The Detroit Tigers have a decision to make in regards to Casey Mize. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick is entering his first full season which, for a collegiate draft pick, typically means an extended stay in A-ball. For Mize, the team’s No. 1 prospect, this means High-A Lakeland.
Thing is, he’s simply too polished for the Florida State League at this point. And while it’s a short sample size, you can see that the 6-3, 220 lb righty is worthy of better opposition.
Mize, 22, has made two starts for the Lakeland Flying Tigers and has allowed one run through 11 innings pitched. The first time a runner crossed the plate against Mize came in the second inning on Tuesday night — a six inning, seven strikeout win against the Phillies’ High-A Clearwater Threshers — after a hit batter, stolen base, and bloop single.
After sitting through a nearly two hour rain delay, Mize was able to throw 50 of his 73 pitches for strikes. His fastball velocity is comfortably 94-95 and he touched 97 in the middle innings on Tuesday night. He works in a cutter that is tough on left-handed hitters, a split-finger that works down and in on right-handers, and his low-80’s breaking ball has more of a slurve action to it.
Perhaps most impressive, the No. 1 prospect showed extreme confidence working his pitches inside to left-handed hitters. Some guys don’t show that kind of maturity and confidence this early in the season. You could argue that this is part of the reason he was left in High-A, but watching him repeatedly jam lefties with his cutter is nice to see. He also did a nice job of keeping his split-finger out of the zone. It’s not uncommon for guys to leave the splitter in the bottom-third section of the zone, which is eye candy for many hitters; however, Mize commanded the pitch so well that he kept hitters off-balance and utilized the pitch as needed to keep guys guessing.
Smooth delivery, impressive command, and the ability to utilize three pitches effectively — that’s what stands out the most about him.
You can get a glimpse of his fourth offering, a breaking ball, at the end of this video. This was the second out of the sixth inning, three pitches, three strikes, three great locations, and zero chance for Threshers third baseman Jake Scheiner.
On Opening Day, April 4, Mize was equally, if not more, impressive despite taking a no-decision. Battling New York Yankees No. 6 prospect Clarke Schmidt, he completed five innings of one-hit ball, while striking out eight members of the Tampa Tarpons lineup.
Although there was chatter of him starting the season at Double-A, Mize was sent to Lakeland to fine tune his arsenal, but also because the club’s Double-A affiliate in Pennsylvania has to deal with frigid temperatures in April. However, if the former first round pick continues to pitch like he has through two Florida State League starts, he’ll be in Erie very quickly. Quite honestly, I would be shocked if he made more than six starts before being bumped up.