The Tigers joined the trend of teams calling up position prospects for the stretch run, promoting outfielder Parker Meadows -- their No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- from Triple-A Toledo this week. But will any others be joining him for September?
“I think we've pressed the button on Parker because we think he can help us in all facets of the game,” president of baseball operations Scott Harris said Monday in explaining the Meadows move. “There are several players in Toledo right now that are knocking on the door. We don't think those guys are quite ready yet.”
Meadows was one of three highly regarded hitting prospects with the Mud Hens this summer. No. 9 prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy has been there all season, transitioning from third base to the outfield in early June. No. 2 prospect Colt Keith joined them about a month and a half ago. Like Meadows, both have had their ups and downs facing Triple-A pitching, but there’s a distinct difference.
“In many ways, they’re the opposite of Parker,” Harris said of Malloy and Keith. “I think both guys have had bats that were a little bit ahead of the other facets of their game. I think both guys are working really hard on the defense. They're working really hard on their baserunning and fielding.”
Much like Meadows had to progress on his offensive game before getting the call to the Major Leagues, Harris said they’re looking for progress from Malloy and Keith on the defensive side.
“Specifically with Malloy, we think the bat alone is pretty close to helping us for a long time in the future,” Harris continued. “But he has still only played 15 games in right field. Left field is still a pretty new position for him, and we think there's some work he can do at third base to round out that part of his game. We also think he can be a better baserunner. That doesn't, in any way, temper my enthusiasm for J-Hen and Colt and all the other guys down there. It's more just an observation.
“We have to make sure that these guys are ready to help us in all facets of the game. We don't want to be the organization that rushes players straight to the big leagues if they can help in one facet of the game, but they're a little bit behind in other facets of the game. We think they're going to get there. We have all the confidence in the world in them and our staff in Toledo to get them there. But we want them to be a little bit more well-rounded before we press the button.”
That doesn’t rule out a move for either when rosters expand by two in September. But the flip side is the Tigers have to figure out regular playing time to make it worth their while.
Harris welcomes the debate.
“The fact that we're having this conversation is a good sign for the organization,” he said. “You rewind a year and the narrative surrounding some of our young bats was very different than it is today. A year ago, J-Hen wasn't even in the organization; now we're talking about him as a potential middle-of-the-order bat. Colt Keith was in West Michigan struggling through injuries; now we're talking about him as a potential middle-of-the-order bat. Parker put up a really good year in Erie, but there were some questions about the bat. Now he's in the big leagues. There are just a lot of positive developments throughout our system with those three guys and many more. It makes me encouraged.”
Harris also answered questions on two more prospects promoted to Toledo recently:
• On catcher Dillon Dingler (No. 11): “Pitchers want to throw to him. That's a very positive sign for a catcher. He helped that Double-A rotation get a lot better. I also think we challenged him to make a little bit more contact in the zone at the plate. He's done that. We've always known that he has plus-plus power. It's just how frequently could he get to it. I think he showed that he could for a year in Erie, went through some injuries, but once he got back and he got healthy and the power showed up again, we felt he was ready for that next level.”
• On RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long (No. 19): “I think he's going to be in the big leagues at some point. … He has added new pitches to mix. He's attacking hitters differently than he did last year. He has worked through some mechanical adjustments that are helping him reach an extra gear. Great sign for the organization that wasn't necessarily a guy that we thought was going to be racking up strikeouts in Triple-A at this point on the calendar.”