Tigers Prospect Profile #12: Casey Fien

Fien made it up to Triple-A last year

Casey Fien hasn't exactly been a household among Tigers followers, but the shutdown reliever has now quietly put himself in a position to be competing this spring for a job in the big league bullpen. Does Fien have what it takes to go north with the club?

Casey Fien
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-2
Weight: 195
Born: 10/21/1983
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
Fien joined the Tigers as a 20th round selection in the 2006 draft, after spending a year at William Penn, a year at Golden West Community College, and two years at Cal Poly. As a freshman with William Penn, Casey posed a nice 6-4 record before transferring to Golden West where he logged a 3-2 record with four saves during his one season at the JUCO ranks. For his efforts with Golden West, Fien was named a to the All-Empire Orange 1st Team.

Upon transferring to Cal Poly, Fien worked primarily in relief, starting only nine of his forty regular season appearances. In only 16-2/3 innings as a first-year player at Cal, Casey notched a single save and a 4.32 ERA with 18 strikeouts. Taking on a much more substantial role during his final collegiate season, Fien saved two games and walked only 14 batters in nearly 100 innings of work.

The Tigers left Fien in a relief role upon turning pro, as he pitched very well for Oneonta of the New York-Penn League. In 42-2/3 innings, Casey walked only eight opposing hitters and notched a 2.74/1.10 line for the O-Tigers. His success continued with West Michigan in 2007, as Fien became an extremely reliable relief option for ‘Caps Manager Tom Brookens. In 61-innings, he posted an impressive 7:1 strikeout to walk ratio, and finished the season with a 3.10 ERA in 39 appearances. On the back of a 1.17/0.59 line with over eleven strikeouts per nine innings, Fien took home the TigsTown West Michigan Pitcher of the Month award for June 2007.

After a stellar spring training that even drew rave reviews from Tiger Manager Jim Leyland, the Tigers skipped Fien past Lakeland, all the way to Double-A Erie. After making that leap, he promptly finished as the runner-up for the TigsTown Erie Pitcher of the Month award for April, on the back of 0.71 ERA in 12 2/3 innings of work. Casey earned the same honor in June while not allowing a run in 10 2/3 innings of relief work. Fien was a Eastern League mid-season All-Star and also ranked seventh in the circuit in saves with 12 on the season. Casey earned a late season promotion to Triple-A Toledo where he posted a 2.40 ERA and 2-0 record in twelve appearances.

Scouting Report
Fien is a classic two-pitch reliever that could pitch at the back end of games. His fastball sits at 91-93, and can touch 95 when he needs a little extra. Though he has flashed an ability to get a little sink on his heater, he's prone to working up in the zone; eliminating his sink and leaving him somewhat susceptible to the long ball. He is a strike throwing machine, but he must improve his location throughout the zone to truly take the next step in his development.

His second pitch is an excellent slider that can be a true out pitch when he stays on top of it and maintains his two-plane movement. He has improved his ability to throw the slider low in the zone, and it has become a lethal out pitch against right-handers. He must refine his ability to backdoor his slider or bury it on the back foot of lefties, as he has yet to develop a reliable change-up. Though he has toyed with the pitch for some time, it is not something he is comfortable using, and likely won't be an effective Major League pitch.

Casey has a bulldog mentality on the mound and he relishes the idea of attacking hitters and taking the ball in critical game situations. He can close games but profiles better in a setup role long term. Fien is about as close to being big league ready as they come, and he could be a solid 7th/8th inning type right now.

Performance

Level

Team

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SO

BB

IP

AVG

AA

Erie

3-3

2.96

40

0

12

42

12

45.2

.226

AAA

Toledo

2-0

2.40

12

0

1

17

4

15.0

.246


Health Record
The kid gloves came off Fien towards the end of last year, and he successfully handled being used on back-to-back days. He has clean mechanics and a durable frame that have enabled to him to handle a relievers workload with ease. He should be a reliable bullpen arm that can pitch either 4+ outs or on consecutive days.

The Future
Fien entered Spring Training with an excellent chance to break camp with the Tigers, and his spring performance will entirely determine where he starts the 2009 campaign. While some in the organization would like to see him refine his command and work lower in the zone with his fastball, he is generally ready for The Show, and there is little development remaining for him at the minor league level. He should make his MLB debut at some point this season, though with all the arms in camp, he may have to wait until the bullpen shakes out as the season goes along.

Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.

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