This is the third in my continuing series examining the search for a fifth starter for the Detroit Tigers. To look at the prior two, click on my profile.
Starter in Camp?
Manager Jim Leyland said this week what most of us had thought, and that is that he thinks his fifth starter is in camp right now, meaning that the team is not actively searching outside of the organization for that rotation spot.
Below looked solid in his third game, going a couple of innings and showing some promise.
He was throwing harder against the Nationals than I remember seeing from him, hitting 91 mph a couple of times, although he stayed mostly in the high 80s.
He still needs to work on his secondary pitches as he didn't seem to trust them.
As a result, he decided to just vary speeds on his fastballs in order to keep the hitters guessing.
This worked somewhat, but a nice double play by Ian Desmond showed that he will need to locate incredibly well at the next level to avoid getting lit up.
He showed a good pick off move as well, and should field his position adequately.
He pitches to contact, so he could have trouble with a team that doesn't have elite defense.
Overall, I didn't think he was overly impressive, and was chased with the bases loaded.
His numbers so far in camp are decent with a 3.18 ERA with three Ks and three walks.
What is concerning is his lack of trust in his secondary pitches, and the fact that he is allowing a robust .320 batting average against.
Wilk followed Below against the Nationals, and also threw a bit harder than I thought, touching 90 mph on the gun.
Wilk also relied too much on his fastballs early, but settled into a groove in his second inning behind a solid curve and a change-up that could develop into an out pitch for him.
He doesn't have outstanding stuff, but should develop into a solid pitcher if he keeps hitters guessing.
Deception will always be the key for Wilk.
Overall, his stats for the spring are solid, 4.05 ERA, two Ks with no walks and a batting average against of .259.
Of all the potential starting left-handed pitchers, Crosby probably has the best stuff.
He has an electric four-seamed fastball that routinely lands in the mid-90s, topping out at an easy 96 mph.
His control, however, is a train-wreck set to music.
Upon entering the game against New York with the bases loaded, he promptly walked two straight hitters home.
Walking back-to-back hitters is not a way into your manager's heart, especially with the bases loaded.
In fact, when he finally did find the strike zone, the fans erupted in a sarcastic applause, almost unheard of in spring training.
He eventually settled in a bit, but his curve was hanging all day, his slider slid right off the table, leading him to scrap it completely, and his change-up definitely is a work in progress.
In all honesty, he doesn't seem ready, but you have to love his stuff.
For the spring, he has a ridiculous six walks paired with a 4.76 ERA, a 2.12 WHIP and four Ks, to go along with a .261 batting average against.
Turner got absolutely rocked a couple of times, and was shut down with shoulder tendinitis.
You still love his talent, but he probably is no longer in the running for this job.
His stats for the spring: 11.25 ERA, .333 batting average against, six walks and two Ks.
Smyly is easily the least-known of all the prospects, but is probably the second-best looking player this spring.
He is a good pitcher with solid control with only one walk paired with three Ks, a 2.25 ERA and a batting average against of .267, and has only given up one earned run this spring.
Okay, so I really didn't think that Oliver had a solid chance at getting the fifth starter spot at the outset of the spring.
I, like many pundits, thought that Oliver might never figure it out, and probably didn't figure into the immediate plans of this team.
But Oliver has been by far the most impressive pitcher amongst this group, and his stats bear that out.
He has yet to give up an earned run, and in fact has only given up one hit all spring.
He has always had issues with his control, as evidenced by his three walks.
But he paired that with five Ks, a batting average against of only .048 and a WHIP of 0.57.
At this point, you have to assume that Oliver is the clear cut favorite for that job right now, with Below a distant second, Wilk and Smyly just below that and Turner and Crosby light-years behind.
If the season began today, you would have to assume that Oliver would be joining the rotation.