The Tigers must’ve been pleased when Ravenelle was still on the board when their fourth-round turn arrived in the 2014 MLB First Year Player Draft. The highly-touted Vanderbilt reliever featured the size and live arm that Detroit often covets on draft day. A successful reliever for the Commodores, Ravenelle featured the stuff and moxy to likely rise through the Tigers’ farm system quickly. That was the plan anyways, until an illness similar to mono, and then a ruptured tendon in his right middle finger limited him to just 42.1 IP over his first two seasons of pro ball.
As a result of the lost time, Ravenelle lost significant velocity, dipping down into the high 80s, and barely scraping 90 mph upon his return to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season. A small spike in velocity occurred during his time in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, however, showing the Tigers enough to place him at High A Lakeland to start this season. Aside from opening night, when his fastball appeared lifeless, living in the low 90s, Ravenelle has consistently sat 96-to-98 mph, regularly reaching as high as 99 mph. His fastball features heavy sink when located down in the zone, and late glove-side action elsewhere in the zone. A two-pitch reliever, Ravenelle compliments his fastball with an above-average cutter that sits 90-to-93 mph.
Ravenelle has been a lockdown setup man for Lakeland this season, posting an impressive 2.70 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. The 23-year-old flamethrower has struck out 20 and walked 9 batters over 17.1 IP – clearly underlining his biggest issue (command) and attribute (swing-and-miss stuff). His stuff matches the intriguing numbers, leaving realistic hope for Detroit that their time and patience might just yield the productive high-leverage reliever that they selected on draft day back in 2014. – James Chipman