Tigers most dominant pitching prospect wasn't even drafted

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Now that the Big Three have reached the majors, the pitchers headlining the Tigers farm system are Jackson Jobe, Ty Madden and Dylan Smith, three high draft picks in 2021.

But the most dominant arm on the farm right now wasn't drafted at all: Wilmer Flores. The 21-year-old righty is going bonkers with High-A West Michigan.

Signed by the Tigers out of junior college in 2020, Flores is a grown man at 6'4, 225 lbs. And his stuff reflects it. So do his stats. In six games (five starts) this season for the Whitecaps, Flores has a 1.83 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and a .192 batting average against.

More impressively, he has 35 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings. More impressive than that, he's issued just two walks. That translates to a ridiculous 17.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranks first among starters in the Midwest League.

The stuff starts with a mid-90's fastball that touches 97 and, by all accounts, a diabolical slider. It also features a changeup that Flores has been working on this season. If he perfects that pitch, look out. He's struck out nearly half the batters he's faced this season as it is.

A native of Venezuela whose brother, also named Wilmer, is a longtime MLB infielder, Flores had been on the Tigers' radar for a while. Last year, he put himself on the map by posting a 3.40 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 53.0 innings for Low-A Lakeland.

Now he's charting a path to Double-A Erie and eventually, the Tigers hope, to Detroit.

Jobe, Madden and Smith are worthy of the hype, the 19-year-old Jobe in particular. But Flores, the Tigers' fifth-ranked pitching prospect per MLB Pipeline, is right there with them -- for now. At this rate, he might leave Madden and Smith behind at West Michigan.

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