DETROIT -- The most promising moment for the Detroit Tigers this year may have occurred far away from Comerica Park -- or any other major league field.
On April 29, Casey Mize threw a no-hitter in his debut for Double-A Erie.
After narrowly avoiding triple-digit losses the previous two seasons, the big league Tigers sank all the way to a 47-114 record in 2019. They were particularly awful at home, going 22-59. If there was going to be any cause for optimism, it was going to be because of young prospects who might be able to help this team in the future.
"I think our fans down at spring training are going to see some of these guys," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They're going to get their chances out on the mound during games and hopefully our fans will get to see those guys firsthand produce and throw the ball like we know they can throw the ball. Some of the infielders and outfielders that we've got, you'll see them in spring training I'm hoping. I'm asking for some of those guys (from the) Double-A team."
Mize, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, went 6-3 with a 3.20 ERA for Erie. He is ranked as the No. 7 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. Matt Manning is ranked 27th. He went 11-5 with a 2.56 ERA for Erie.
The problem is that those two haven't pitched above Double-A, so it's no sure thing that they'll be able to make an impact at the major league level in the near future.
The Tigers certainly need plenty of help. They finished last in the American League with 582 runs, 109 behind 14th-place Kansas City. In a year when balls flew out of ballparks with ease, no Detroit player hit more than 15 home runs. The team leader in RBIs was Miguel Cabrera with 59.
The Tigers announced Monday that hitting coach Lloyd McClendon will now become Gardenhire's bench coach, and Joe Vavra will take over as hitting coach. Vavra had been a quality control coach. Also, base coaches Ramon Santiago and Dave Clark will switch sides of the diamond, with Clark coaching first and Santiago moving to third.
Infielder Isaac Paredes hit .282 with 13 home runs for Erie. Left-hander Tarik Skubal posted a 2.13 ERA in nine starts at Double-A. The Tigers will also have the No. 1 pick in the draft for the second time in three years.
Right-hander Franklin Perez, who came to the Tigers in the 2017 trade for Justin Verlander, made only two appearances this year and has only nine over the past two seasons in the minors. His struggles to stay healthy are limiting what Detroit can gain from that huge deal two years ago. Daz Cameron, who was also acquired in that trade, hit just .214 in 120 games at Triple-A Toledo.
Detroit dealt many of its most valuable players in 2017, when Verlander, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton were sent elsewhere. The Tigers moved outfielder Nicholas Castellanos and reliever Shane Greene at the deadline this year, and there should always be opportunities to trade bullpen arms to a contender. But Cabrera's contract and diminished power make him difficult to deal. If there's another player who could bring back a decent haul in prospects, it may be 28-year-old left-hander Matthew Boyd, who struck out 238 hitters in 185 ⅓ innings this year. But Boyd also allowed 39 home runs and finished with a 4.56 ERA.
Right-hander Michael Fulmer looked like a big part of the team's future when he was the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year, but he missed the whole 2019 season following Tommy John surgery.