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Tigers' top prospect Perez out with lat strain

MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers' highly-regarded crop of starting pitching prospects has its first major injury. Top prospect Franklin Perez suffered a right lat strain during a Minor League Spring Training game on Sunday and is expected to miss at least 12 weeks.

The injury is not expected to require surgery, but essentially sidelines the gifted 20-year-old right-hander for the first half of the 2018 Minor League season. Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard suffered a right lat strain at the end of April last year and returned in September.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers' highly-regarded crop of starting pitching prospects has its first major injury. Top prospect Franklin Perez suffered a right lat strain during a Minor League Spring Training game on Sunday and is expected to miss at least 12 weeks.

The injury is not expected to require surgery, but essentially sidelines the gifted 20-year-old right-hander for the first half of the 2018 Minor League season. Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard suffered a right lat strain at the end of April last year and returned in September.

"It's a little unfortunate, but he'll bounce back," Tigers vice president of player development David Littlefield said Monday night. "It'll take some time."

Perez was pitching in a Double-A game against the Braves when he felt discomfort around his right armpit on his final pitch of the second inning, Littlefield said. He was promptly removed from the game. An MRI exam on Monday confirmed the diagnosis.

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Perez ranks 39th on MLB Pipeline's list of baseball's top prospects and first in the Tigers system, a group that has been heavily stocked through trades over the last eight months. Perez was the top prospect in the return package Detroit received from Houston in the Justin Verlander trade last August. Ironically, Verlander suffered a similar injury on his rise up the Tigers' farm system.

Perez went 6-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 19 appearances in the Astros system between Class A Buies Creek and Double-A Corpus Christi. He was expected to open the season at Double-A Erie as part of an impressive starting tandem with Beau Burrows, the 77th-ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline's overall list.

Perez will stay in Lakeland and rehab at the recently-upgraded workout facility in Tigertown once camp breaks, under the watch of Tigers medical services director Kevin Rand. Perez could still end up pitching in Erie this year, but the Tigers are likely to exercise patience with him.

Perez is the second pitching prospect in the Tigers' rankings to suffer a major injury this year. Closing prospect Bryan Garcia, ranked 16th on the list, underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last month and is expected to miss the entire season.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Franklin Perez