Tigers prospects excited to take spotlight at Spring Breakout

February 15th, 2024

LAKELAND, Fla. -- One of the toughest parts of Spring Training, for manager and players alike, is the conversation when a player is told he hasn’t made the club. The signal to go to the manager’s office can create a gut-wrenching end to a player’s camp, which is why players can be on edge in the final days of Spring Training as clubhouse lockers empty.

For the Tigers' top pitching prospects -- including the No. 2 overall pitching prospect, Jackson Jobe, and Detroit's No. 6 prospect, Ty Madden -- the call came with the first official workout of Spring Training. It wasn’t an indication that manager A.J. Hinch doesn’t think they’re good, but a formality meant to let them focus on getting ready for their Minor League season without overexerting themselves and risking injury for a long-shot attempt at moving up their Major League timetable.

“It’s the earliest I’ve probably ever told [a player they’re not making the team],” Hinch said. “And that’s simply because they’re here to soak up a lot of things from that group [of pitchers] that’s already been to the big leagues. They’re here to be in front of the Major League staff. They’re here to engage with the players, see what this level is like, see how we prepare, be a part of our morning sessions and take steps forward.”

Their time is coming. For one Saturday next month, their future could be now.

Major League Baseball’s Spring Breakout prospect event is a chance for prospects to take the field together and take the spotlight, competing against a similar squad of prospects from another organization. Few farm systems are set up as well for a showcase like this as the Tigers, who not only boast four prospects on MLB Pipeline’s latest Top 100 list, but a slew of other up-and-coming prospects.

They’ll team up as Tigers prospects take on Phillies prospects on Saturday, March 16, at 1:05 p.m. ET at Joker Marchant Stadium.

“The reason I’m excited about it is we have an opportunity to let players that aren’t going to play together at affiliates play together on the same field," Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris said of Spring Breakout. "So we’ll have Flying Tigers playing with SeaWolves who are playing with Mud Hens, all on the same field. So it gives us an opportunity to create some culture within our farm system and allow these guys to play together.”

For example, Tigers No. 1 prospect Max Clark -- last year’s No. 3 overall pick who finished the season at Single-A Lakeland -- could play in the same outfield as Justice Bigbie, a former 19th-round pick who finished last season at Triple-A Toledo to cap a breakout season. Jobe or Madden could throw to Tigers catching prospect Dillon Dingler, who caught Madden last season at Double-A Erie. Jace Jung, a Minor League Gold Glove winner last year, could be in the same infield as Kevin McGonigle, a shortstop drafted out of high school last summer.

Tickets for the game are available along with Tigers Spring Training games at tigers.com/spring. The game will also be broadcast in a special streaming event on tigers.com and MLB.TV.

Rosters for the game will be announced on March 7 at 11 a.m. ET on MLB Network. The squad is expected to be primarily comprised of MLB Pipeline Top 30 Tigers prospects, though those already on Detroit’s 40-man roster will have the option to decline.

Jobe sounded intrigued by the format, though he cautioned that pitchers will still be building up in Spring Training for their Minor League stops. It could pit him against Phillies No. 3 prospect Justin Crawford, who hit .332 last year with 64 RBIs, an .859 OPS and 47 stolen bases between Single-A Clearwater and High-A Jersey Shore and ranks 77th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100.

“I would rather be facing guys like that than be over on the back fields,” Jobe said. “That’ll be awesome.”