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Prospects Jimenez, Ravenelle among NRIs

Righties part of Tigers' plan to build 'pen via player development
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Joe Jimenez will get his opportunity to face Major League hitting this Spring Training. So, too, will fellow Tigers relief prospect Adam Ravenelle.

The two hard-throwing right-handers, cornerstones in the Tigers' efforts to build a bullpen through player development, are among 22 of the club's Minor Leaguers issued non-roster invites to Major League camp. The team announced the list Wednesday.

DETROIT -- Joe Jimenez will get his opportunity to face Major League hitting this Spring Training. So, too, will fellow Tigers relief prospect Adam Ravenelle.

The two hard-throwing right-handers, cornerstones in the Tigers' efforts to build a bullpen through player development, are among 22 of the club's Minor Leaguers issued non-roster invites to Major League camp. The team announced the list Wednesday.

Jimenez, the Tigers' fifth-ranked prospect by MLBPipeline.com, is the highest-ranked prospect invited. Outfielder Mike Gerber, ranked eighth on the list, is the only other Top 10 prospect invited. Outfielder JaCoby Jones, ninth in the rankings, was already headed to big league camp, having been added to the 40-man roster when the Tigers called him up last August.

Other prospects invited include catcher Grayson Greiner (No. 26), first baseman Dominic Ficocello (No. 30) and outfielder Jason Krizan.

The spotlight, at least among prospects, will be on Jimenez, whose dominant 2016 season propelled him from Class A Lakeland all the way to Triple-A Toledo. Between a power fastball, 30 saves in 31 opportunities and 78 strikeouts over 53 2/3 innings, the 21-year-old not only reinforced the perception that he is Detroit's closer of the future, he made a case to be considered for a September callup. The Tigers decided against it, arguing he would be better served finishing out the season with the Mud Hens.

Barring something unforeseen, Jimenez will open this season at Toledo as well. General manager Al Avila has said at different points this offseason that the Tigers would prefer Jimenez get more time to develop, especially with his slider. In that sense, they're using Bruce Rondon's past struggles as an example of why not to rush another relief prospect into a high-profile role.

Still, even if Jimenez can't pitch his way onto the Opening Day roster, a strong Grapefruit League stretch can put him into the conversation for an early-season callup if injuries force moves. That's how Michael Fulmer's Spring Training last year set up his American League Rookie of the Year Award campaign.

The timetable on Ravenelle is a little further back, though he's a few years older. The former Vanderbilt University closer, slowed by injuries in 2014 and '15, made it to Double-A Erie last summer, striking out 57 over 58 innings between there and Lakeland. He, too, needs to work on his slider to complement a mid-90s fastball, but a spring test against Major League hitters could give coaches and evaluators a better idea how much time he needs.

Ravenelle sits 20th on MLBPipeline's rankings.

With Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez expected to pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, innings should be available for Jimenez and Ravenelle, as well as veteran non-roster invites Edward Mujica and A.J. Achter. Their invites were announced Tuesday among a bevy of Minor League signings.

Tigers pitchers and catchers are scheduled to have their first formal workout Feb. 14, with game action beginning Feb. 23. Spring Training single-game tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. ET at tigers.com.

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

Detroit Tigers