Tigers' No. 5 prospect navigating Triple-A growing pains (2024)

June 11th, 2024

Tigers' No. 5 prospect navigating Triple-A growing pains (1)

Jason Beck


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DETROIT -- The Tigers sent No. 5 prospect Ty Madden into the season with a clear challenge: If you want to get to Triple-A Toledo, get better against left-handed hitters and use a splitter as an effective secondary pitch. He showed enough in four April starts for Double-A Erie to get the call.

“My job is to be where my feet are and make the most out of every situation,” Madden said in mid-April before the promotion. “My job is to be in the best mental and body space with each start.”

Madden’s six starts for the Mud Hens have been a roller coaster of sorts, from seven runs allowed in his Triple-A debut on May 1 to seven strikeouts two starts later. It reflects in his 9.30 ERA and 2.07 WHIP. But then come outings like last Wednesday at Iowa.

Madden pitched just three innings over 76 pitches, allowing a run on three hits and three walks, but eight of his nine outs came via strikeout.

Five of Madden’s strikeouts came against left-handed hitters. His fastball did much of the work, drawing eight swinging strikes and seven called strikes. But he did change speeds to freeze Owen Caissie (Cubs No. 2 prospect) on his offspeed for a called third strike. Most importantly, he pounded the strike zone better than he had in any of his previous five Mud Hens starts, throwing 47 of 76 pitches for strikes.

Madden has actually been more effective against left-handed hitters (.240 average, .737 OPS) than righties (.260 average, .862 OPS) between the two levels this season.

Madden has leaned heavily on his fastball (48.4 percent of his pitches) and slider (33.8 percent) since his promotion. The slider has been an effective swing-and-miss pitch with a 39.7 percent whiff rate, according to Statcast. The fastball has been pounded for a .381 batting average and a 92 mph average exit velocity, but Statcast suggests opponents should be hitting just .251 off of it, so there could be some regression ahead.

Some of that is already happening. Madden gave up two home runs in both of his first two starts with Toledo but has yielded two homers in four starts since. He has drawn his groundball/fly-ball rate closer to even over that span.

Another benefit Madden can draw from is a rapport with the catching. Dillon Dingler (Tigers' No. 12 prospect) caught him in Erie for much of last season and part of 2022, while Anthony Bemboom worked with him in Spring Training as part of big league camp. They’ve caught Madden three times each, though Madden’s last three starts have been with Bemboom behind the plate.

“Me and Dingler are super close; he’s caught me a ton,” Madden said in April. “A lot of the time, I think our minds kind of work the same.”

Getting the full arsenal working against Triple-A hitters is crucial to helping Madden take the next step and become more consistent. An effective change of speeds could be the difference between making Madden an effective starter or an eventual reliever. He got a taste of the latter in Spring Training with some late-game appearances in the Grapefruit League, as well as talking with relievers Jason Foley, Andrew Chafin, Shelby Miller and Alex Lange in the Spring Training clubhouse.

Triple-A Toledo: The Mud Hens host Omaha, the Royals’ top affiliate, all week beginning Tuesday night after splitting a six-game series with the Iowa Cubs. Spencer Torkelson, optioned from Detroit last week, went 8-for-24 with three doubles, a home run and four RBIs, walking four times and striking out five. Dingler continued his tear by going 5-for-13 with two doubles, a home run, three RBIs, four runs scored and two stolen bases. He walked four times and struck out just twice, and enters Tuesday with a 13-game hitting streak.

Double-A Erie: The SeaWolves scored back-to-back wins over the weekend to salvage a series split against Altoona and stay in the Eastern League’s first-half division race, one game behind Akron. Troy Melton (No. 10 prospect) tossed five innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts in Sunday’s series finale. Jake Holton won EL Player of the Week honors by going 10-for-22 with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs.

High-A West Michigan: The Whitecaps are home for the next two weeks, beginning Tuesday night against Wisconsin, after going 2-4 against the Cubs at South Bend. Roberto Campos (No. 23 prospect) went 8-for-24 with two doubles and a pair of solo homers, giving him five homers and 30 RBIs for the season along with an .849 OPS. Jaden Hamm (No. 18 prospect) hit his first rough stretch of the season, allowing seven runs on nine hits over eight innings across two starts. He still stuck out 11 against no walks. Relief prospect Yosber Sanchez, just promoted from Lakeland, allowed an unearned run over 4 1/3 innings in three appearances with three walks and two strikeouts.

Single-A Lakeland: The Flying Tigers are atop the Florida State League’s West Division after going 4-2 against Jupiter. Max Clark (No. 2 prospect) went 3-for-4 with a solo homer in Sunday’s 7-6 comeback win. Kevin McGonigle (No. 4 prospect) went 6-for-22 with a double and three RBIs, including Sunday’s walk-off single in a six-run ninth inning.

Tigers' No. 5 prospect navigating Triple-A growing pains (2024)
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