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Inbox: Any pitching prospects close to MLB?

Tigers reporter Jason Beck fields fans' questions
MLB.com @beckjason

Taking your questions while waiting to see when spring will finally arrive in Michigan … 

Of the Tigers' starting pitching prospects currently in the Minors, who do you believe will be the first to make their MLB debut?
-- Jeff Fletcher (@Batting500)

Taking your questions while waiting to see when spring will finally arrive in Michigan … 

Of the Tigers' starting pitching prospects currently in the Minors, who do you believe will be the first to make their MLB debut?
-- Jeff Fletcher (@Batting500)

Beau Burrows seems to be on that path, either by the end of this season or sometime next year, given what he has done in about a half-season at Double-A Erie. Kyle Funkhouser could be in position to be pushed aggressively if he has success at Erie since he's a little older, having just turned 24.

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This is a good opportunity to suggest checking out a game in Erie if you have the chance this year, especially once the weather warms. The SeaWolves have their best crop of prospects in a few years with Burrows, Funkhouser and catcher Jake Rogers among them, and they have more potentially on the way once Franklin Perez gets healthy and Alex Faedo pushes for a promotion from Class A Lakeland. And the folks in Erie put together a good ballpark experience.

Has Avila led on to what his timeline is to be competing for a division title again, if all goes as planned?
-- Jay Neitring (@jayneitring)

Tigers general manager Al Avila hasn't cited a specific year so much as he has noted a long time frame. The pitching prospects who are expected to form the backbone of the rebuild won't begin arriving until next year, longer in the case of Matt Manning. From there, Avila said, they'll likely face an adjustment period before they start to settle into the big leagues, likely a couple years. So by those expectations, you would be looking at 2021, assuming the Tigers can maintain or remake a productive lineup.

The thing is, these projects rarely go as planned. Some prospects get hurt and are delayed, as we've already seen with Bryan Garcia and Franklin Perez. Others have a more immediate impact, jump the learning curve and become big contributors ahead of schedule, as we saw with Michael Fulmer a couple years ago. That, plus parallel rebuilding projects going on with the White Sox and Royals, make it difficult to put a year on these things.

Will the Tigers ever play another game in 2018?
-- Peter K (@FrogTownTigers) 

The Weather Channel is down to the letter X in its alphabetical list of winter storm names (I will never look at the name Xanto the same again), so I think that means winter is almost over.

What's the temperature back in Lakeland, Fla.?
-- Muddles (@MitchMuddles)

Mid to upper-80s from Wednesday through the weekend.

Other than Johnny Barbato, the Tigers haven't used the top spot on the waiver wire to claim anyone. Why not? No one better than the worst guys on the 40-man? No good fits?
-- Dan Hogan (@DanHogan95)

Most of the players who go on the waiver wire are out of Minor League options. For them, it's not about being good enough for the 40-man roster, but the 25-man roster. Secondly, the Tigers made it clear that if they add a player, he either has to fit in the long-term picture or have the potential to carry trade value down the road and yield prospects in return. Still, I was admittedly a little surprised the Tigers didn't claim anybody at the end of Spring Training, given Avila's hints that it was a possibility. The relatively low number of waiver claims at the end of Spring Training suggests not many other teams valued who was out there, either.

What are you early thoughts on Alex Wilson? It seems like his Spring Training struggles have followed him north.
-- Matthew Dornbos (@matt_dornbos93)

Wilson talked about this Saturday morning before the rainout, and he said it doesn't feel like a continuation of Spring Training as much as a bout of bad luck after a decent first week. He threw three scoreless innings on Opening Day before giving up a three-run home run in his fourth inning of work. Still, if you're into early trends, it's worth noting he has relied less on his fastball and more on his cutter and changeup compared to years past, according to Statcast™ and Fangraphs. That could change as the weather warms.

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

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