Center fielder Parker Meadows is hitting .310 with a .921 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his past 36 games. Corner outfielder Justin-Henry Malloy is hitting .250 with an .805 OPS in his past 33 games. Infielder Colt Keith is hitting .336 with a 1.000 OPS in 66 games throughout the entire season.
All three of them are playing in Triple-A Toledo.
“Listen, I want to see those guys up here, too,” Scott Harris, the Detroit Tigers’ president of baseball operations, said Wednesday during an in-game interview with Matt Shepard and Craig Monroe on the Bally Sports Detroit. “The part that nobody likes to hear is we make mistakes all the time in this game when we react too positively or negatively to something that happens in a short window of time. Baseball teaches you over time.”
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Harris, who promised to “earmark at-bats and innings for our young players” in the offseason, wants the three prospects to see different types of pitchers on offense and get more experience at multiple positions on defense.
Translation: They’re not coming up in the near future.
“I’m really glad those three guys are performing in Toledo right now, but there’s a little more that they have to do,” Harris said. “We got to remind ourselves the goal is not to get them here as quickly as we possibly can. The goal is to get them here when they’re ready to stay here and perform for a long time.”
Pitchers at the Triple-A level don’t miss their spots as often as the pitchers at the Double-A level. The game plans against hitters are more sophisticated because pitches tend to identify and exploit weaknesses.
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Based on the eye test, Meadows looks an elite defensive center fielder; Malloy looks like a below-average third baseman and average corner outfielder; and Keith looks like an average third baseman and average second baseman.
Malloy, by the way, hasn’t played third base since June 13 because of his poor infield defense.
“We really want them to get more reps at multiple positions down there,” Harris said. “All three of them are playing multiple positions. We feel like we need them to round out their game so that AJ (Hinch, manager) can use them at multiple positions here and they can be assets out there and help us prevent runs.”
On offense, Harris used Malloy — whom he acquired from the Atlanta Braves for reliever Joe Jiménez in the offseason — as an example to explain why he believes the three hitters need more time in the minor leagues.
Malloy hit .341 with a .997 OPS in April, then hit .205 with a .716 OPS in May.
“It’s a good reminder that just because you’re putting together a stretch of two, three, four weeks, even a month, it doesn’t mean you’re quite ready,” Harris said. “I think they have a little bit more to do. We want them to see different types of pitching.”
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The Tigers promoted Keith, the No. 1 prospect in the organization, from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo on June 26. Entering Thursday, the 21-year-old has hit .440 with two home runs, four walks and three strikeouts in seven games for the Mud Hens .
Before the promotion, Keith hit .336 with 16 home runs, 29 walks and 66 strikeouts in 66 games with Double-A Erie. He ranks as the No. 41 prospects in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.
Meadows and Malloy, both 23, started the season in Triple-A Toledo. Meadows is hitting .264 with 11 home runs, 36 walks and 86 strikeouts in 79 games, while Malloy is hitting .269 with 14 home runs, 58 walks and 91 strikeouts in 80 games.
Both Keith and Malloy will represent the Tigers on Saturday in the All-Star Futures Game in Seattle. Harris said the gap between Triple-A pitching and MLB pitching is “wider than it’s ever been” in the history of baseball.
“You look at the pitching that we face every night, especially out of bullpens,” Harris said. “All 30 bullpens have flamethrowers, and they also have really good sliders, and they also command all of those pitches.
“They’re not quite seeing that in Triple-A, so we want them to make sure that they get enough reps in Triple-A and really make a compelling case that they should be up there, and then we’re going to be excited to do it.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers’ Scott Harris preaches patience with hitting prospects