If there was any question whether 22-year-old righthander Casey Mize was ready for a promotion—as if his early-season tear through the high Class A Florida State League didn’t answer them already—he provided an exclamation point on April 29.
Mize, the No. 1 overall pick out of Auburn last year, threw a no-hitter in his first start for Double-A Erie. He struck out seven and allowed just two baserunners against Altoona.
Now the question the Tigers face is how long can they keep him in the minor leagues?
Though the front office won’t say so publicly, the answer is through this season.
Mize began his first full pro season by dominating hitters at Lakeland to the tune of an 0.35 ERA and 0.30 WHIP in four starts. He didn’t allow a hit out of the infield in his final two FSL starts.
While Mize has Southeastern Conference pedigree and now a growing pro track record, the Tigers want to see him develop a changeup to complement his mid-90s fastball, splitter and slurve.
Mize hasn’t needed a changeup yet as an amateur or pro—his splitter is at least a 70-grade pitch—but pitching in the Eastern League, against fellow top prospects, he will likely be forced to work it into his repertoire more often.
A changeup could provide the answer he looked for in the offseason, when he tweaked his slider by incorporating curveball movement in an effort to slow his breaking ball down.
Just don’t expect Mize to be called up in 2019, no matter how much he dominates in Double-A. The Tigers’ rebuild is in full swing, and they have little incentive to rush players and start their service clocks.
Mize should reach Triple-A Toledo later this season, with an opportunity to crack the rotation in 2020.
He will take his lumps in the majors, of course, and if the Tigers’ timeline to return to contention is 2021, then they will prefer he get those lumps out of the way next season.