Inbox: How does Tigers' future bullpen look?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers questions from fans

August 21st, 2017

It's time to empty the Inbox while being careful not to stare directly at the eclipse.
Here's what's on Tigers fans' minds.

While the Tigers are trying to restock their farm system, they actually like their pitching prospects, both in quality and quantity. They especially like the stockpile of relief prospects they've built up over the last few years. remains the jewel of the group, ranked seventh in the organization on's rankings, but former University of Miami closer Bryan Garcia, No. 21, has been climbing quickly, going from Class A West Michigan in April to Triple-A Toledo now, with a chance to compete for a spot in Detroit's bullpen next year. He has struck out 76 batters over 50 combined innings.
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Zac Reininger, a 2013 Draft pick, has jumped from Class A Lakeland to Toledo in the same stretch with 59 strikeouts over 62 2/3 innings. Paul Voelker might not be far behind, though he lost a stretch of the season to suspension. Gerson Moreno, ranked 24th, has a very good power arm, while has the potential to become a power lefty reliever if he can cut down on walks. Not all of them will make it, but they have enough depth to build a pretty good foundation before mixing in some other good arms -- maybe even .
Detroit has enough relief prospects that they shouldn't need to move a starter into a relief role to stock their bullpen. But with four starting prospects (Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser) in the top six of their rankings, plus in Detroit, and Matthew Boyd and fighting for spots, not all of them will make it in Detroit's rotation. For some, the best chance to the big leagues will eventually be in the bullpen. Burrows has been hitting 97 mph consistently as a 20-year-old at Double-A Erie, certainly hard enough to be an intriguing relief arm if he had to be, or maybe to get him a taste of the big leagues while watching his innings. But his secondary stuff is good enough to profile as a starter long-term.

The Tigers have made it clear that they want to develop their next foundation of players in-house through their farm system. General manager Al Avila noted it all last offseason, and owner Chris Ilitch reinforced it in Spring Training. Pitching-wise, they might already have that group, which is why their trade talks this summer have focused on acquiring position prospects, preferably athletic ones. What they do in trades between now and next season's non-waiver Trade Deadline will have a huge impact on how long the process takes, because that's their main route to add young hitters that are close to being Major League-ready.

The Tigers love Garcia, which is why they've pushed him so quickly up the farm system -- surprisingly fast for a sixth-round pick in last year's Draft. No idea if Garcia can compete with Jimenez to be the closer of the future, but he has the chance to be a good late-inning arm.

Tigers officials are meeting this week in Detroit, and I expect this will be one of the topics. I'd expect will get called up to mix in at third and first base. and should return to give the Tigers some lefty relief depth. should get another look, while will return. could return for outfield help. The Tigers usually try to add a third catcher for depth purposes, which could earn a spot on the 40-man roster.
Other than that, it'll be interesting to see what decisions they make. Jairo Labourt is on the 40-man roster and could get rewarded for a breakthrough season, but he has walked more than a batter per inning since moving up to Toledo.