MANCHESTER — If baseball fans don’t already know who Casey Mize is, they likely will soon.
Considered the top pitching prospect in all of baseball — as well as the second-best prospect overall behind Tampa Bay shortstop Wander Franco — the 22-year-old from Springville, Ala., has enjoyed a meteoric rise since the Detroit Tigers made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, and it’s not out of the question for him to make his big league debut as early as next season.
Mize has dominated hitters all season, beginning the year with Advanced-A Lakeland where he made four starts, struck out 25 batters in 26 innings and held opposing hitters to a .085 batting average before being called up to Double-A Erie on April 25. He responded by going 6-0 with a 1.21 ERA in nine starts between his call-up and the Eastern League All-Star Break on July 8.
“It’s been a good year,” Mize said following the Fisher Cats’ 8-5 win over Erie on Sunday. “I’ve been happy and learned a lot. Since I came back from injury it’s kind of been up and down but I’m just trying to keep working and string together some good starts and end the season strong. That’s gotta be the goal from here on out. I’m just trying to move forward.”
Mize recently missed nearly a month of action due to a shoulder injury that landed him on the injured list on June 14, where he remained until making the first of his two rehab starts with Lakeland on July 10. Things admittedly haven’t been as great for Mize since returning to Erie.
In five post-All-Star starts, Mize has pitched to an 8.27 ERA and has surrendered 19 runs in 20⅔ innings pitched, including the six runs he allowed over 4⅓ innings of work on Sunday. The pair of homers he gave up in that game alone tied the amount he gave up in the entire first half.
“Mize is just coming back from being injured so he’s probably not (100 percent),” Fisher Cats manager Mike Mordecai said. “Early in the season I think he was pitching to around a 1.00 ERA, but I think he’s been a little bit injured since. It takes some time. This is his first full year in pro ball so it’s different for him, too. But he looks like he’s got the stuff to be a major league pitcher.”
Mize considers himself fortunate to be able to work alongside and against some of the game’s top young arms. The Tigers’ system is loaded with talent at the position and boasts another top-tier starter in Matt Manning, who is Detroit’s No. 2 prospect and is ranked 8th among baseball’s top-10 right-handed pitching prospects. Across the diamond this weekend was Nate Pearson, likely the Toronto Blue Jays’ soon-to-be top prospect and the game’s No. 2 righty.
“It’s a great league with a lot of talent,” Mize said. “It’s definitely great to be a part of a rotation here that’s really talented. Then we face guys like Nate Pearson who’s extremely talented as well. That’s what you’re going to get in Double-A. There’s a lot of talent in this league and it’s cool to sit back and watch those guys on days that I’m not pitching or pitching against those guys. It’s been cool to see that and it’s been a cool experience for me (overall).”
Being considered the best of the group just adds on to the expectations that come with being the top pick in the draft. To his credit, Mize hasn’t let himself get caught up in the hype.
“I didn’t expect to be anywhere,” he said. “I didn’t have any timeline or destination goals (when I was drafted). Luckily I’ve just had some success and got up to Double-A and just want to move forward. It was mainly a surprise (when I was picked first). I had heard some things but didn’t know for sure. I found out when my name was called and it’s been a good experience since.”