The Twitter mailbag will run every Tuesday morning during baseball season, but questions are welcomed throughout the week @Chandler_Rome. Follow along for analysis and coverage throughout the season and, if you feel so inclined, ask away.
@Chandler_Rome 2 guys (1 P, 1 position guy) you see not currently in a starting role making a significant impact this season? Thanks!
— Tigers in the Minors (@geauxMiLB) February 14, 2016
These are going to be a pair of true freshman. I’ll begin with the position player. Coaches are very high on Georgia freshman Brody Wofford, who has put on 10-12 lbs. since getting on campus and is hitting the ball very well. Wofford’s the backup first baseman behind Greg Deichmann, who himself had a tremendous fall and spring, but can also be used in the outfield or possibly a designated hitter. But Paul Mainieri’s known to juggle his lineups in the non-conference and give all of his young players a start or two — if they’ve earned it — before SEC play begins. Wofford’s more than earned the chance for some playing time.
Freshman Caleb Gilbert is impressing in a Tiger bullpen crowded with veterans. He’s a 4.0 student — Mainieri actually joked with the new plus/minus system his GPA is actually higher than that. Pitching coach Alan Dunn’s entire system is predicated on fastball command and Gilbert’s been able to command his low 90s pitch to set up his secondary stuff. Mainieri’s said he wants multiple arms that are equipped to finish games and Gilbert’s showing everything necessary to be one.
@Chandler_Rome If Latz’s recovery timing stays the same, what situations do you think he would most likely be used in?
— Dylan Thompson (@dthompson_02) February 15, 2016
I got this question, in some form, three different times. Since Dylan got it in first, you’re the lucky Twitter user who gets his handle published.
Jake Latz began playing catch last Friday. Let me caution, this is not pitching. This is not even strenuous activity. This is a playful game of catch that you or I would play in the backyard. But it’s the first step of a throwing program that Latz has heard can last as much as six or eight weeks following a Nov. 9 surgery that put a screw near his bone in his throwing elbow.
Latz and Mainieri are “holding out hope” for a mid-April return and if you do the six-to-eight week math from Friday’s catch date, that seems on target. But I can’t emphasize enough how fluid this situation is — Mainieri is notorious for taking the utmost caution when it comes to his pitchers.
Mainieri said Latz had all but cemented his spot in the rotation before his fall setback and subsequent surgery. Latz came here as a starting pitcher and if he’s healthy, he will start games.
@Chandler_Rome What’s less likely to happen: Lange not leading the team in ERA or Fraley not leading the team in BA?
— John Alty (@TheRealJohnAlty) February 16, 2016
I had to read this question four different times to make sure I understood it, but I think I’ve got it.
Being a starter, Alex Lange is more likely to have a somewhat — somewhat — inflated ERA. He pitches seven or eight innings a start while a dominant relief pitcher could rack up a string of scoreless one-inning stints and his ERA could best Lange’s.
Even with that said, that is less likely to happen. No slight to Jake Fraley, whose leadership will be crucial on this team, but it’s plausible to think one of the Beau Jordan, Bryce Jordan or Greg Deichmann middle of the ordereke out a team batting title.
@Chandler_Rome what can you say about outfield depth? Thoughts on what to expect after last year they caught everything
— Holden Landry (@parabolaus) February 16, 2016
To the naked eye, this outfield isn’t near as athletic as last season’s. I wrote about Beau Jordan, who coaches and teammates seem confident in to handle left field though he’s not the prototypical Tiger outfielder.
Jake Fraley and Antoine Duplantis are both apt to run down balls in the gap and lay out for anything in their reach. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point in the season, those two switch positions. Duplantis is far and away the best athlete in that outfield and a natural center fielder. Brennan Breaux, a fellow Lafayette native, is the fourth outfielder and a spitting image of former Tiger outfielder Andrew Stevenson — skinny, fast and defensively stout.
@Chandler_Rome do you expect Jared Poche to start every series opener, or do you see Lange taking that role, say by sec play?
— Tigers in the Minors (@geauxMiLB) February 16, 2016
Let’s start with the obvious — the opening weekend rotation is just that, an opening weekend rotation. Mainieri was adamant this weekend’s trio of Jared Poche’, Alex Lange and John Valek III is for this weekend only. Remember, Austin Bain and Riley Smith — both preseason candidates for a rotation spot — are rusty following separate shoulder issues. They’ll both get looks in the non-conference.
It’s tough to answer your question at this moment. Lange’s 12-0 freshman season speaks for itself and he’s a superb pitcher, but Poche’ seems to go unnoticed and unheralded in his shadow. He’s a veteran lefty who’s won 18 games in two seasons. If he’s pitching well heading into SEC play and Lange is doing the same on Saturdays, why tinker with what’s working?