 2/3 IP, he's combined to strike out eight in his last two starts. Click here to watch him set down Kyle Perkins and here to see him go in the dirt to set down Aaron Sloane.
While there's a long road ahead of him before the curly-haired hurler may reach the promised land at Comerica Park, he has at least one friend in the organization: fellow Aussie Warwick Saupold. Hailing from the western edge of Australia, the Perth-born Saupold made his Major League debut this past season, pitching 9 2/3 IP for the Tigers.
The two have already been in touch.
"He sent me a friend request and then a message just congratulating me on being picked up," O'Loughlin told the Portside Messenger. "It was a bit of a shock. He's been there for a few years now and is doing well."
Given his age, both Australian baseball fans and Tigers supporters will have to be patient, but the future looks bright. If O'Loughlin can continue pitching like he has this winter, there could be two Aussies in the Comerica Park bullpen in just a few years.
T1: O'Loughlin opens with a 1-2-3 inning, too easy! #GoBite- Adelaide Bite (@AdelaideBite) December 17, 2016