The Detroit Tigers have addressed the early-season struggles of their bullpen by calling up one of their top prospects.
The Detroit Tigers are off to a good start in 2017, going 4-2 over their first six games. They are currently in second place in the AL Central, trailing only the Minnesota Twins, who are off to a surprisingly good start themselves.
One area of concern, however, has been the bullpen. While it is certainly still early, to say the least, Tigers relievers currently rank 28th in MLB with a 7.58 ERA.
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On Monday, the Tigers addressed their shaky bullpen by optioning Bruce Rondon to Triple-A Toledo and calling up top prospect Joe Jimenez. Although Rondon pitched well for the Tigers last season, he struggled over his first three appearances in 2017, posting a 40.50 ERA. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers also want Rondon to focus on getting in better physical shape.
In 2016, Jimenez was extremely impressive throughout three stops in the minor leagues. Over 55 appearances with Class-A Advanced Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, Jimenez posted a sparkling 1.51 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP. He also racked up a total of 30 saves.
Jimenez is ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the Tigers system by MLB.com. By all estimations, he certainly appears to have swing-and-miss stuff. His fastball registers in the “95-98 mph range,” he has a “plus slider” and also features a change-up, per MLB.com.
Jimenez has averaged over a strikeout per inning every step of the way throughout his minor league career. He even posted a K/9 of over 14.00 in two of his stops in the minors last year (Lakeland and Erie).
This spring, Jimenez pitched for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and had a 0.00 ERA over four appearances. The Tigers optioned the 22-year-old to Triple-A Toledo in late March. Jimenez had two appearances in Triple-A this season, surrendering zero earned runs and striking out three. In his minor league career, which began in 2013, he has a 1.57 ERA over five seasons.
Jimenez joins a relief corps that also consists of Kyle Ryan, Shane Greene, Alex Wilson, Justin Wilson, former starter Anibal Sanchez and veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez. With Rodriguez set to become a free agent after this season, many have already begun pointing to Jimenez as the possible “closer of the future.” It should be very interesting to see what type of impact Jimenez may be able to have in 2017.