- March 2, 2021: Casey Mize came to Spring Training looking to win a rotation spot. He knew better than to try to do that with his first outing. He learned that from his last time here.
One year after Mize allowed runs but closed strong in his Grapefruit League debut at the same park, he had far simpler goals this time around -- including enjoying having a crowd.
“I think the big takeaway from today is [I was] just super happy to be in front of fans,” Mize said after two scoreless innings during the Tigers’ 6-1 win over the Pirates. “That was just such a pleasure.”
It wasn’t a big gathering -- less than 2,000 fans, in accordance with reduced capacity under COVID protocols. But for a pitcher who made his much-anticipated MLB debut seven months ago in an empty ballpark, it was much appreciated.
“Man, I’m never going to take fans for granted ever again,” Mize continued. “It was just a blast to be back in front of fans, and I really enjoyed myself out there.”
Those fans watched a 23-year-old whose toughest opponent for two innings arguably was himself. Mize gave up no solid contact, let alone a hit, but battled through three walks as Pittsburgh batters challenged him to put fastballs in the strike zone.
It fit with one of the lessons he took away from last season. While Mize's splitter wasn’t as devastating to big league hitters last year as it was on his way through the farm system, his fastball was better and more deceptive than even he expected. If he could locate it and force hitters to look up in the zone instead of down all the time, he could make his other pitches better. Tuesday was a small step in that direction.
“I had three walks, which I’m not happy about,” Mize said, “but I didn’t feel like I didn’t have control of anything. I feel like I was controlling everything, just trying to overpower guys led to a few misfires.”
After Bryan Reynolds took all six pitches he saw for a two-out walk in the first inning, Gregory Polanco fouled off a pair of fastballs with two strikes before whiffing on a splitter to end the inning.
“Finished fastballs are good for [Mize],” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s going to get a lot of those when guys see his secondary pitches.”
Mize went to the slider instead of the splitter with a full count in the second inning, walking Todd Frazier after an 0-2 fastball just missed the outside corner, but he recovered to fan Jacob Stallings on three pitches, capped by a 95 mph fastball. A two-out walk to Oneil Cruz -- who escaped a 1-2 count -- had the bullpen warming before Mize froze Travis Swaggerty on two 96 mph fastballs for an inning-ending strikeout.
The one second-guess Mize had for that inning wasn’t the pitch selection to Frazier, just the location.
“The thing about that Frazier at-bat, I walked him on that slider … that pitch alone, during that at-bat,” Mize said. “Just a veteran guy seeing tons of pitches. I think the slider wasn’t a bad call; I’ve just really got to throw that in for a strike because he’s good enough to see that one down.”
Mize wanted to get his bearings again in his first outing, as he put it, and he did that. He worked his way into trouble but didn’t allow it to escalate.
For a first impression on a new manager, that will work.
“He threw the ball well,” Hinch said. “I think he got a little bit excited to try to punch a few guys out and got a little erratic. He did a good job of getting to two strikes.” (J Beck - MLB.com - March 2, 2021)
|Birth City:||Springville, AL|
|Draft:||Tigers #1- 2018 out of Auburn Univ. (AL)|
In 2015, Mize graduated from Springville High School in Alabama. Casey put up a 19-2 record for his senior, including 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA as a senior.
Casey was off to Auburn University, where he had a team-best ERA of 3.52 in 2016 as a freshman.
Mize won 8 games as a sophomore in 2017, recording the third best ERA in the Southeastern Conference (2.04). In 83.2 innings pitched. He totaled 109 strikeouts and walked just nine batters. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (12.1-to-1) was the best in the nation.
March 9, 2018: Casey threw a no-hitter against Northeastern on March 9 and followed that up the next week with 13 strikeouts in a victory against Texas A&M to open Southeastern Conference play. By then, he had become a leading contender to be the top pick in the draft.
Casey eats a banana before he pitches.
June 2018: Casey was the Tigers #1 pick (#1 overall). He signed for $7.5 million via scout Justin Henry.
- June 25, 2018: The Tigers have been anticipating Casey Mize in the Majors since spring training. As he put on the cap and slipped on the jersey in a news conference announcing his signing, Detroit's rebuilding effort received a major boost.
"It feels amazing," Mize said. "It's such an honor to be the first overall pick and join a great organization like the Tigers. I'm really appreciative of them considering me the best player in this draft and taking me with the first selection. To have it be official, it really feels great."
Mize received a signing bonus around $7.5 million, MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis confirmed. It's lower than the $8,096,300 slot value assigned to the top overall pick, but it is a record bonus for a draft pick in the pool bonus era, and it is tied for the second-largest bonus overall behind Gerrit Cole's $8 million bonus to sign out of UCLA in 2011.
The Tigers selected the Auburn righthander with the No. 1 overall pick on June 4. A deal had been expected, and it became imminent once Mize was spotted at Comerica Park and worked out on the field with the team prior to batting practice. "I was a little nervous to even go play catch," Mize said, "but it was really cool to even be out there on the field and interacting with some of the players. I felt a part of it a little bit, which was an awesome feeling. Even stepping in the dugout and just seeing the stadium, it was really cool. It's something I obviously hope happens a lot more, but it was the first time, so it was special."
Mize joined 2009 top pick Stephen Strasburg as players to go undrafted out of high school before becoming the top overall pick out of college. Mize tossed a no-hitter against Northeastern in March, propelling him toward a season worthy of his billing. The right-hander went 10-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 17 starts, striking out 156 batters over 114.2 innings with 84 hits allowed. Just as impressive, he surrendered just 16 walks.
"I got to see him come in as a freshman at Auburn," Tigers amateur scout Justin Henry said, "and seeing him in the college seasons and the Cape Cod League, how much better he got in three years was very impressive. But I think the most impressive thing was sitting down and speaking to him and getting to know him and hearing how he goes about his business. It was a different meeting than most of the meetings I have with players." Said Tigers scouting director Scott Pleis: "He checked all the boxes—physically, mentally, makeup, work ethic, all that stuff, along with the talent to do what he does on the field."
Mize's college career ended in the NCAA Super Regional. Fittingly, after a few days vacationing with his family and girlfriend, he resumed working out in anticipation of his pro career. "I got a few days of downtime and then I got pretty bored," Mize said.
Where that pro career will begin remains to be seen. Mize will work out in Lakeland, Fla., at the Tigers' Spring Training facility, but the club is still working out where and when he'll pitch. "We're going to put down a plan together," Pleis said. "We pretty much know what we're going to do, but we're going to figure out how many innings, when he's going to do it. All that stuff's going to be mapped out." (J Beck - MLB.com - June 25, 2018)
Nov. 11, 2018: Mize and his girlfriend, Tali Milde, posted on social media photos of Mize proposing to Milde.
In 2019, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Mize as the #1 prospect in the Tigers' organization. He was #1 again a year later, early in 2020. But he dropped to #3 in the spring of 2021.
Casey's intangibles play a major role for the righty, and Tigers coaches love his approach to the game and ability to compete. Mize is a front of the rotation starter.
Dec 19, 2018: Give Casey Mize credit: He isn't taking anything for granted. And he isn't predicting anything about a fast track to the Tigers' pitching staff. Mize, who is ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, isn't even sure if he'll be in Major League camp this Spring Training. But when the gifted right-hander decided to use part of his record signing bonus to splurge on a new set of wheels, he went with something local, and he avoided any temptation for a flashy sports car.
"I bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee about a month ago, so that was my big item," Mize said earlier this month during an autograph appearance at Comerica Park. "High-rolling. It's got all the heated seats and stuff, and it's awesome, man, compared to my '06 Tacoma. It's everything I want."
At least for now, Mize does not have the auto collection of the last highly-drafted Tigers pitcher, Justin Verlander. If anything, Mize is more like former Tiger Nate Robertson, who ran his old pickup truck into the ground before buying a new one several years into his big league career. The old Tacoma, Mize admitted, was nearing the end, closing in on 200,000 miles and looking ragged, even for a college student. "Yeah, AC was out, had a hole in the exhaust pipe, windshield was cracked, a couple blinkers were out," the former Auburn University pitcher said. "It's all fixable stuff, but you can tell the car's on the downslide."
The truck is staying in the family as a hauler, Mize said. He'll drive the Grand Cherokee around his home just outside Nashville. But he isn't assuming anything about when he'll be able to point it towards Detroit and take off. Asked if he has any goals for his first full professional season, Mize kept it simple.
"Not any destination goals or anything like that," he said. "I think it's just more personal, just having a long, healthy season that I'm satisfied with. I think that would be my goal."
A full, healthy season would probably make the Tigers happy as well. Though team officials didn't shut him down for the summer like they did a year earlier with first-round pick Alex Faedo, the club limited Mize's work to five starts between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Advanced Lakeland, covering 13.2 innings. The results—six runs on 13 hits, two home runs, three walks and 14 strikeouts—weren't as important as the experience. Mize picked up just enough workload to realize what he's in for when he joins a rotation at one of the Tigers' Minor League affiliates in 2019.
"Even if it was a small sample size, I can just kind of have the confidence that I've done it before and I kind of know what to expect," Mize said. "Obviously, I don't know what a full season entails yet or Spring Training, things like that. That'll all be new. But just to say that I've pitched professionally and kind of know what to expect makes it a little bit better."
Mize is also getting an idea of what to expect from fellow players with whom he works out. One reason he decided to make his offseason home near Nashville was to train at a facility his agents set up. Mize is training with 8-10 other players, he said, and picking their brain. Most of the work so far has centered on strengthening, which Mize said has raised his weight to 225 pounds while lowering his body fat. But the talk has focused on baseball.
"They've done it before," Mize said. "I'm just picking their brain. What's big-league camp like, if that's a possibility? What's the big leagues like? What's Triple-A like? Just kind of what's this league like, just talking about certain things. I think it's just all beneficial. The more information you can get, it's going to help you get through it a little bit smoother. I think that's the biggest benefit."
Wherever Mize ends up opening next season, he wants to be prepared. But the only firm planning he's doing for 2019 is for his wedding. Mize proposed last month to his girlfriend, Tali Milde. She's completing her senior year at Auburn, so he has planning duties for now until Spring Training opens.
"I've actually been doing [a lot]. We're getting married in Tennessee, so I've been having to go see some venues on my own," he said. "Actually, the venue we're getting married at, she hasn't even seen it in person. I just went and saw it and she said this is the one." (J Beck - MLB.com - Dec 21, 2018)
Feb 12, 2019: Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris wrapped up their throwing sessions quickly. Relief prospect Zac Houston was done soon after. By the middle of the morning, seven of the eight bullpen mounds on the back fields at Tigertown were empty.
The one mound that still had a pitcher on it had an audience. As Casey Mize threw, pitching coach Rick Anderson stood just over his right shoulder, watching as intently as the slow-motion camera positioned behind the Tigers' top prospect. The catchers who weren't receiving his pitches stopped to watch last year's No. 1 Draft pick before heading to batting practice. It was the first of many crowds the Tigers hope Mize draws for them.
"He was good," Anderson said afterward. "He was fun to watch."
Eight months after Detroit selected him with the top pick in the MLB Draft, Mize is in big league camp for Spring Training as a non-roster invite so he can observe Major League pitchers and the routines they build to prepare for the season. With his talent, though, he has many big leaguers observing him. As thrilling as that might have been, Mize said he is looking forward to the moment a Major League hitter steps into the box, staring back at him.
"I was thinking about that the other day," Mize said. "It's going to be really cool. It doesn't matter to me if it's Spring Training or not. It'll be the first time for me. I'm extremely excited for that. It'll be a lot of fun. Can't wait."
The sight of Mize in a big league camp for the first Spring Training of his pro career, was the product of a long time of planning after he joined the organization last summer. The Tigers gave him just enough innings in Class A ball in July and August to get a taste, then shut him down. From there, Mize started on a plan to get ready for the spring. He worked out at a facility near his offseason home just outside Nashville, Tenn., with several other pro players who share the same agent, the Bledsoe brothers.
"We had a plan early in the fall, right after the season ended," Mize said. "We stuck pretty good to that, and so things lined up pretty well."
He reported to Spring Training this week having already thrown a few mound sessions, so he could work on pitching rather than simply building up his arm. Once he arrived in Lakeland, the work continued. As much as the bullpen session impressed Anderson, what the longtime coach has seen from Mize off the mound has left a bigger first impression.
"You come in early, and he's one of the first ones here," Anderson said. "He's working his butt off. [Monday] I called him over and talked to him about things and I said, 'You're going to lead by example by what you do here.' "You watch him work, and he gets after it. He's focused and driven. And then to get to see him throw on a mound is an even bigger bonus. I'm sure he's got the butterflies going a little bit with his first camp, and a big league camp. But he's one of the first ones in and he's working his butt off every day. I like to see that."
Mize has been more focused on seeing what others do.
"I'm really excited just to get the opportunity to be out here and learn from these guys," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing for me; to just pick their brains and watch how they go about their business and pick up on some things they do that I like. These guys are playing at the highest level, and that's the goal for me. They're kind of showing me how it's done, really, so I'm going to pay attention to them."
So far, the only sign of nerves that Mize has let on might be the speed at which he was talking as he answered questions from reporters. His youth, beyond the fresh face, might be more evident in the 21-year-old's ability to embrace the new technology that is increasingly present around camp this spring. When he made a tweak to his slider this offseason, he worked with it in front of advanced cameras to figure out the spin efficiency.
"It's very interesting," he said. "I mean, honestly, I think it's the most efficient way of pitch design, to develop a pitch. The numbers are right there in front of you. You can see the flight of the ball, the path of the ball, to know how it's playing off your other pitches.
"We have these slow-motion cameras where I can see the last thing the ball touches in my hand. I can see so much spin. I can see the way the ball kicks out of my hand, the rotation and things like that. Spin axis and efficiency is stuff I've kind of really bought into, because it's just better pitches. When you figure that stuff out, they really are. These guys that have really good breaking balls, really good fastballs, you start looking at the numbers and it makes sense why. They don't lie."
As the Tigers rebuild not only their farm system but their player development to the new age, Mize has a chance to become the face of it. He'll still get an opportunity to test out his pitches the old-fashioned way, seeing how big league hitters to react to them this spring. How many outings he makes before heading to Minor League camp isn't clear yet.
"It'll be fun with him. We'll work him in some games," Anderson said.
From there, Mize will be off to one of the Minor League stops. For all the buildup to what Lakeland would be like for him for the next few weeks, the SEC product has also prepared himself for the potential of April weather in Erie, Pa.
"They haven't told me [what it's like]," Mize said with a smile, "but some players have, so I think I have a grasp on that. That'll be new to me." (J Beck - MLB.com - Feb 12, 2019)
Casey certainly knows how to make a first impression. After dominating through four starts with Class A Advanced Lakeland, the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect (No. 16 in MLB) was promoted and promptly threw a no-hitter in his debut with Double-A Erie.
"I feel great," Mize said. "It was definitely one of those days where it felt like autopilot."
Mize led the SeaWolves to a 1-0 win over the Altoona Curve (Pirates) at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona, Pa. "He came out on all cylinders, man," Jake Rogers, the catcher, said. "Ever since the first inning he came out and he was getting guys out, making guys kind of look silly. Ever since then I knew if we just attacked them, something special was going to happen." (Boor - mlb.com - 4/29/19)
August 21, 2019: Casey’s first full professional season is over. The Tigers have decided to shut him down with just under two weeks left in the season for Double-A Erie. “We've made the decision after review and talking to Casey that we're going to skip his next three starts to end the season,” Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said.
The decision was not medical, Littlefield said. He’ll stay with the SeaWolves for the stretch run of their playoff drive and is expected to take part in the Tigers’ instructional league when it begins on Sept. 13, 2019. Mize will be cleared to have a normal offseason workout program from there.
Nor was Mize reaching a hard innings limit; his four-week stint on the injured list earlier this summer for shoulder inflammation eased his workload. But after Mize’s recent performances, including six runs over 4 2/3 innings on Aug. 11 at New Hampshire and a recent taxing sixth inning against Akron, Tigers officials met and decided not to push their prized right-hander any further. (Beck - mlb.com)
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire is becoming stronger in his praise for Tiger's top prospect Casey Mize. It’s becoming clear, if it wasn’t already, that he likes the talent.
“I’d like to have him right now,” Gardenhire said from Summer Camp 2020, “but we know the protocol. We know what we’re trying to do here, step by step. But I just think he’s very poised, he knows what he needs to do and wants to do, and it’s fun watching him pitch. He’s in control, and he has a great plan on what he needs to do to be successful. He’s moving really quick. For me, it can’t be quick enough. I like him a lot.”
These comments are even stronger than the ones Gardenhire made about Mize during Spring Training. And the way Mize has approached Summer Camp, and the work he put in during baseball’s shutdown, have been noticed. (Beck - mlb.com - 7/15/2020)
The frustrated grimace Casey wore on his way off the mound reflected his disappointment over a two-run lead that vanished. He might have been the only person connected to the Tigers with that face. Fortunately, it was temporary.
“I'm not going to lie to you: I had a blast out there,” Mize admitted afterward. “That's the most fun I had playing baseball, ever.”
As frustrating as the Tigers’ eighth consecutive loss proved to be in a 5-3 defeat to the White Sox, the enthusiasm not only was understandable, it was shared. This was the moment Tigers fans and personnel had anticipated ever since Detroit drafted Mize first overall in 2018. This was the moment Mize had been working toward his entire life.
Mize didn’t get a decision, but his 4 1/3 innings left an indelible impression on the Detroit sports scene as well as the record books. Never had a Tigers starter struck out seven or more batters without a walk in his Major League debut. Mize’s splitter, which he deployed on Yoán Moncada for his first Major League strikeout on his second big league batter, became a highlight pitch. And Tigers fans found a must-watch pitcher.
“We all know that the kid's a really special talent,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He's going to take a few bumps here and there. He didn't really have much of a bump tonight.”
Asked a day earlier what he expected of himself, Mize said he expected to give his team a chance to win like always, but that he also expected to have a lot of fun. The former Auburn standout kept up his end of a pitching duel with former SEC rival Dane Dunning. Later, José Abreu and Edwin Encarnación homered off of Gregory Soto in the eighth to break a 3-3 tie.
After the game, Casey sent out the following on Instagram: "Dream come true. Blessed to be where I am, but motivated to be better and achieve greater things!"
“I was really thankful for the opportunity to be back out there and just try to compete for something. It's been a long time since I've been able to do that,” said Mize, who hadn’t pitched in a regular-season game in a year and two days since his final start at Double-A Erie in 2019. “And it's also just where I wanted to compete at the highest level since I was a kid. So all those things, it just made it so much fun. And pitching well early on just obviously helped that. So I really did have a blast, and I competed my tail off. And obviously not happy with the total outcome, but I did some things really well tonight that I'm going to build on and continue to do that.” (Beck - mlb.com - 8/19/2020)
MLB debut (Aug.19, 2020): Casey Mize and Dane Dunning made modern baseball history in their head-to-head MLB debut matchup.
Mize and Dunning both struck out seven in their first career start, with Mize pitching for the Tigers and Dunning for the White Sox during a 5-3 win for Chicago at Guaranteed Rate Field. It's the first time since at least 1901 that two pitchers making their MLB debut in the same game each recorded seven strikeouts. (By David Adler)
He allowed three runs in a 4 1/3-inning no-decision while becoming the first Tiger ever to strike out seven batters without a walk in his first big league outing. No pitcher had done that since another former No. 1 overall pick, Stephen Strasburg, in June 2010.
Mize has a 92-97 mph 4-seam FASTBALL with deceptively late arm-side run that gets swings-and-misses for a 60 on the scouting scale. He has a very good 85-87 mph SPLITTER that is swing-and-miss with a 70 grade with late drop away from hitters on both sides of the plate. That splitter was the best secondary pitch in the 2018 draft, and he commands it extremely well, using it as his changeup. It has late, hard, downward tumble, and he disguises it well.
His third potential plus pitch is an upper-80s breaking ball he shapes between a cutter and a true slider. He also throws a low-80s curveball that lags behind his other offerings.
Casey has 55 grade control.
Mize began the 2020 season at the alternate training site and made his major league debut on Aug. 19, but struggled to an 0-3, 6.99 mark in seven starts. He struggled with his fastball command and general control in his debut, but he’s been a plus strike-thrower throughout his career.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 25.1% of the time; Sinker 27.3%; Curve 10.1%; Cutter 19.7%; and Split 17.9% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94 mph, Sinker 93.8, Curve 81.1, Cutter 88.7, and Split 86.3 mph.
All of Casey's pitches are firm but work to different parts of the strike zone effectively. Mize projects to have future plus control despite a herky-jerky delivery. He throws all of his pitches for strikes with above-average command and shows maturity on the mound. (Justin Coleman - BA Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2020)
But having a CHANGEUP could provide the answer he looked for in the offseason pre-2019 spring training, when he tweaked his slider by incorporating curve-ball movement in an effort to slow down his breaking ball.
“I’m always trying to learn new things because I think you’ve got to stay ahead of the competition somehow,” he said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how quickly that’s come along.” (Spring, 2019)
Casey consistently works both sides of the plate for strikes. He has a strong arm and solid arm speed. There is a bit of recoil at the end of his release. He comes at hitters from a three-quarters arm slot and a high leg kick.
Mize is a bulldog on the mound. His enthusiasm after he throws every pitch keeps fans in the ballgame and gets them excited.
Mize has 60 grade command. And that is improving. He repeats his release point with all of his pitches.
Mize’s pitches all look similar to hitters after they’ve left his hand.
“I think he is tunneling and sharing space with his pitches,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said in 2018. “I think all of these pitches are staying together in a bouquet fashion for a period of time once it leaves his hand.”
He does a great job of pounding the zone. At Auburn in 2017, Casey led the country with 12.1 strikeouts per walk (109 K's to only 9 walks).
On March 9, 2018, Mize threw a no-hitter against the Northeastern Huskies, the ninth in program history.
2018 Season: Using his signature splitter, Mize held hitters to a .217 average in college. After tossing a career-high 114.2 innings in his junior season, Mize made just five starts between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and high Class A Florida State League before shutting things down for the year.
In 2019, Casey was named the prospect with the Best Specialty Pitch by MLB Pipeline. The No. 1 overall pick last June, Mize had the nastiest pitch in the 2018 draft class with a mid-80s splitter that dives at the plate and serves as his changeup. Hitters also have to guard against his mid-90s fastball and plus slider, so his splitter can make them look absolutely silly.
Feb 4, 2019: Mize won't be pushing for a roster spot after just 13 Minor League innings last summer, 2018. But what last year's top Draft pick shows in camp should play a big role in determining his eventual path to the big leagues.
"I'm not going to even touch the delivery," pitching coach Rick Anderson said of Mize at TigerFest. "You just let him get adapted to where he's at. I'm excited to see him, just as I was when [Beau] Burrows and [Matt] Manning came up. You get a chance to see these guys and then you sit down with [roving pitching instructor] A.J. Sager and the Minor League people and talk about where we're going with them and what their thoughts are. It's going to be fun to see him."
The Tigers' decision to invite Mize to Major League camp is similar to what Detroit did with fellow right-hander Alex Faedo, their previous year's top Draft pick. The Tigers rested Faedo for the summer of 2017 after taking him with their first pick, letting him rest his arm following extended work during the University of Florida's run to the College World Series.
Before Faedo embarked on his first pro season, the Tigers gave him a glimpse of Major League pitchers and the routine they build to prepare for a season. He pitched in the Tigers' spring exhibition game against Florida Southern College before heading over to Minor League camp. Expect much of the same for Mize. (J Beck - MLB.com - Feb 4, 2019)
Casey combines stuff and polish better than any pitcher to come out of the Draft since Stephen Strasburg. Mize broke down his entire repertoire and demonstrated his pitch grips for mlb.com. He throws two- and four-seam fastballs, a slider/cutter, a slurve and a split-finger fastball. We asked him to rank his pitches in order of effectiveness.
"I'd probably say fastball one because I can command it pretty well," Mize said. "Split would be two because it's my best off-speed offering. Cutter would be three right now, just because it's something I can throw in a hitter's count for a strike to get them off the fastball.
"And the slurve right now would be four, which I think is going to move up pretty quickly. I think in the past, my slider, my breaking ball has always been my fourth-best pitch, something I can throw early in counts. I think the slurve is something that I'll be able to throw late in counts as a strikeout pitch now."
Mize's split-finger is more devastating than his fastball. He throws it at 85-89 mph and it plummets at the plate, but what makes it truly special is his ability to locate it. Hitters can't just lay off his splitter and expect it to dive out of the strike zone, because he commands it better than most pitchers can.
Mize said he began using a splitter in high school after he fell in love with his slider, lost his feel for a changeup and needed an alternative. He initially threw the pitch with his index and middle fingers centered between the seams and continued to do so in his first year in college. When Auburn coach Butch Thompson suggested he try using his index finger to pull on the seam on the left side of the ball and have his middle finger split the horseshoe shape on the other side of the ball, a weapon was born.
"I tried that and I was able to command it better, throw it harder, all of the above," Mize said. "It had more run and more sink. I've just been throwing it like that ever since.
"Sometimes it's spiking or sailing here and there, but I'm never going to give up on the split because it matches with the two-seam fastball so well and they have similar spin. I need that pitch to be on, to honestly be successful. If I don't have a feel for it that game, I'm going to keep throwing it." (Callis - mlb.com - 3/22/19)
April 2019: No pitcher has dominated to begin the season quite like Mize. In his latest stellar performance, the 2018 No. 1 overall pick retired the final 20 batters he faced en route to completing a career-high eight innings.
He faced one over the minimum in the outing, recording four strikeouts and 13 groundouts while throwing 69 of his 82 pitches for strikes. As for his overall numbers, the 21-year-old righthander has pitched to a 0.35 ERA, a 0.31 WHIP and a 25/1 K/BB rate over 26 innings (four starts) in the Florida State League. He’s held hitters to an .085 average.
April 29, 2019: Casey threw a no-hitter in his debut with Double-A Erie. The no-hitter marked the fourth in SeaWolves history and the second of the season as Alex Faedo, the Tigers’ No. 10 prospect, threw seven innings of a combined no-hitter on April 24.
Mize, who does boast plus command, hit the first batter of the game, but quickly found the zone. After putting the leadoff man on, Mize retired 19 in a row before issuing a two-out walk in the seventh. Mize finished off the seventh and then retired the side in order in the eighth and ninth innings to complete the no-hitter.
"The fastball command was not good, the worst it's been all year," Mize said. "I'll say that with complete confidence. You can go look at the video. It wasn't good. I threw a ton of cutters and just relied on that and I was just able to throw that for a strike and in a lot of counts."
Not only did Mize throw a no-hitter, but he did so efficiently, needing just 98 pitches (70 strikes), including a four-pitch sixth inning, to spin the first complete game of his career.
"He's smart up there," Rogers said. "He knows what he wants to do, he trusted me a little bit tonight and we just went after it. He just commands all pitches and he went after guys." (Boor - mlb.com)
2019 Season: Casey Mize, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 7). Mize was as dominant as any hurler in the Minors during the first part of the 2019 season and fired a no-hitter in his Double-A Erie debut, but a balky right shoulder landed him on the injured list in June, and he was inconsistent upon returning before then being shut down for the season in mid-August. As long as he’s healthy, Mize, with three plus pitches and exceptional feel for his craft, figures to spend most of 2020 in the Tigers’ rotation and will be among the more popular pre-season picks for AL Rookie of the Year.
Jan. 14, 2020: Mize was named one of the top 10 MLB pitching prospects entering the season. His split-finger fastball is one of the most devastating pitches in baseball. It's a mid-80s offering that dives abruptly at the plate, and some scouts say they've never seen a pitcher command a splitter better than Mize does. He also has great control. Mize led NCAA Division I in K/BB ratio (12.1) in 2017, ranked fifth (9.8) in 2018 and logged a nifty 4.6 mark while reaching Double-A in his first full pro season.
Feb 11, 2020: For the second consecutive year, Casey Mize begins his 2020 season wearing a Tigers uniform here as part of Major League camp. By season’s end, he could be wearing the Olde English D again for his big league debut. Ideally, those will be the bookends of a full, healthy season. That’s what Mize, the Tigers’ top prospect and the No. 7 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, wants to put in.
“Being a big leaguer is something I’ve been looking forward to forever,” Mize said. “I’m close, and there’s still a ton of work to be done between now and then, so I’m really just focused on that. I’m looking forward to when that day comes.”
The right-hander has put himself in as good of a position as he can. He waited on his throwing program this offseason, he said, to give his arm a rest. He added physical therapy to his training to prepare his hip flexor and shoulder. His wife has helped keep him on his nutrition program, even before they got married in November. Mize worked on pitching, too. He put his pitches, including his slurve, in front of high-speed cameras and Rapsodo machines to create more refinement.
“The day I stop trying to learn is the day I fall behind,” he said twice in his interview.
But no matter what kind of challenge hitters present for him, Mize’s health looms as the most important factor on his path to Detroit. “I’m feeling really good and really confident going into Spring Training,” he said.
The Tigers made Mize the heart of their rebuild with the first pick in the 2018 draft. His top performances last year backed it up, from a 0.88 ERA in six starts at Class A Advanced Lakeland to a no-hitter in his Double-A Erie debut.
He allowed one run over a 27-inning stretch for Erie when he felt right shoulder discomfort in his third inning on a Thursday night in June. The diagnosis of minor shoulder inflammation was a major relief all around. Mize made six starts for Erie after his mid-July return. He gave up six runs in three of them, including six (five earned) in two-thirds of an inning in his first start back. Each time, he followed with six innings and one or two runs allowed. Mize tossed six innings of two-run ball against Akron on Aug. 17 in front of senior Tigers evaluators. A few days later, team officials shut him down for the final couple of weeks.
“I was healthy at the end of the year,” Mize said. “They decided to shut me down, which honestly I don’t blame them.”
That doesn’t mean he liked it at the time, especially with Erie in the middle of a playoff race.
“I want to play baseball any chance I get. I want to play every fifth day,” he said. “But it is what it is. They’ve been in this much longer than I have. They have a really good idea of what they’re looking at, and they decided it would be best for me to shut down. It [stunk], but they had good intentions.”
He wants to still be pitching at the end this season, which is why he was able to fight his instincts and hold off on throwing in the fall.
“Like I said, [the Majors] has been a lifelong dream and a lifelong goal of mine. It’s been hard to be patient my whole life, not just now,” Mize said. “It’s the same as it’s always been. I just have to put in the work every day and make it happen.” (J Beck - MLB.com - Feb 11, 2020)
April 2, 2020: What puts Mize on top in the Tigers minor league system is a wealth of big-game experience in SEC baseball at Auburn. He showed in Spring Training a strong ability to work with the pitches he had in a given outing and make adjustments in mid-game.
His splitter is a devastating pitch, but his breaking ball is coming along. If Skubal and/or Manning join him in a Justin Verlander-Max Scherzer type of rotation front, the Tigers would be tickled. (J Beck - MLB.com - April 2, 2020)
Aug 18, 2020: The last time Casey Mize had watched a Major League game from the stands, he was at Comerica Park with his future wife and family, having just signed his contract after becoming the first overall pick in the 2018 Draft. He was a celebrity in the crowd, and there was a moment of recognition for him.
Two years later, Mize enjoyed his first day in the big leagues (he’s officially on the taxi squad until his start watching the Tigers-White Sox game from the stands at Guaranteed Rate Field with fellow callup Tarik Skubal. There were no adoring fans around them, no atmosphere, just two pitchers talking about their upcoming Major League debuts and the hitters they’ll be facing.
“I think it was a good thing to be able to watch the game and see what those guys look like in the box,” Mize said, “just so when I step up there it's not as foreign, learn some of their approaches and maybe learn some tendencies or things like that. Skoob and I were up there talking about how he can handle certain hitters and how I can handle certain hitters. I think it was pretty beneficial to be able to watch the game from the stands."
Mize said he can’t wait for the world to see what Skubal can do. The next night, the world will see what to expect from Mize, but he says he isn’t nervous about it.
“I always expect myself to put this team in a position to win, and that's what I'm going to try to do,” Mize said. “But I'm also going to have a lot of fun.”
Mize’s debut will come a year and two days since his last regular-season outing at Double-A Erie. He has learned a lot about patience since then, from the Tigers’ decision a few days later to shut him down, to the coronavirus shutdown that ended his breakthrough Spring Training, to his wait for the call over the last few weeks.
“Obviously the goal after I got drafted was to get to the big leagues as quickly as possible and stay here for a long time,” Mize said. “With everything that happened, through the craziness, there was a lot of opportunity that arose. I felt like I could’ve helped out, but what else could I do other than work really hard and continue to perform well? I knew my day would come, and so that’s all I did, and I’m here now. I’m pretty happy about that.”
Asked what he expects from himself, Mize said, “I always expect myself to put this team in a position to win, so that's what I'm going to try to do. But I expect I'm going to have a lot of fun. That's really what I'm going to challenge myself to do, to enjoy the moment, be where my feet are, and just realize that everything I've worked for is happening currently. Try to enjoy it, and try to win a ballgame.”
His family will be enjoying it with him, just not at the ballpark. His parents, brother and in-laws are flying to Chicago for the occasion, but they’ll be watching from the hotel with his wife, who also made the trip.
“They just wanted to be in the same city and be near me,” he said. (J Beck - MLB.com - Aug 18, 2020)
Here’s how Mize’s splitter became so filthy. During a 2019 Spring Training interview, Mize said he started employing a splitter at Springville High in Alabama, after he fell in love with his slider and lost the feel for his changeup and needed an alternative. He initially threw the pitch with his index and middle fingers between the seams and didn't use it much as a freshman at Auburn.
Under Hal Baird, who coached at Auburn from 1985-2000 and set a school record with 634 victories, a number of pitchers found success with a splitter. The pitch helped John Powell become the NCAA Division I career strikeout leader with 602. It also contributed to Scott Sullivan spending a decade in the Majors and Tim Hudson making four All-Star Games and winning a World Series.
Current Auburn coach Butch Thompson thought about that history when Mize needed a third pitch as he became a full-time starter as a sophomore. Sullivan and Thompson are neighbors, and he sent the coach a picture of the split grip he used. Thompson and Mize began tinkering with it, and the coach suggested he use his index finger to pull on the seam on the left side of the ball and position his middle finger in between the horseshoe shape on the other side of the ball.
Mize said the new grip added more velocity, run and sink to his splitter, and he also was able to command it better. He excelled in his final two college seasons, leading NCAA D-I in strikeout/walk ratio as a sophomore (12.1) and ranking fifth (9.8) as a junior. (Jim Callis - August 24, 2020)
- 2020 Season: Mize went 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA in seven starts (28 innings), striking out 26 and walking 13. He gave up seven home runs. He reached five innings just once, when he took a no-hitter into the sixth.
- 2021 Improvements: Casey Mize plans to be a different pitcher in 2021. Not just in terms of results — the rookie right-hander had a 6.99 ERA and a 6.47 FIP in seven starts with the Detroit Tigers last year — but also with how he employs his arsenal. Not surprisingly, data will be playing a role. Mize has a history with pitch design that dates back to his days at Auburn, and those efforts have only increased in pro ball.
I asked the first-overall pick in the 2018 draft what technology has taught him about his pitches, and how it’s shaping his efforts to improve.
“It’s pretty much a horizontal profile,” Mize responded. “We’re starting to take the four-seamer up a little bit to add a little more vertical, because it played so well last year. My splitter is super vertical, and we’re trying to really maximize that, because my slider has more of a horizontal break.”
Mize acknowledged that his two-seamer profiles as horizontal as well, getting more arm-side run than depth. It’s a pitch he’s favored, but that’s one of the changes currently in the works. The 23-year-old hurler not only plans to elevate more four-seamers, he intends to up its overall usage. His two-seamer will be used primarily “to mask the splitter,” a pitch he likes to have diving below the zone.
Mize isn’t a spin monster, a fact he readily admits. His four-seam spin rate was a pedestrian 2,245 rpm last season, yet while that ranked him in the 33rd percentile among his peers, he’s not particularly concerned.
“My vertical approach angle is pretty good on the four-seamer, so we think ‘I’ll be able to maximum that up in the zone,” the righty reasoned. “Increasing spin is pretty difficult to do, so I’m just going to maximize location. The axis will tick up when I throw it up in the zone.” (David Laurila - January 31, 2021)
July, 2017: Mize had to leave Team USA early after just two outings due to muscle tightness in his forearm. He missed time earlier in Auburn's season with the same issues—a flexor strain.
June 14-July 10, 2019: Casey was on the 7-day injured list with a diagnosis of minor inflammation in the back of his right shoulder, according to the team.
Mize does have a high-stress delivery.