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Mize lights up mound during first spring BP

MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- One of the many cool parts about Tigertown is the old-school background, from the old airplane hangars near Joker Marchant Stadium to the firefighter training center beyond the back fields. So when a fire truck blared its lights over Casey Mize's shoulder as he warmed up in a back bullpen Tuesday, it wasn't an alert that the Tigers' top prospect per MLB Pipeline and last year's top Draft pick was about to face Major League hitters for the first time.

"It's his first live BP, and he had the whole crew behind the turtle waiting to see what he was doing," John Hicks said.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- One of the many cool parts about Tigertown is the old-school background, from the old airplane hangars near Joker Marchant Stadium to the firefighter training center beyond the back fields. So when a fire truck blared its lights over Casey Mize's shoulder as he warmed up in a back bullpen Tuesday, it wasn't an alert that the Tigers' top prospect per MLB Pipeline and last year's top Draft pick was about to face Major League hitters for the first time.

"It's his first live BP, and he had the whole crew behind the turtle waiting to see what he was doing," John Hicks said.

Even if nobody expects to see Mize pitching in Detroit anytime soon, and even if pitchers are normally ahead of hitters at this point in camp, many people simply wanted to see how big league hitters reacted to his stuff, especially the splitter that devastated collegiate opponents.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The late swings, weak contact and smiles from those who faced him, from Hicks to shortstop Jordy Mercer to second baseman Niko Goodrum, suggested Mize fared pretty well.

"For me, the late life on his fastball is what I was really impressed with," Mercer said. "He was trying to impress, obviously. It was his first camp. But he's going to learn a lot of things. But I think what impressed me was the way the ball came out of his hand, and that late life that it got. …

"There's only certain guys who have that. I think he was out there sitting 95-96 [mph] every pitch, but it felt like it had that late rise to it that's tough to hit. It gets on you, basically."

Hicks, the only hitter to make solid contact against him, said the same.

"His fastball, it comes out and then it gains a gear," he said, "so it gets on you really fast. He's got a really live arm, and his stuff definitely plays."

Video: Top Prospects: Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers

Ask Mize how he handled it, though, and he was more subdued.

"I found some positives out of it," he said. "Obviously first time doing it, it's not going to be perfect, but it started off pretty well. Maybe got a little tired trying to do too much at the end, lost a little bit of command. But I'm going to find the positive in it, and overall, I think it went pretty well."

Hicks and catcher Grayson Greiner emphasized the positive with Mize when they met him midway between the mound and the plate following his session. But they also made sure he knew better than to try to impress everybody in a BP setting.

"His first 20 pitches or so, I'd say he was pretty spot-on," Greiner said. "We just told him his last 15 or so, it looked like he was trying to amp up a little bit. And any pitcher, when they start trying to do too much, the ball's not as precise. We just told him after, 'Hey, man, I know everybody's watching you, but just do your thing and you'll be fine.'"

That said, Greiner noted Mize's focus has made an impression since Spring Training began last week.

Video: Callis on the potential of No. 17 prospect Casey Mize

"He's got a lot of poise," Greiner said, "and he knows with the name of being the [first overall] Draft pick, he knows a lot of people are watching him. But you wouldn't really know it just watching him. He goes about his business very professional, very mature, and poised and confident in what he does."

That lot of people watching eventually included manager Ron Gardenhire, who did not want to add to the pressure. He missed the first half of the 10-minute session, but saw some of Mize's early pitches from afar.

"The video guys are [saying], 'Wow, he was standing at 95 miles an hour,'" Gardenhire said, shaking his head. "I just want him to get his arm in shape and get people out."

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

Detroit Tigers, Casey Mize

Perez ready to flip script after offseason toil

MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The first thing to notice about Franklin Perez as he sits at one end of the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium is his size. He's listed at 6-foot-3 and 197 pounds, but he looks bigger. An offseason of working out at the Tigers' Spring Training facility helped define his body, he said through a translator.

"He's gotten a lot stronger," said catcher Jake Rogers, his teammate from back in the Astros' farm system. "He's gotten his body right."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The first thing to notice about Franklin Perez as he sits at one end of the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium is his size. He's listed at 6-foot-3 and 197 pounds, but he looks bigger. An offseason of working out at the Tigers' Spring Training facility helped define his body, he said through a translator.

"He's gotten a lot stronger," said catcher Jake Rogers, his teammate from back in the Astros' farm system. "He's gotten his body right."

When Perez gets on the field and throws, as he did for his bullpen session Thursday morning, there's a reminder why he was the prized return in the trade that sent longtime Tiger Justin Verlander to Houston.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"If you see his workouts and everything, he's a beast," Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez said.

That trade happened 18 months ago. Verlander has 302 innings in an Astros uniform -- postseason included. Perez has 19 1/3 innings as a Tigers prospect.

After what was essentially a lost 2018 season, Perez looks ready to change that.

While Casey Mize is the headline prospect in camp this spring, Perez is in some ways the forgotten one, even though he ranks 78th on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list and is Detroit's No. 3 prospect. This is his first Major League camp, but considering he suffered a lat strain in camp last year, this is effectively his first full Spring Training as a Tiger.

The team didn't want to rush Perez back and risk him injuring his arm with bad mechanics. Perez didn't make his organizational debut last year until June 25. After three rehab appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Perez moved up to Class A Advanced Lakeland, where he made four starts on a tight pitch count. Those outings, brief as they were, were a learning experience, he said.

When his shoulder flared up, the Tigers didn't risk it. After making sure the injury showed no structural damage, the club shut him down for the season and let him rehab.

Essentially, the Tigers and Perez reset. He just turned 21 years old two months ago, so there's no rush with age. But Perez also showed a maturity with how he approached the time off.

"It was very frustrating," he said through a translator, "but it taught me a lot mentally. It made [me] more mentally tough."

It certainly gave him time to toughen up physically. The native Venezuelan moved to Orlando for the offseason and commuted to Lakeland to work out at the Spring Training facility. He didn't have much company until Tigers pitchers Michael Fulmer and Jimenez arrived -- Fulmer to rehab his right knee, Jimenez to reprise the workout program that brought him good results last year.

Though Jimenez just turned 24 last month, Perez credited him as a mentor, telling him what he's doing well and what he can do better. Perez also thanked Tigers Minor League rehab coordinator Corey Tremble, assistant Manny Pena and strength and conditioning coordinator Steve Chase for helping him get into shape.

"He stayed here like I did last year, the whole [offseason]," Jimenez said. "That's hard, because a lot of guys don't do that. That just impressed me the most. He came here early and did his thing, worked on his body and everything. I think he's ready to start the season and have a great year."

By all accounts, Perez has no restrictions this spring. As long as he feels good, he can throw at full strength and stretch out his workload. The Tigers might still move slowly with him out of camp, allowing him to start out at Class A Advanced Lakeland until the weather warms in Double-A Erie.

For the next few weeks, though, he gets to wear a Tigers uniform. In the process, he gets to spend time in the same clubhouse as one of his idols. Before Perez became a pitcher, he was a hitter who tried to model his swing after fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera.

"It's still a dream, being able to spend time with Miggy," Perez said.

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

Detroit Tigers, Franklin Perez

Tigers open camp loaded with youth, optimism

MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The doors to the home clubhouse inside Joker Marchant Stadium featured a print-out picture of the World Series trophy with a message, greeting Tigers players ahead of their first official Spring Training workout Wednesday morning.

"I believe this belongs to us," the message read. "Don't come in here unless you do, too."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The doors to the home clubhouse inside Joker Marchant Stadium featured a print-out picture of the World Series trophy with a message, greeting Tigers players ahead of their first official Spring Training workout Wednesday morning.

"I believe this belongs to us," the message read. "Don't come in here unless you do, too."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The culprit wasn't immediately identified. But it came a week after closer Shane Greene spent an hour as a guest host on MLB Network Radio and predicted at the end that the Tigers will make the playoffs.

"If I don't believe it, no one else will," Greene said on air.

The print-out didn't come from Ron Gardenhire, the manager insisted. But he liked the sentiment.

"We've heard the rebuild," Gardenhire said. "But the rebuild is from the front office. Inside the clubhouse and the coaching staff, we believe we're going to win. We don't do anything other than saying we're coming to the ballpark to put together a baseball team that's going to win baseball games."

Tweet from @tigers: 🎵 Guess who's back, back againBaseball's back, tell a friend 🎵 pic.twitter.com/RjiV1G0ULz

Shortly after Gardenhire talked, he had his first formal meeting of the spring with pitchers and catchers in Major League camp. Among the group were top prospects Casey Mize and Franklin Perez, two pitchers whom Tigers personnel hope can lead the next great Tigers rotation in a few years.

Earlier in the week, fellow pitching prospects Matt Manning and Alex Faedo walked over from Minor League minicamp to the Tigers' bullpen mounds, putting four of Detroit's top four prospects -- all starting pitchers -- together in Spring Training. Detroit dreams of a spring in which this quartet not only is in big league camp, but forms the core of its rotation.

Video: Tigers top prospects on hitters they'd like to face

This is the dichotomy of the Tigers' organization as Spring Training begins. While the first day of camp brings a sense of hope and anticipation for a new season, there's another anticipation for what the Tigers could be within a few years as prospects reach the big leagues. That has been the message from the top of the organization for the last year and a half.

"If you're following the progress of players in our Minor Leagues and at the big league level, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel," general manager Al Avila said at TigerFest last month.

At the same time, those in the big leagues now believe they can speed out of said tunnel and defy expectations, a mentality Gardenhire has worked to instill since he took over the Tigers last year.

"We've seen it happen -- first to last, last to first," Gardenhire said. "I've been a part of that in the other organization, where everybody said we stink, and we did OK. And you know what? That's the attitude we're going to take here. That's the attitude we're going to play with. These guys are all professional baseball players and they've all won their whole careers.

"Yes, it's a rebuild. Yes, we have some young people. We have some veterans, too, that know how to play. And you never know what's going to happen in a baseball season."

Video: Gardenhire being patient with Tigers' rebuild

That other organization of which Gardenhire speaks is the Minnesota Twins, where he won six American League Central titles over 13 years. He was still managing in Minnesota when the Tigers won their last of four consecutive division titles in 2014.

The only Tigers still around from that last playoff berth are sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos, and pitchers Blaine Hardy, Buck Farmer and Drew VerHagen. Detroit's prospect buildup means the roster will likely have more turnover through the next five years. Between, the Tigers' current generation is trying to prove 2018 isn't a lost season, and the club's next glory days might not be that far off.

Though Tuesday was technically reporting day for pitchers and catchers, many have been in Tigertown for a couple weeks.

"I like that," said All-Star reliever Joe Jimenez, who has been working out at the facility since early January. "We started early this year. I haven't seen that in the past few years. That's a good thing. That's a great way to start. Hopefully we stay like that."

They won't lack for messages keeping them on point.

"This should be fun," pitching coach Rick Anderson said of the current camp. "This is a fun crew to work with. They all want to work. They're leaders. You guys talk to them and see it. It's just fun to watch them get after it. When you've got people like that, and you get the veterans coming in that are like that, it makes for a good camp and a good staff. I'm excited about it."

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

Detroit Tigers, Casey Mize, Franklin Perez

Top prospect Mize makes solid first impression

MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris wrapped up their throwing sessions quickly. Relief prospect Zac Houston was done soon after. By the middle of the morning Tuesday, seven of the eight bullpen mounds on the back fields at Tigertown were empty.

The one mound that still had a pitcher on it had an audience.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris wrapped up their throwing sessions quickly. Relief prospect Zac Houston was done soon after. By the middle of the morning Tuesday, seven of the eight bullpen mounds on the back fields at Tigertown were empty.

The one mound that still had a pitcher on it had an audience.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

As Casey Mize threw, pitching coach Rick Anderson stood just over his right shoulder, watching as intently as the slow-motion camera positioned behind the Tigers' top prospect. The catchers who weren't receiving his pitches stopped to watch last year's No. 1 Draft pick before heading to batting practice.

It was the first of many crowds the Tigers hope Mize draws for them.

"He was good," Anderson said afterward. "He was fun to watch."

Eight months after Detroit selected him with the top pick in the MLB Draft, Mize is in big league camp for Spring Training as a non-roster invite so he can observe Major League pitchers and the routines they build to prepare for the season. With his talent, though, he has many big leaguers observing him.

As thrilling as that might have been, Mize said he is looking forward to the moment a Major League hitter steps into the box, staring back at him.

"I was thinking about that the other day," Mize said. "It's going to be really cool. It doesn't matter to me if it's Spring Training or not. It'll be the first time for me. I'm extremely excited for that. It'll be a lot of fun. Can't wait."

Video: Tigers top prospects on hitters they'd like to face

Tuesday's moment, the sight of Mize in a big league camp for the first Spring Training of his pro career, was the product of a long time of planning after he joined the organization last summer. The Tigers gave him just enough innings in Class A ball in July and August to get a taste, then shut him down.

From there, Mize started on a plan to get ready for the spring. He worked out at a facility near his offseason home just outside Nashville, Tenn., with several other pro players who share the same agent, the Bledsoe brothers.

"We had a plan early in the fall, right after the season ended," Mize said. "We stuck pretty good to that, and so things lined up pretty well."

He reported to Spring Training this week having already thrown a few mound sessions, so he could work on pitching rather than simply building up his arm. Once he arrived in Lakeland, the work continued.

As much as Tuesday's bullpen session impressed Anderson, what the longtime coach has seen from Mize off the mound has left a bigger first impression.

"You come in early, and he's one of the first ones here," Anderson said. "He's working his butt off. [Monday] I called him over and talked to him about things and I said, 'You're going to lead by example by what you do here.'

"You watch him work, and he gets after it. He's focused and driven. And then to get to see him throw on a mound is an even bigger bonus. I'm sure he's got the butterflies going a little bit with his first camp, and a big league camp. … But he's one of the first ones in and he's working his butt off every day. I like to see that."

Video: Callis on the potential of No. 17 prospect Casey Mize

Mize has been more focused on seeing what others do.

"I'm really excited just to get the opportunity to be out here and learn from these guys," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing for me; to just pick their brains and watch how they go about their business and pick up on some things they do that I like. These guys are playing at the highest level, and that's the goal for me. They're kind of showing me how it's done, really, so I'm going to pay attention to them."

So far, the only sign of nerves that Mize has let on might be the speed at which he was talking as he answered questions from reporters. His youth, beyond the fresh face, might be more evident in the 21-year-old's ability to embrace the new technology that is increasingly present around camp this spring. When he made a tweak to his slider this offseason, he worked with it in front of advanced cameras to figure out the spin efficiency.

"It's very interesting," he said. "I mean, honestly, I think it's the most efficient way of pitch design, to develop a pitch. The numbers are right there in front of you. You can see the flight of the ball, the path of the ball, to know how it's playing off your other pitches.

"We have these slow-motion cameras where I can see the last thing the ball touches in my hand. I can see so much spin. I can see the way the ball kicks out of my hand, the rotation and things like that. Spin axis and efficiency is stuff I've kind of really bought into, because it's just better pitches. When you figure that stuff out, they really are. These guys that have really good breaking balls, really good fastballs, you start looking at the numbers and it makes sense why. They don't lie."

Tweet from @tigers: .@caseymize04 is already bringing 🔥.#TigersST pic.twitter.com/gx2dlDr3Co

As the Tigers rebuild not only their farm system but their player development to the new age, Mize has a chance to become the face of it. He'll still get an opportunity to test out his pitches the old-fashioned way, seeing how big league hitters to react to them this spring. How many outings he makes before heading to Minor League camp isn't clear yet.

"It'll be fun with him. We'll work him in some games," Anderson said.

From there, Mize will be off to one of the Minor League stops. For all the buildup to what Lakeland would be like for him for the next few weeks, the SEC product has also prepared himself for the potential of April weather in Erie, Pa.

"They haven't told me [what it's like]," Mize said with a smile, "but some players have, so I think I have a grasp on that. That'll be new to me."

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

Detroit Tigers, Casey Mize

Top prospect Mize among Tigers' NRIs

No. 1 pick from 2018 Draft to get spring taste of big leagues
MLB.com

DETROIT -- Tigers pitching prospects Casey Mize will get his first taste of Major League camp this Spring Training. So will outfield prospects Daz Cameron, Jake Robson and Daniel Woodrow.

On the flip side, former first-round Draft pick Gordon Beckham will get a chance to rekindle his career and compete for an infield job in Tigers camp.

DETROIT -- Tigers pitching prospects Casey Mize will get his first taste of Major League camp this Spring Training. So will outfield prospects Daz Cameron, Jake Robson and Daniel Woodrow.

On the flip side, former first-round Draft pick Gordon Beckham will get a chance to rekindle his career and compete for an infield job in Tigers camp.

The Tigers announced 20 non-roster invites to Spring Training on Tuesday. The list ranges from highly-touted prospects who represent critical cogs in Detroit's future to veterans looking for new opportunities amidst the Tigers' rebuild.

Three members of the organization's top 10 prospects per MLB Pipeline received non-roster invites, led by the top-ranked Mize along with Cameron (eighth) and right-hander Kyle Funkhouser (ninth). Add in Robson (18th) and catcher Jake Rogers (12th), along with 40-man roster spots for right-hander Franklin Perez (third), left fielder Christin Stewart (sixth), shortstop Willi Castro (10th), outfielder Dustin Peterson (11th), pitcher Gregory Soto (14th), second baseman Dawel Lugo (15th), shortstop Sergio Alcantara (21st) and pitchers Matt Hall (23rd) and Spencer Turnbull (30th), and nearly half the top 30 Tigers prospects will be in big league camp with the club.

Non-ranked relief prospects Zac Houston and Paul Voelker, both of whom ended last season providing meaningful innings at Triple-A Toledo, also received non-roster invites. The right-handers could put themselves in position for a callup during the season.

For Mize, the non-roster invitation had been expected ever since Detroit selected the right-hander with the top pick in last year's MLB Draft. The Tigers had invited Alex Faedo, their top selection in 2017, to Major League camp last year under similar circumstances. The club didn't bring in Faedo to compete for an Opening Day roster spot, but to experience how Major League players prepare for a start and for the season. Faedo ended up pitching in a Spring Training game before heading to Minor League camp.

Likewise, though Mize is expected to begin the season at Class A Advanced Lakeland or Double-A Erie, the Tigers want the 21-year-old to get a taste of Major League camp while also allowing him to work with pitching coach Rick Anderson. Unlike Faedo, Mize already has a taste of pro ball before camp, having pitched 13 2/3 innings over five starts last summer between Lakeland and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Mize ranks as the top prospect in the Tigers' organization and the No. 18 prospect in baseball overall, according to MLB Pipeline's most recent rankings. The latter ranking could improve when the list is updated this offseason. He ranked second on MLB Pipeline's list of right-handed pitching prospects, released this month, trailing only the Astros' Forrest Whitley.

The Tigers are expected to take their time with Mize as he climbs the organizational ladder, giving him room to develop while the Major League club continues its rebuild. A Major League debut in a regular-season game isn't expected until 2020, though a strong first half in '19 could give Mize a push.

Video: Tigers top prospects on drafting Casey Mize

When Mize talked in Detroit during an autograph signing last month, he said he's keeping his goals simple this season.

"Not any destination goals or anything like that," he said. "I think it's just more personal: Just having a long, healthy season that I'm satisfied with. I think that would be my goal."

Cameron, on the other hand, could work his way in the Tigers outfield at some point during the season if the multi-faceted center fielder can carry the momentum he built last season. His 2018 campaign began at Lakeland and ended at Triple-A Toledo. He batted .264 with 25 doubles, nine triples, eight homers, 61 RBIs and a .749 OPS along the way.

Cameron followed that up with an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League, batting .342 (27-for-79) with three doubles, two triples, a home run, five RBIs and nine stolen bases. Woodrow, too, tore up the AFL, batting .371 (23-for-62) with six RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts after splitting the regular season between Lakeland and Erie.

On the other side of the career spectrum is Beckham, who signed a Minor League contract in the past couple of days. Beckham, the eighth overall pick in the 2008 Draft, started at second base for the White Sox from 2009-14, but has bounced around since. He spent the last two years in the Mariners' system, including 33 games in Seattle.

His opportunity for more significant time could come in Lakeland. The Tigers have been looking to add a second baseman for most of the offseason, at least to compete with Niko Goodrum for a starting role and allow more development time for Lugo at Triple-A Toledo.

The Tigers also signed catcher Hector Sanchez this week to a Minor League deal with a non-roster invite. The 29-year-old grew up in Maracay, Venezuela, the same hometown as Miguel Cabrera, and served as a backup catcher with the Giants, Padres and White Sox from 2011-17. He joins fellow non-roster invite Bobby Wilson as veteran depth behind Tigers starting catcher Grayson Greiner and John Hicks.

Most of the other non-roster invites had already been reported. Here's the full list:

Pitchers: Jose Cisnero, Louis Coleman, Kyle Funkhouser, Zac Houston, Casey Mize, Eduardo Paredes, Chris Smith, Paul Voelker
Catchers: Brad Policelli, Jake Rogers, Hector Sanchez, Kade Scivicque, Bobby Wilson
Infielders: Gordon Beckham, Harold Castro, Kody Eaves, Pete Kozma
Outfielders: Daz Cameron, Jacob Robson, Danny Woodrow

Spring Training in Lakeland begins with pitchers and catchers holding their first formal workout on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The Tigers' first full-squad workout is Monday, Feb. 18.

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

Detroit Tigers

Inbox: How will Detroit's prospects stack up?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
MLB.com

Time to dig back into the Tigers Inbox as the offseason rolls along. The Tigers Winter Caravan and TigerFest should provide some opportunity to answer more questions next week, but for now let's examine what we have.

With MLB Pipeline beginning to release its lists of top prospects for each position, and eventually top 100, how many top 100 prospects do you think we will have to start this season? And who?
-- @tonydombrowski on Twitter

Time to dig back into the Tigers Inbox as the offseason rolls along. The Tigers Winter Caravan and TigerFest should provide some opportunity to answer more questions next week, but for now let's examine what we have.

With MLB Pipeline beginning to release its lists of top prospects for each position, and eventually top 100, how many top 100 prospects do you think we will have to start this season? And who?
-- @tonydombrowski on Twitter

The Tigers had five prospects, all starting pitchers, on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list at the end of last season. They'll likely have at least four on the next list, possibly five. Their chance at getting six hinges on all five pitchers staying on the list, plus Daz Cameron getting a bump after rising from Class A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo last year. Christin Stewart could also crack the list, but that would be temporary until he has enough time in left field with Detroit to graduate him from prospect status.

Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox

Tweet from @lenny_padilla: The Detroit Tigers should call up Casey Mize. He's already 21 with three years of college experience. The Tigers clearly are going to be terrible. So why not let Mize learn on the fly?

Once upon a time, the idea of jumping a pitching prospect to the Majors quickly wasn't that far-fetched. Jeremy Bonderman opened the 2003 season in the Tigers rotation at age 20 after ending the previous season in Class A ball. Rick Porcello did the same six years later. Justin Verlander made his Major League debut in 2005 barely a year after he was drafted.

Those moves rarely if ever happen anymore. Part of that is organizational planning: Teams try to time prospects' arrivals so that they can build a window to contend with young talent before players become eligible for free agency. Part, too, stems from the way teams watch pitchers' innings from year to year in hopes of avoiding too big of a jump that could increase risk of injury.

So, while there's a strong possibility Casey Mize opens Spring Training in Major League camp for the experience like Alex Faedo did last year, I don't expect him to get to the big leagues until next year.

Tweet from @AustinPoprocks: What���s the situation with Iglesias? Haven���t seen him mentioned at all on the market especially with the whole Machado sweepstakes...

I haven't heard much on Jose Iglesias, who remains a free agent. Shortstop is one of the positions on the free-agent market that hasn't had much movement this offseason, with Freddy Garcia, Alcides Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria and Asdrubal Cabrera also still unsigned. An eventual Manny Machado signing could put the rest of the market in motion, but there's such a big gap between Machado and the rest of the market. Trades have also had an impact, with the Phillies acquiring Jean Segura.

Tweet from @SLealWilhelm: Could the Tigers give Granderson a shot to keep his career going?

As great as it would be to see Curtis Granderson bring his career full circle, it's hard to see a fit in Detroit as the roster currently stands. Nicholas Castellanos is set as an everyday right fielder unless he's traded. Left fielder Stewart is a left-handed hitter like Granderson. The Tigers could have an opening for a part-time bat at designated hitter, but that would be a lot for which to pay Granderson at this point in his career. A Castellanos trade would create an opening for a good amount of at-bats in right field.

Tweet from @Bienats77: Is Miguel going to play 1st or DH?

The plan is for Miguel Cabrera to play primarily first base, and get some days at DH to keep his bat in the lineup while taking some wear and tear off his legs and back.

Video: DET@BAL: Cabrera belts 3-run homer to deep right

Tweet from @DanHogan95: What do you see as a reasonable return in a Castellanos trade? A top-100 guy? A top-30?

Tigers general manager Al Avila referenced this at the Winter Meetings with a quote I wrote about a couple weeks ago. His point was that it's unfair to pinpoint a return he should get for Castellanos, that it's up to what the market will bear. That relies on competition for a player's services, and right now -- much like J.D. Martinez in 2017 -- the Tigers don't have much competition building to acquire Castellanos right now. Maybe that changes once Bryce Harper and Machado sign and teams start scrambling for hitters, but it's far from guaranteed.

Tweet from @liljohn325: If the tigers do sign a 2B this year, who left on the market do you think they target

There are not many players left on the second-base market after last week's flurry of signings. Josh Harrison will likely have too much interest given his versatility. Neil Walker, Logan Forsythe, Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Phillips are still out there.

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

Detroit Tigers

Tigers' prospect Perez ready to turn page in '19

Plagued by arm injuries in 2018, right-hander now prepared to rise up ranks
MLB.com

DETROIT -- Nobody in the Tigers' system arguably had more reason to look forward to flipping the calendar than Franklin Perez.

After an injury-plagued 2018 season limited Perez to seven appearances and 19 1/3 innings, the gifted young right-hander became a nearly forgotten figure amongst the top pitching prospects the Tigers have assembled. Add in Daz Cameron's rise up the farm system, and it's easy to forget that Perez was the top prospect Detroit acquired in the Justin Verlander trade 16 months ago.

DETROIT -- Nobody in the Tigers' system arguably had more reason to look forward to flipping the calendar than Franklin Perez.

After an injury-plagued 2018 season limited Perez to seven appearances and 19 1/3 innings, the gifted young right-hander became a nearly forgotten figure amongst the top pitching prospects the Tigers have assembled. Add in Daz Cameron's rise up the farm system, and it's easy to forget that Perez was the top prospect Detroit acquired in the Justin Verlander trade 16 months ago.

The fans who lined up for autographs from Perez and other Tigers pitching prospects at Comerica Park last month didn't forget. Now healthy, Perez is ready to refresh some memories soon as he prepares for his first Major League camp.

"Really frustrating," he said of his 2018, "but that helped me a lot to get stronger. I feel really good, stronger and prepared for next year."

MLB Pipeline ranked Perez as the Tigers' top prospect at this point a year ago. There was good reason: Perez not only made it to Double-A ball by the time his teenage years were over, he more than held his own, posting a 3.02 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 86 1/3 innings across the Astros' farm system in 2017. Though Perez wasn't in big league camp for Spring Training last year, he was one of the more intriguing names in Tigertown.

Video: Top Prospects: Franklin Perez, RHP, Tigers

A right lat injury midway through camp halted talk of which Minor League stop Perez would make on Opening Day. By the time Perez made his Tigers organizational debut, the season was half over and Perez was pitching in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League on a rehab assignment in late June.

Perez made three rehab outings in the GCL, then four July starts for Class A Advanced Lakeland. He made all of them on a pitch count as the Tigers tried to ease him into action and avoid aggravating the lat injury. But while Perez's lat was fine, his right shoulder suddenly flared up, he said through a translator. Detroit took no chances, shutting him down for the season.

Combine the two stops, and Perez finished with a 6.52 ERA for 2018, despite 14 strikeouts. Between the two injuries and the frustration about them, Perez said he learned a lesson about patience.

"God has plans," he said through a translator.

The Tigers also their plans for Perez, who made his offseason home in Orlando and has made frequent trips to Lakeland. He began throwing around the end of November and spent December throwing off flat ground. Aside from some general tightness, he said, he felt fine. His time off the mound gave him time in the weight room to further strengthen what was already a mighty frame for a young pitcher. He's expected to be at full strength for Spring Training next month.

Perez's addition to Detroit's 40-man roster not only protected him from last month's Rule 5 Draft, it earns him a spot in big league camp, where manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson will get a look at him.

From there, Detroit must decide where to essentially restart Perez's development. He just turned 21 years old last month and could conceivably join fellow top prospects Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and possibly Casey Mize at Double-A Erie, though the Tigers have traditionally preferred to have pitching prospects recovering from injury open their seasons in Lakeland's warm weather.

Video: Top Prospects: Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers

"I never played before in cold weather, but I like it," Perez said last month while sampling Detroit's chilly conditions. "It's not that bad. To play baseball in this, it's not difficult."

The Tigers drafted Mize while Perez was sidelined. Add in Manning's rapid development in 2018, and Perez now ranks third among Tigers prospects. He is still 67th among MLB's top 100 prospects. If he comes back in his old form, he could climb the latter list quickly.

"A lot of it plays out itself relative to guys getting out on the field and performing and staying healthy and how Spring Training goes," Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said about where Detroit's top pitching prospects will begin their seasons. "We have some strong thoughts about how that will play out, but they have to do it on the field and make sure everybody posts up."

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

Detroit Tigers, Franklin Perez

Mize isn't rushing process to joining Tigers

Top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft keeping goals simple for '19
MLB.com

DETROIT -- Give Casey Mize credit: He isn't taking anything for granted.

The top pick in last June's MLB Draft isn't predicting anything about a fast track to the Tigers' pitching staff. Mize, who is ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, isn't even sure if he'll be in Major League camp this Spring Training. But when the gifted right-hander decided to use part of his record signing bonus to splurge on a new set of wheels, he went with something local, and he avoided any temptation for a flashy sports car.

DETROIT -- Give Casey Mize credit: He isn't taking anything for granted.

The top pick in last June's MLB Draft isn't predicting anything about a fast track to the Tigers' pitching staff. Mize, who is ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, isn't even sure if he'll be in Major League camp this Spring Training. But when the gifted right-hander decided to use part of his record signing bonus to splurge on a new set of wheels, he went with something local, and he avoided any temptation for a flashy sports car.

"I bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee about a month ago, so that was my big item," Mize said earlier this month during an autograph appearance at Comerica Park. "High-rolling. It's got all the heated seats and stuff, and it's awesome, man, compared to my '06 Tacoma. It's everything I want."

At least for now, Mize does not have the auto collection of the last highly-drafted Tigers pitcher, Justin Verlander. If anything, Mize is more like former Tiger Nate Robertson, who ran his old pickup truck into the ground before buying a new one several years into his big league career.

The old Tacoma, Mize admitted, was nearing the end, closing in on 200,000 miles and looking ragged, even for a college student.

"Yeah, AC was out, had a hole in the exhaust pipe, windshield was cracked, a couple blinkers were out," the former Auburn University pitcher said. "It's all fixable stuff, but you can tell the car's on the downslide."

Video: Mize on being drafted, first season in the Minors

The truck is staying in the family as a hauler, Mize said. He'll drive the Grand Cherokee around his home just outside Nashville. But he isn't assuming anything about when he'll be able to point it towards Detroit and take off.

Asked if he has any goals for his first full professional season, Mize kept it simple.

"Not any destination goals or anything like that," he said. "I think it's just more personal, just having a long, healthy season that I'm satisfied with. I think that would be my goal."

A full, healthy season would probably make the Tigers happy as well. Though team officials didn't shut him down for the summer like they did a year earlier with first-round pick Alex Faedo, the club limited Mize's work to five starts between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Advanced Lakeland, covering 13 2/3 innings.

The results -- six runs on 13 hits, two home runs, three walks and 14 strikeouts -- weren't as important as the experience. Mize picked up just enough workload to realize what he's in for when he joins a rotation at one of the Tigers' Minor League affiliates in 2019.

Video: Tigers introduce No. 1 pick from Draft, Casey Mize

"Even if it was a small sample size, I can just kind of have the confidence that I've done it before and I kind of know what to expect," Mize said. "Obviously, I don't know what a full season entails yet or Spring Training, things like that. That'll all be new. But just to say that I've pitched professionally and kind of know what to expect makes it a little bit better."

Mize is also getting an idea of what to expect from fellow players with whom he works out. One reason he decided to make his offseason home near Nashville was to train at a facility his agents set up. Mize is training with 8-10 other players, he said, and picking their brain.

Most of the work so far has centered on strengthening, which Mize said has raised his weight to 225 pounds while lowering his body fat. But the talk has focused on baseball.

"They've done it before," Mize said. "I'm just picking their brain. What's big-league camp like, if that's a possibility? What's the big leagues like? What's Triple-A like? Just kind of what's this league like, just talking about certain things. I think it's just all beneficial. The more information you can get, it's going to help you get through it a little bit smoother. I think that's the biggest benefit."

Wherever Mize ends up opening next season, he wants to be prepared. But the only firm planning he's doing for 2019 is for his wedding. Mize proposed last month to his girlfriend, Tali Milde. She's completing her senior year at Auburn, so he has planning duties for now until Spring Training opens.

Tweet from @caseymize04: We���re engaged!! I love you Tali!! pic.twitter.com/A8ahrMTuRO

"I've actually been doing [a lot]. We're getting married in Tennessee, so I've been having to go see some venues on my own," he said. "Actually, the venue we're getting married at, she hasn't even seen it in person. I just went and saw it and she said this is the one."

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

Detroit Tigers

Tigers nab righty Garrett in Rule 5 Draft

MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- Reed Garrett turned heads with a breakout season out of the bullpen in the Rangers' farm system. The Tigers hope the right-hander can do the same in their bullpen after selecting him in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.

Garrett isn't the high-profile prospect many expected the Tigers to take with the fifth overall pick. But with late-inning experience and high strikeout and ground-ball rates, Detroit believes the 25-year-old can give them outs from what will likely be a fairly young bullpen.

LAS VEGAS -- Reed Garrett turned heads with a breakout season out of the bullpen in the Rangers' farm system. The Tigers hope the right-hander can do the same in their bullpen after selecting him in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.

Garrett isn't the high-profile prospect many expected the Tigers to take with the fifth overall pick. But with late-inning experience and high strikeout and ground-ball rates, Detroit believes the 25-year-old can give them outs from what will likely be a fairly young bullpen.

The Tigers will have to carry him on their roster through the season in order to keep him long term, or offer him back to the Rangers. But Detroit believes he can stick.

"He's got a real good arm, been up to 100 [mph], plus breaking ball, slider and curveball," Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said. "He had some success this past year closing games. We see him in the bullpen, a real viable candidate, and we're happy to be able to select him."

The Rule 5 Draft each December allows teams to add young talent by plucking prospects who aren't on other organizations' 40-man rosters. Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or become eligible to be drafted. Players signed at age 19 or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.

2018 Rule 5 Draft results

The 25-year-old Garrett was a 2014 16th-round draft pick with a relatively mundane Minor League resume until he converted to a full-time reliever in '17. The Double-A Frisco closer dominated Texas League hitters this past season with a 1.69 ERA, .204 batting average against and 46 strikeouts over 42 2/3 innings before earning a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock.

Combine the two stops, and Garrett posted 21 saves and a 2.04 earned run average in 51 games, allowing 54 hits over 61 2/3 innings with 20 walks and 61 strikeouts. His 1.20 WHIP in 2018 sat well under his 1.39 career ratio, while his ERA was less than half his career mark.

Also intriguing is a 1.43 groundball ratio, allowing him to get outs on contact as well as through strikeouts.

"His stuff kind of ticked up, moving from starting opportunities to the bullpen," Littlefield said. "Some guys adjust better than others. Usually there's a jump up in velocity for sure. But he performed very well."

While Garrett's fastball can hit triple digits, Littlefield said, it generally sits around 94-97 mph.

Looking to save roster spots, the Rangers left Garrett unprotected, hoping he could sneak through.

"You don't know who is going to be taken. You don't know," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "There were other pitchers we considered protecting that didn't get taken.

"My guess is he's going to a team that keeps him. It's a great opportunity for him. If I had to bet on it, we won't get him back. At some point, you've got to make some decisions and take some calculated gambles. That's what it was. We were hoping we weren't going to lose him but that's part of the deal."

Relief prospects are often popular Rule 5 Draft targets because teams can stash them in the back of the bullpen, where a manager can pick and choose situations for him to get Major League experience. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has experience with this from his days as Twins manager.

Gardenhire carried outfielder Victor Reyes on the roster last season after Detroit made him the top overall pick in last year's Rule 5 Draft. Reyes struggled for playing time early in the season, but he ended up becoming a useful fourth outfielder by season's end.

Video: HOU@DET: Reyes lays out for diving catch in center

The Tigers had a few relief arms on their list, Littlefield said, but centered on Garrett. They had been rumored to have interest in hard-throwing Astros prospect Riley Ferrell, but he went one pick earlier to Miami.

The Tigers didn't lose any players in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Double-A Erie right-hander Andrew Schwaab went to the Red Sox in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, while Detroit drafted outfielder Tyler Hill from Boston's system in the same phase.

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

Detroit Tigers

Tigers looking for bargains at Winter Meetings

Avila aims to make Detroit younger, more efficient
MLB.com

DETROIT -- The last time baseball held its Winter Meetings in Las Vegas a decade ago the Tigers played with smaller moves, coming off a last-place finish in the American League Central with a bloated payroll. Their trades for starter Edwin Jackson and catcher Gerald Laird, and their signing of shortstop Adam Everett didn't make headlines at the event, but they set the stage for Detroit to vault back to respectability in 2009, coming within an extra-inning tiebreaker of an AL Central title. A year later, Jackson went into the Max Scherzer trade, and the rest is history.

This time around, the Tigers return to Vegas with much humbler goals and a vastly younger roster, but their mindset is the same: Find undervalued talent to fill needs, look for sneaky trade opportunities and try to get the Tigers more efficient.

DETROIT -- The last time baseball held its Winter Meetings in Las Vegas a decade ago the Tigers played with smaller moves, coming off a last-place finish in the American League Central with a bloated payroll. Their trades for starter Edwin Jackson and catcher Gerald Laird, and their signing of shortstop Adam Everett didn't make headlines at the event, but they set the stage for Detroit to vault back to respectability in 2009, coming within an extra-inning tiebreaker of an AL Central title. A year later, Jackson went into the Max Scherzer trade, and the rest is history.

This time around, the Tigers return to Vegas with much humbler goals and a vastly younger roster, but their mindset is the same: Find undervalued talent to fill needs, look for sneaky trade opportunities and try to get the Tigers more efficient.

Their offseason activity so far has been limited to Matt Moore's one-year contract, some Minor League signings and the non-tenders of catcher James McCann and reliever Alex Wilson. They have plenty left to do, and while general manager Al Avila is willing to wait out the market, he's also an older-school GM in the Dave Dombrowski mold, the type who can turn in-person conversations into actual moves.

Video: Tigers agree to deal with lefty Moore

This is a setting, and a market, where Avila might be able to break up the logjam that has hampered Detroit on the trading front and middle-tier free-agent market. In the process, he can move ahead with a rebuilding front aimed at getting the Tigers younger while restocking their farm system for the next several seasons.

Here's a quick look at where the Tigers stand heading into Las Vegas:

Club needs
The Tigers are still looking for a veteran shortstop to stabilize their infield. That market hasn't moved at all, in part because there are more candidates than interested teams. Detroit is also searching for pitching, including bullpen help now that it has bid farewell to Wilson. The team could also play in a relatively deep second-base market, buying more time for prospect Dawel Lugo to develop while allowing Niko Goodrum to work in a utility role. And yeah, the Tigers still want prospects to deepen their farm system.

Video: DET@MIL: Lugo ties the game with 1st career homer

Whom might they trade?
Nicholas Castellanos remains the most likely Tiger to go this offseason as he enters his contract year, but the market has been slow to develop on him, in part because teams question his defense in right field. A Bryce Harper signing or a big trade could get things moving. Michael Fulmer's knee surgery has all but taken him out of trade discussions. Shane Greene could interest clubs as a sneaky bullpen acquisition, while Matthew Boyd could attract trade interest as he did last summer.

Video: Castellanos could provide big bat to new team

Prospects to know
Remember the old days when Tigers prospects used to be a big discussion for Winter Meetings trades? Those days are gone, as Detroit is trying to develop prospects into Major Leaguers rather than use them for trade pieces. The Tigers do have a glut of infield prospects who aren't viewed as shortstops, from Lugo to Isaac Paredes to Kody Clemens, but they're more likely to move those guys around the infield than move them to another organization. Same with the Tigers' starting-pitching prospect riches, especially with Franklin Perez and Kyle Funkhouser coming off injuries.

Rule 5 Draft
The Tigers have two open spots on their 40-man roster, and they're expected to fill at least one of them with a Rule 5 pick. The Draft has some depth in pitching, including power arms Detroit could stash in the bullpen. Astros prospect Riley Ferrell could be interesting if he falls to the Tigers' pick at No. 5.

Payroll summary
The Tigers' payroll dropped dramatically over the past year and a half, most recently with Victor Martinez's retirement. Their player commitments amount to just more than $100 million, with $55 million going to Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann. Add in an $8 million payment to cover part of Justin Verlander's contract, and a $6 million payment as part of Prince Fielder's 2013 trade to Texas, and the payroll goes up a bit. Don't expect the Tigers to add much to that in signings.

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

Detroit Tigers

RHP prospect Perez added to 40-man roster

20-year-old was acquired in last year's Verlander deal
MLB.com

DETROIT -- The Tigers have a plethora of tough decisions ahead of them this offseason as they move ahead with their rebuild. Adding Franklin Perez to the 40-man roster was a no-brainer, so much so that they did it a day early.

Facing a Tuesday deadline to protect prospects from next month's Rule 5 Draft, the Tigers got a head start by selecting the 20-year-old Perez, their third-ranked prospect and the 67th-ranked prospect across the Minor Leagues, according to MLB Pipeline. Barring a late surprise, he'll likely be the Tigers' only roster addition.

DETROIT -- The Tigers have a plethora of tough decisions ahead of them this offseason as they move ahead with their rebuild. Adding Franklin Perez to the 40-man roster was a no-brainer, so much so that they did it a day early.

Facing a Tuesday deadline to protect prospects from next month's Rule 5 Draft, the Tigers got a head start by selecting the 20-year-old Perez, their third-ranked prospect and the 67th-ranked prospect across the Minor Leagues, according to MLB Pipeline. Barring a late surprise, he'll likely be the Tigers' only roster addition.

The move means Perez will be in Major League camp when Tigers pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in February, giving manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson a chance to see the talented right-hander up close. It doesn't mean Perez, who missed most of this past season with injuries, will be headed to the big leagues anytime soon.

The Rule 5 Draft, scheduled for Dec. 13 to cap next month's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, allows teams to pluck eligible prospects from other organizations if they're willing to carry the players on their Major League roster for a full season. Players signed or drafted at age 18 or younger are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after five professional seasons. Players signed or drafted by age 19 or older are eligible after four pro seasons. For Draft purposes, players signed or selected out of high school in 2014 or earlier are eligible, as are players drafted out of college in '15. Players who are on a club's 40-man roster, however, are not eligible.

The Tigers got a head start on protecting some of their top prospects when they added Christin Stewart, Matt Hall and Spencer Turnbull to their roster as September callups.

Perez has had anticipation around him ever since Detroit acquired him from Houston as the top-ranked prospect in the Justin Verlander trade 15 months ago. The 6-foot-3 hurler, then still a teenager, immediately became Detroit's top-ranked prospect and a key part of the Tigers' rotation of the future.

Perez entered last spring ranked 39th among MLB Pipeline's top 100 prospects before injuries limited him to just 19 1/3 innings between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Advanced Lakeland. A lat strain in Spring Training sidelined him until June, then shoulder inflammation prompted Detroit to end his rehab assignment and shelve him for the rest of the year. He's expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Though the Tigers have other prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, Perez was the only one in the Tigers' top 10. The next-highest ranked eligible prospect is outfielder Jose Azocar (19th), who was left open to the Draft last winter. The other two eligible prospects in the Tigers top 30 are left-hander Tyler Alexander (24th) and outfielder Derek Hill (29th), the latter a former first-round pick.

Video: DET@PHI: Hill steals second base in the 8th inning

Unranked prospects who are eligible to be drafted include outfielder Cam Gibson and reliever Paul Voelker.

The Tigers still have a roster spot open if they want to add any other prospects, but they also want to keep a spot open leading into the Rule 5 Draft so that they're eligible to select a player. Detroit used the top overall pick in last year's Rule 5 Draft on outfielder Victor Reyes, and could seek another athletic position player next month depending on who's left over. Detroit could also open more space ahead of the Nov. 30 deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Catcher James McCann is among the decisions the club faces. 

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

Detroit Tigers, Franklin Perez

Which prospects will Tigers protect from Rule 5?

MLB.com

DETROIT -- One of the tough aspects of the Tigers' rebuilding project is the wait before many of Detroit's top prospects reach the big leagues. That's partly a consequence of the many young prospects general manager Al Avila acquired in trades for veterans, as well as the influx of prospects from the last couple Drafts.

The bright side, for now, is that the Tigers don't have to open many 40-man roster spots for their top prospects for a while. As Tuesday's deadline looms to protect eligible prospects from next month's Rule 5 Draft, however, Avila and his front office still have some interesting decisions to make.

DETROIT -- One of the tough aspects of the Tigers' rebuilding project is the wait before many of Detroit's top prospects reach the big leagues. That's partly a consequence of the many young prospects general manager Al Avila acquired in trades for veterans, as well as the influx of prospects from the last couple Drafts.

The bright side, for now, is that the Tigers don't have to open many 40-man roster spots for their top prospects for a while. As Tuesday's deadline looms to protect eligible prospects from next month's Rule 5 Draft, however, Avila and his front office still have some interesting decisions to make.

The Rule 5 Draft, scheduled for Dec. 13 to cap next month's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, allows teams to pluck eligible prospects from other organizations if they're willing to carry the players on their Major League roster for a full season. Players signed or drafted at age 18 or younger are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after five professional seasons. Players signed or drafted by age 19 or older are eligible are four pro seasons. For Draft purposes, players signed or selected out of high school in 2014 or earlier are eligible, as are players drafted out of college in 2015. Players who are on a club's 40-man roster, however, are not eligible.

The Tigers got a head start on protecting some of their top prospects when they added Christin Stewart, Matt Hall and Spencer Turnbull to their roster as September call-ups. Detroit still has some moves to make to protect some others. And with 38 players currently on their roster, the Tigers could face some tough decisions to make room. Keep in mind, too, that the Tigers will likely keep a spot open to take a player or two in the Rule 5 Draft themselves.

Here's a look at who among MLB Pipeline's top 30 Tigers prospects list will be Rule 5 eligible if they're not added to the 40-man roster:

Franklin Perez, RHP (No. 3 in Tigers' system, No. 67 overall): With Daz Cameron's success this year, it's easy to forget that Perez was the prize return from the Astros' system in the Justin Verlander trade. A lat strain in Spring Training and midseason shoulder inflammation limited Perez to just 19 1/3 innings between the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Advanced Lakeland this year, but he remains a key cog of the Tigers' future rotation as he nears his 21st birthday in December. He'll be protected.

Jose Azocar, OF (No. 19): The Tigers left Azocar unprotected last offseason following a rough season at Lakeland. The 22-year-old rebounded this year with a .297 average and .719 OPS between Lakeland and Class A West Michigan, but with just 28 extra-base hits -- including two home runs -- and 14 walks, the Tigers could take a chance again.

LHP Tyler Alexander (No. 24): The Tigers' second-round pick from 2015 went 6-8 with a 4.44 ERA between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, and he is likely to be part of the Mud Hens' rotation in 2019. But he also yielded 184 hits over 140 innings as he attacked hitters in an effort to induce weak contact. The Tigers have better starting prospects, but not many lefties.

OF Derek Hill (No. 29): The Tigers' top pick in the 2015 Draft has faced a series of struggles, most of them injury-related, in five pro seasons. His 106 games at Lakeland in 2018 marked his first season over 100 games, but he batted .239 (82-for-343) with 16 extra-base hits, a .625 OPS and 109 strikeouts. At 22 years old, he still has potential to go with tons of athleticism (reflected in 35 stolen bases), but probably not enough to tempt a team to use a 25-man roster spot on him.

And here's a look at prospects outside the top 30 who will be eligible if not added to the roster:

OF Cam Gibson: The Tigers love Gibson's baseball instincts, hustle, competitiveness and speed, all of which reflect his baseball roots as the son of Tigers great Kirk Gibson. He batted .244 with a .715 OPS between Lakeland and Erie, posting 14 doubles, eight home runs and 22 stolen bases along the way. His ability to play all three outfield spots gives him potential as a reserve.

RHP Paul Voelker: The funky-throwing reliever was Rule 5 eligible last winter but was coming off a suspension-shortened season in Double-A. His numbers out of Toledo's bullpen this past season -- a 3.18 ERA, a .213 batting average in relief, and 58 strikeouts over 68 innings -- re-opened some eyes. Relievers tend to be easier to carry as Rule 5 picks, since teams can pick and choose situations to bring them out of the bullpen, and the 26-year-old Voelker is an intriguing one.

RHP Spenser Watkins: No team took a chance on Watkins last offseason, despite a 9-3 record and 3.22 ERA at West Michigan in 2017. He followed it up by going 10-7 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.17 WHIP at three different levels, including a couple spot starts at Toledo.

RHP Grayson Long: If the name sounds familiar, Long was part of the return package from the Angels in the Justin Upton trade last year, but missed this year recovering from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He should be healthy for 2019, in which case the Tigers can plug him into their rotation at Erie to follow up on some very good numbers at the same level in 2017.

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

Detroit Tigers

Cameron's first AFL home run lifts Mesa to win

MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- As the Arizona Fall League winds down, Daz Cameron is finding his power stroke.

The Tigers' No. 8 prospect connected on his first Fall League home run as part of a three-hit performance on Wednesday as Mesa defeated Glendale, 6-4, at Sloan Park.

MESA, Ariz. -- As the Arizona Fall League winds down, Daz Cameron is finding his power stroke.

The Tigers' No. 8 prospect connected on his first Fall League home run as part of a three-hit performance on Wednesday as Mesa defeated Glendale, 6-4, at Sloan Park.

After lining out to center field on the first pitch of his first at-bat, Cameron fell behind, 0-2, against Desert Dogs starter Tanner Banks before working the count full and fouling off a pair of tough pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, the 21-year-old outfielder deposited the ball over the wall in center field for a two-run home run.

Gameday

"Oh, man. ... It felt great, felt amazing," Cameron said. "Just to get the head out there on a curveball and get extended through it.

"At first I didn't know if I got it," he admitted. "It's nighttime in a deep ballpark, deep to center. It felt good."

2018 Arizona Fall League rosters

Cameron picked up his second hit in his next trip to the plate, when he laced a line-drive single to center field on an 0-2 pitch from left-hander Rob Kaminsky in the fourth. He advanced to second on Nico Hoerner's groundout, then scored on Esteban Quiroz's opposite-field single, extending Mesa's early lead to 6-1.

In his final at-bat, Cameron showed off his wheels as he legged out an infield single in the sixth for his third hit of the game.

"My goal is to go up there and have a quality at-bat, no matter what the outcome is. I just try to go up there with confidence, try to get a good pitch to hit and barrel [it]," said Cameron, who collected two runs scored and two RBIs out of the leadoff spot for the Solar Sox.

The three-hit performance was Cameron's third in his last 10 games -- a stretch during which he owns a .405/.532/.622 batting line. Overall, Cameron has produced a .333/.444/.483 line, with 14 runs scored and seven steals, in 16 games for Mesa.

Cameron's strong showing in the Fall League follows a breakout regular season -- his first full season with the Tigers after they acquired him from the Astros in the August 2017 Justin Verlander blockbuster deal -- during which he played at three levels, including Triple-A Toledo.

Cameron batted .264/.343/.406 with 42 extra-base hits (eight homers, nine triples and 25 doubles) and 24 steals in 126 games between Class A Advanced Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Toledo.

"I think in Triple-A I got a lot of experience just being around the game and learning different things from different guys -- how to go about the game and stuff like that," Cameron said. "To go up there with a plan is the most important part, and that's what I've been able to do."

Red Sox No. 10 prospect Josh Ockimey also hit his first AFL homer, as he connected on a two-run shot in the first inning after Bobby Dalbec (Boston's No. 6) had put the Solar Sox on the board with an RBI single. Quiroz, a second baseman in Boston's system, also swung the bat well for Mesa, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the victory.

Solar Sox starter Jesus Castillo (Angels' No. 12) tossed four innings of one-run ball to pick up his second AFL win. He allowed four hits, struck out three and walked a pair. Left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez (Red Sox's No. 7) registered his first Fall League save after notching three strikeouts over the final 1 1/3 frames.

A trio of Desert Dogs homered in the game, with Jared Walker, Luis Robert and Martin Cervenka each delivering a solo shot.

Robert's homer in the sixth inning was particularly impressive, as the White Sox No. 4 prospect (No. 44 overall) turned around a 1-1 offering for a tape-measure blast to straightaway left field.

The 21-year-old outfielder has homered twice in his last six games after failing to go deep in 50 games across three levels during the Minor League season.

Robert, who is hitting .358, extended his hitting streak to 13 games, tying with him Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the longest streak in this year's Fall League.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Detroit Tigers, Daz Cameron