Tigers Can Afford To Be Patient With Sandy Baez

Though the Tigers’ improved farm system has bigger names, including first-round picks Matt Manning and Alex Faedo and trade import Franklin Perez, one pitcher who continues to fly under the radar is 24-year-old righthander Sandy Baez.

Baez, who came on the scene with a strong spring training appearance last season, is a physical, 6-foot-2 native of the Dominican Republic who signed in 2011. The Tigers envision him as a future workhorse.

“We’re looking for a big year from him,” vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said. “He continues to improve, and he knows that with that improvement, the big leagues are in his future.”

Baez opened his 2018 campaign at Double-A Erie in impressive fashion, striking out 10 in 4.2 scoreless innings on April 4. In that game, he allowed three hits and didn’t walk a batter. Since then, his ERA climbed to 4.04 through four starts, but some scouts believe he could pitch out of the big league bullpen in short order.

Baez weighs close to 200 pounds, with tree-trunk legs. His most interesting pitch is a “fosh,” a splitter-like changeup which he grips differently than a customary circle changeup. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with the ability to play up at points.

“He needs to hone in on his control and work more on his breaking ball,” Littlefield said. “He’s maturing emotionally, as all players do, and it’s something he needs to continue to work on. But he’s a competitive guy, he’s very driven and the focus needs to be on concentrating on the mound and not letting external things bother him.”

Perhaps most impressive about Baez is the way he has acclimated to the United States. Littlefield’s first impression of Baez came a few seasons ago, when he completed a GED program in the Dominican Republic and showed a certain comfort with the English language.

Though scouts are split on Baez’s future—starter or reliever—the Tigers are committed to developing him in the rotation.

“It’s very hard to find quality starters,” Littlefield said. “He’s a big guy with a big fastball and a couple of above-average pitches. If he can continue to make improvements, there’s potential for a front-line starter.”

The rebuilding Tigers can afford to be patient with Baez, unlike in years past when the club annually competed for a payoff spot. Back then, a promising pitcher might be shuttled quickly to the majors as a reliever. Baez, however, has a good opportunity to reach Triple-A Toledo this year and perhaps earn a cup of coffee in Detroit in September.

“We’re really excited about the potential,” Littlefield said.

>> Arvicent Perez began his transition from catcher to righthanded pitcher at extended spring training. The 24-year-old has been passed on the organizational depth chart by other catchers, but his arm is strong enough to give pitching a try after he hit .276/.303/.362 in his seven pro seasons.

>> Erie righthander Franklin Perez’s rehab from a right lat strain was progressing, Littlefield said. His time frame to return to the mound remains the same: mid- to late June. He had not yet thrown but was back in the gym, working out.

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