No. 2 prospect Keith dominating at Double-A

May 28th, 2023

DETROIT -- Tigers No. 2 prospect Colt Keith went to his manager at Double-A Erie, former Tigers third baseman Gabe Alvarez, last month and told him he wanted to become a better defender at third base. So they sat in Alvarez’s office and watched video of a Hall of Famer.

“When I was playing, I always saw Scott Rolen as the best third baseman in baseball,” Alvarez said. “He had a similar body type to Colt, so we sat here and watched a lot of his video, and we're looking at the way Scott Rolen would set up before a ground ball. I had a lot of fun doing that with him.”

Time will tell whether Keith sticks at third; the presence of No. 7 prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy at third base at Triple-A Toledo could force the Tigers to play the versatility card with one of them. But that work, and the desire behind it, is an example of Keith’s drive to be more than a top prospect.

“I don’t want to be a guy that they try to just hide at third base just to get his bat in the lineup,” Keith said earlier this month. “I want to be a guy that can contribute on both sides of the ball. Those are the guys that get paid, and those are the guys that are in All-Star Games. They get MVP votes. They play both sides of the ball, they base-run, they field, they hit really well.”

And they do it all consistently.

Nearly two weeks after Keith hit for the cycle in a six-hit, two-homer game, he’s still swinging. He entered Sunday’s SeaWolves series finale against Somerset batting 13-for-25 (.520) over a six-game hitting streak that included two homers, two doubles and seven RBIs. He’s batting .358 with six homers and 23 RBIs over 20 games in May. For the season, his .321 average, 53 hits and 35 RBIs all ranked second in the Eastern League entering Sunday, his .964 OPS fourth, and his nine home runs sixth.

Not bad for a 21-year-old who’s about three years younger than the weighted average age among league hitters, according to baseball-reference, which also notes he has yet to face a pitcher in the league who’s younger than he is.

“Every team we play, it's like he's the youngest guy on the field,” Alvarez said. “And he's the guy in our lineup that the other teams fear the most.”

That, too, has been an adjustment from his injury-shortened season last year at High-A West Michigan.

“On average, I get about one fastball an at-bat, or maybe one every two at-bats,” Keith said earlier this month. “And it’s usually not in the heart. It’s on the edge. That’s the biggest difference [from High-A]. …

“My approach doesn’t change. I’m still sitting fastball and adjusting to changeups and curveballs. I’ve just got to learn how to hit changeups and curveballs better.”

So far, so good.

“Colt's going to be a star,” Alvarez said. “He's special in the batter's box. He can do a lot of things that you just can't teach. A lot of things come naturally to him, but his work ethic has been phenomenal.”

Here’s a look at who else is rolling in the Tigers’ system:

Triple-A Toledo
No. 11 prospect Reese Olson looks like a potential Tiger again after a rough opening month for the Hens. After tossing five innings of one-hit ball with no walks and 10 strikeouts on Friday, he has a 1.26 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 14 1/3 innings in his last three starts, compared to a 9.67 ERA in his first seven starts.

Double-A Erie
Versatile infielder/outfielder Trei Cruz tore up the week, going 9-for-21 with three walks, a double, a home run and six RBIs. He entered Sunday with three consecutive multi-hit games.

High-A West Michigan
Jack O’Loughlin has tossed 20 scoreless innings over his last four starts, including a 1-0 win Saturday over Lake County. The 23-year-old Australian has three walks and 20 strikeouts in that stretch.

Single-A Lakeland
No. 6 prospect Peyton Graham went 3-for-6 with a home run and three RBIs on Wednesday. The second-round pick from last year’s Draft has a .720 OPS with six doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs in May.