Detroit Tigers: The Value of a Protected First-Round Draft Pick

The Detroit Tigers season is in shambles. Stop me if you’ve hear that before. Due to injuries and inconsistency, the team has struggled. There’s truth to the statement that the Tigers never really got a chance to see what a fully healthy version of their roster could do.

After a myriad of player absences and bad breaks, the Tigers begin the week at 69-79. Only the Athletics own a worst record in the American League, while Detroit sits above six different National League teams in terms of owning the worst record in baseball.

The season isn’t what anyone (pundit, player, fan or coach) would have expected, but here we sit.

Despite the struggles, there are a few positives to be had. The Tigers now have the opportunity to let players like Steven Moya, Dixon Machado, Jefry Marte, Matt Boyd, Drew VerHagen and Bruce Rondon get their respective feet wet in the Majors, so all of them are more prepared for 2016 when Detroit will once again push for a World Series title.

What is likely more valuable is the Tigers ability to secure protected, first-round draft pick. This would allow Detroit shop freely in the free agent market without the fear of losing the team’s highest draft pick.

Al Avila’s squad needs to improve as quickly as possible, and the quickest way to do that is through free agency. A number of big-name, potential free agents could be fits in Detroit, like Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Jordan Zimmerman or Alex Gordon. Any would greatly improve the Tigers and better position them to chase a title in 2016.

While the Tigers need to win now, they also need to build for the future at the same time so another season like this one doesn’t happen. It’s a tough balancing act, but it’s completely doable—just look at the Cardinals.

Outside of Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, there isn’t much in terms of potentially elite starting pitching—something the Tigers are, quite frankly, used to. Boyd and Luis Cessa show promise as back-end of the rotation starters, but neither are closed being finished products.  Joe Jimenez has the look of a potentially elite reliever, but he may be a few years away. Outside of those players, there isn’t too much at this point. Buck Farmer ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but he’s yet to post a Major League win and owns an 8.49 ERA and a 6.79 FIP in 46.2 innings pitched.

Position player-wise, Moya is the crème of the crop. He may turn into the next Adam Dunn (albeit a somewhat faster one), or he could turn into the next Mark Reynolds, but in the outfield. Fellow outfielders Christian Stewart and Derek Hill show promise, but are both years away. JaCoby Jones is a high-risk, high-reward prospect, but even if he does live up to his excellent potential, he is a season (at best) from reaching the big leagues. The point here is that there isn’t a whole lot of certainty in the terms of what young talent Tigers have coming over the next few years.

By securing a protected first round pick (that comes in the top ten), Detroit can not only spend in free agency, but also secure a future star/impact player to carry the team into the future. Simply put, it’s a win-win.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Why the Tigers Should Sign Doug Fister in the Offseason

The 2015 Detroit Tigers starting pitching experiment has not gone to plan. Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene came out of the gates firing strikes and generally pitching extremely effectively. The results since have been awful.

Even with his one-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers, Simon’s ERA over his last 13 starts is 7.83. 7.83!

Greene’s ERA over his last 15 appearances isn’t much better. In fact, it’s worse. The former Yankee’s ERA is 9.35 over that span.

Going on those nuggets of information, it makes sense that the Tigers will target starting pitching this offseason.

One starting pitcher the team should target is former Tiger Doug Fister.

Fister has had a rough go of things in the capital this season, posting a 4.45 ERA in 21 appearances. The Nationals have shuttled him to the bullpen, where he’s made six appearances and allowed eight runs in 11 innings.

It’s safe to say he probably won’t be back in with the Nats com next year.

The Tigers should sign him.

Not only is Fister a known commodity to the Tigers, but he also won’t be too expensive. The former Mariner would likely be out of the Tigers’ price range if he put up his usual excellent numbers this year, but he’s struggled, so here we sit.

Justin Verlander and Daniel Norris are the only real locks for the Tigers to be in the rotation next season. Matt Boyd has showed flashes of potential so far in his rookie season, and could start again next season. Another incumbent who could return (should he decide to stave off retirement) is the ageless-wonder Randy Wolf. The other two members of the Tigers’ current staff (Alfredo Simon and Anibal Sanchez) could move on. Like Fister, Simon is a free agent at season’s end and will likely depart. Sanchez’ salary could be flipped for another big contract if Detroit needs to vacate a spot in the rotation for a new arrival.

(RELATED: Detroit Tigers 2016 Pitching Staff: Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures).

Fister makes all the sense in the world for Detroit, especially given his success at Comerica Park. The right-hander has posted a 3.18 ERA in 232 innings at the Tigers’ home stadium. Over those 232 innings he’s made 35 starts, striking out 180 batters and allowing opponents to hit only .255 against him.

The potential situation makes even more sense when you consider that the Tigers don’t want to rush any of their prospects making their way through the minors. Adding Fister on a short-term contract to act as a place-holder for young arms such as Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. The move would also allow Fister to rebuild his value in search of a bigger contract.

Detroit needs starters and, barring a change of events, Doug Fister will likely be available on the free agent market this coming offseason. Given the likely high cost of other starters, the Tigers should jump at the chance to bring the comparatively-cheaper Fister back into the fold. It would benefit all parties.

Not only would it benefit all parties, but it would allow new Tigers general manager Al Avila to (in a way) make up for one of his predecessor’s biggest mistakes.

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All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers 2016 Pitching Staff: Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures

After Monday’s bullpen implosion, the Detroit Tigers pitching issues were once again brought to light. Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny, Neftali Feliz and Guido Knudson’s collective time on the mound saw a Tigers win turn into a blowout loss.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Maybe not allowing 10 runs in an inning, but certainly allowing enough runs to lose the game. Only three teams have allowed more runs than the Tigers, while Detroit is tied for the league in number of home runs allowed with 144.

This year’s staff has been predominantly ineffective. That means changes in the offseason—lots of changes. With that in mind, here’s a look at what pitchers are locks to stay, which pitchers are uncertainties  and which pitchers are likely departures.

Locks

Justin Verlander

Verlander isn’t going anywhere, not with his contract. This makes him the biggest lock (pitcher-wise) on the team. It doesn’t hurt that he’s regained his old form. The ace owns a 1.67 ERA and a 40/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 43 innings. He’s back ladies and gentleman—and barring a massive addition, will open 2016 as the Tigers’ ace.

Daniel Norris

Verlander may be the team’s ace of the present, but Norris looks like a candidate to be the staff’s leader in the future. The centerpiece of the David Price trade, Norris has the look of a future front-line starter. He could start realizing that potential sooner rather than later.

Michael Fulmer

While still in Double-A, Fulmer may make his debut this season as a September call up. If he does, look for him to stick in the rotation in 2016. Acquired from the New York Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, Fulmer has been dominant in the minors. In 20 starts in the minors the pitcher has struck out 113 batters in 115.2 innings while only walking 28. He’s 9-3 with a 1.95 ERA as well as touting a mid-90s fastball, a nasty slider and an improving changeup.

Matt Boyd

Another pitcher acquired in the Price deal, Boyd looks the part of a dependable rotation arm moving forward. He’ll constantly live up in the zone, but that’s ok given he’ll start half of his ballgames in Comerica Park.

The Washington-native owned an ugly 14.85 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays, but has posted a much better 4.88 ERA (4.37 FIP) with the Tigers.

Bruce Rondon

Bruce Rondon had a tough start to the season, which is much of the reason why his ERA is 5.66. However, recent form suggests a promising future. The flamethrower has struck out 19 batters over his last 13 innings while holding opponents to a .159 batting average. His ERA over that span is 2.77. Rondon’s FIP is a sparkling 2.98, suggesting that he’s been much better than advertised. Unless he implodes down the stretch (we’re talking volcanic implosion folks) and implodes again during Spring Training, Rondon will be on the Tigers Opening Day roster in 2016.

Alex Wilson

In a season devoid of too many positives, Alex Wilson may be the Tigers’ MVP—at least on the mound. Wilson has done just about everything imaginable for Detroit.

Save a game(s)—check.

Start a game—check.

Pitch situationally—check.

Pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen—check.

In case you need any more convincing on Wilson, here are his numbers: 60.1 innings pitched, 47 appearances, two saves, one game started, 1.79 ERA.

Where the Tigers would be without Wilson, no one is sure. Barring the unforeseen, he’s playing an integral part on the team next year.

Blaine Hardy

Blaine Hardy has officially proven that last season was no fluke. The former Royals farmhand is the proud owner of a 2.68 ERA (his FIP is only 2.73) over 53.2 innings. He’s struck out 47 batters over that span and is just about as much of a lock as Wilson is.

Al Alburquerque

For as much as the Tigers’ bullpen has struggled/been lambasted, Al Alburquerque has developed into some of an “old-reliable” type. The reliever has posted a career ERA of 2.99 and his FIP has never eclipsed four. He’ll be back.

Uncertainties 

Anibal Sanchez

Anibal Sanchez may be having a down year—or he may be regressing, it’s hard to tell. If anything, he’s certainly not the pitcher he was in 2013 when he led the American League in ERA, FIP and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.4 to be exact). Sanchez ERA this year is an unsightly 4.99 while he’s allowed a Majors-leading 29 home runs. His FIP? 4.72.

With a contract that calls for $48 million over the next three seasons, Detroit could trade him for another bad contract to fill a different need. The Tigers obviously are thin in the starting pitching department, but if Sanchez continues to allow home runs at the rate he’s at, the team may as well let someone like Fulmer loose than continue trot out Sanchez every fifth day.

Neftali Feliz

Former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz has a world of potential, but has been inexplicably awful for the Tigers. In 16 innings he’s allowed 19 earned runs while posting an ugly 11.93 ERA. Whether he makes the team next year will depend on how much bullpen help is added in the offseason and if the team thinks he can turn it around.

Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan

If either of these pitchers are in the Tigers’ rotation in 2016 on a consistent basis, it will either be because the team isn’t contending, or because one of the two has turned a corner in their development.

Neither has shown the ability to be a consistent starter in the bigs, with Farmer the owner of a 7.80 ERA and Ryan sporting a 5.94 earned run average. Given the number of young arms near or at the major league level (Norris, Fulmer, Boyd and Luis Cessa), Detroit may be hard-pressed to find a role for either Farmer or Ryan. A year of seasoning in Triple-A wouldn’t hurt either.

Randy Wolf

Wolf will only be on the Tigers’ roster next season if he doesn’t retire after the season, can be effective down the stretch, and if Detroit wants him back. Given the team’s young arms and the likelihood that they’ll add a starter (or two) in the offseason, Wolf could find his way back to the team as a swingman.

Ian Krol

One-time Nationals pitcher Ian Krol is running out of opportunities to stick in Detroit. He’s only 24-years-old, but owns a 5.67 ERA in a Tigers’ uniform. His FIP isn’t much better at 5.30.

Things have only become worse for Krol, whose earned run average this year is 6.75. He’s also walked nearly as many batters as runs allowed. Not a pretty stat when your ERA is close to seven. Like Feliz, he’s not a goner purely based on potential and age.

Shane Greene

The Tigers seem to believe in Greene long-term, ergo his place in the “maybes” section. If anything, he may spend the year refining his craft at Triple-A.

His numbers have been all kinds of ugly this year—6.88 (!) ERA, 103 hits allowed in only 83.2 innings, 13 home runs allowed, 5.13 FIP… the list goes on. In fact, if you take out Greene’s phenomenal start, during which he put up an ERA of 0.39, his ERA jumps to 9.35 in 60.2 innings. Opponents hit .351 off him during those games.  Here’s hoping he can turn it around.

Kyle Lobstein

Lobstein’s injury absence may be one of the least talked about aspects of the Tigers season.

The man who Brad Ausmus once called “Lobber” had a respectable 4.34 ERA to go along with a 3-45 record in eight starts before hitting the disabled list. If Lobstein had absorbed some of Greene/Farmer/Ryan/Alfredo Simon’s rough starts, Detroit would be in a much better place right now. Lobstein may be relegated to a swing-man role next season. He’s in a good spot to make the team next season, but isn’t a lock given the fact that Al Avila will likely sign/trade for two new starters.

Guido Knudson and Drew VerHagen

If the above-mentioned duo make the team next year it will be because they showed well down the stretch and in Spring Training. The rest of the season is their audition.

Likely Departures

Alfredo Simon

Despite Simon’s stellar start against the Rangers, he’s struggled too much to be asked back next season. Racking up 11 wins is a positive, but not when your ERA is 5.85 since the start of June. His contract is up, and unless he wants to become a reliever again, he’ll be leaving Detroit.

Tom Gorzelanny

Another player on an expiring contract, Gorzelanny has also struggled in Motown.

Pick whatever synonym of ugly that you like and that word describes Gorzelanny’s run prevention on the mound this season. His ERA is an atrocious (you win a prize if that was your ugly synonym) 6.21 while he’s walked 19 batters and allowed 21 runs in just 29 innings. The former Pirate simply hasn’t had his best stuff this season.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Steven Moya and/or Mike Hessman Should Be Called Up in September

With September right around the corner, the Detroit Tigers will soon be joining the rest of Major League Baseball in the process of calling up players when rosters expand. There are a number of players who seem locks to be called up (Bryan Holaday, Ian Krol and Dixon Machado) while others’ chances aren’t guaranteed (Marc Krauss, Jeff Ferrell and Wynton Bernard).

Regardless of the other players packing their bags and heading to Detroit, there is one type of player the Tigers will almost surely call up– a slugging, bench bat.

As of now, the two obvious (and really only) candidates are Steven Moya and Mike Hessman. Expect at least one of the players to get the call come September—if not both.

The Case for Moya

At 24-years-old, Steven Moya ranks as the Tigers’ prospect—even after the trade deadline acquisitions of top prospects like Michael Fulmer, Luis Cessa, JaCoby Jones and Jairo Labourt.

Moya has (insert adjective here, somewhere between outstanding and exceptional) power as well as a strong arm and the ability to run well. The only knack on him is that he doesn’t really hit for average, and strikes out a lot (129 in 103 games at Triple-A this season). The lack of hitting for average (as well as a low walk rate), could hurt Moya. However, if he can hit even .250, he’ll enjoy at least a 10-year career. He’s got that kind of power.

Adding him to the roster in September would give the team a powerful—if raw—bench option. He can also provide dependable defense while also brining some speed. If called up, the Tigers will be hoping that Moya’s experience in September will help pave the way to bigger things next season, similar to James McCann’s situation last year.

The Case for Hessman

While the 37-year-old Hessman doesn’t possess the same potential as Moya due to his age, he does bring power.

The veteran is the minors’ all-time home run leader, with a whopping 433 minor league bombs. He has 16 in 103 Triple-A games to go along with 52 RBI, 21 doubles and four (!) triples. Like Moya, Hessman has never been much of a contact hitter. He’s hitting .241 this season and is a career .233 hitter in the minors.

For all his power, one would think the minor league home run king would have received an extended look in the big leagues. However, Hessman has never logged more than 32 games in a season and has only played in 109 big-league games.

While his career batting average in the majors (.188) isn’t pretty, Hessman has actually performed solidly while wearing a Tigers uniform. In 29 career games with Detroit the slugger has mashed nine home runs to go along with 19 RBI, a double and 13 runs scored. He hit .256 with a .945 OPS over that span. Here’s hoping, should he be called up, that he repeat those numbers.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Should the Tigers Take a Flier on Garrett Jones?

The New York Yankees recently designated first baseman/corner outfielder/pinch-hitter extraordinaire Garrett Jones for assignment. Should the Tigers take a chance on the one-time Minnesota Twin?

The book on Jones is pretty straight forward. He mashes right-handed pitching (.265 career batting average .473 career slugging percentage and .803 career OPS) and plays first base as well as both corner outfield spots. His defense isn’t anything to write home about, but his offense is what keeps him around.

Detroit could have used him when Miguel Cabrera was out injured, but with Cabrera set to return to the lineup on Friday, the team’s need isn’t as dire. Still, Jones could provide the Tigers with a feared bench bat that has been missing in Detroit for a number of years.

Jones would likely be used in a timeshare with Tyler Collins and Rajai Davis in left field, but mainly as a pinch hitter.

One thing that stood out, among others, during last season’s American League Division Series sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles was the team’s lack of bench depth. After Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez brought the Tigers within a run thanks to back-to-back doubles, the team sent Bryan Holaday, Nick Castellanos and Hernan Perez to the plate. Holaday struck out, Castellanos was walked and Perez promptly grounded into a double play.

With the season on the line, the team sent Hernan Perez to the plate. Hernan Perez! Now, Perez has some potential, but he isn’t with the team any more.

We’ve seen a number of baseball teams (looking at you Kansas City) build deep benches that help them succeed in October. Adding Jones would give Tigers a somewhat deep bench. The team would have their go-to pinch-hitter in Jones, a go-to pinch-runner in Davis, as well as a super utility option in Andrew Romine.

Jefry Marte has hit well for the Tigers while filling in for Cabrera at first (.271 batting average, seven extra-base-hits and seven RBI in 19 games), but if he isn’t playing full-time, you might as well send him to Triple-A Toledo to receive some at-bats and then recall him when rosters expand in a few weeks.

There’s also the fact that Cabrera won’t be completely ready to play full-time when he returns, so Brad Ausmus will have to spell him at first base on occasion. While Jones isn’t a Gold Glove winner at first, he has played 489 games at the position in the big leagues and can be considered a first baseman by trade. The same cannot be said of the Cabrera’s injury replacements Marte (naturally a third baseman), Romine (utility infielder, better suited for the other three infield positions) and Alex Avila (a catcher).

Throw in Jones’ .306 batting average at Comerica Park (also seven extra-base hits and two stolen bases in 11 games) and you have a solid bench option for the Tigers. He’s at least worth a look.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Team Must Stop Being Patient with Bullpen

If it weren’t for the Detroit Tigers’ faulty bullpen, Dave Dombrowski probably wouldn’t have been let go, the team would have won at least one World Series and Jim Leyland may have had a couple more rings on his resume heading into Cooperstown.

“What could have been” probably sums up the situation aptly.

Yet to this day, the Tigers, with all their financial resources, still have a bullpen that surrenders both small leads and big leads alike.

It’s time for the Tigers to stop being patient with their current relievers.

Since trading Joakim Soria at the trade deadline, the Tigers’ bullpen has essentially been Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy doing the heavy lifting with a smattering of Bruce Rondon and Al Alburquerque.

These four are fine relievers to have moving forward, but the others must pick up the slack before the aforementioned four become over-worked and start falling apart.

The rest of the Detroit bullpen options are as follows:

Ian Krol (currently with Triple-A Toledo) — 1-3 record, 26 appearances, 21.1 innings pitched, 6.75 ERA, 5.44 FIP, 22 strikeouts, 13 walks, four home runs allowed.

Neftali Feliz—0-1 record, 10 appearances, 8.2 innings pitched, 14.54 ERA, 7.49 FIP, eight strikeouts, five walks, three home runs allowed.

Buck Farmer (as a reliever) — 0-0 record, two appearances, six innings pitched, 6.00 ERA, one strikeouts, one walk, one home run allowed.

Tom Gorzelanny—1-1 record, 31 appearances, 24.1 innings pitched, 6.66 ERA, 5.24 FIP, 19 strikeouts, 15 walks, three home runs allowed.

Kyle Ryan (as a reliever) — 1-0 record, four appearances, 8.1 innings pitched, 6.48 ERA, five strikeouts, four walks, zero home runs allowed.

Angel Nesbitt (currently with Triple-A Toledo) – 1-1 record, 24 appearances, 21.2 innings pitched, 5.40 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 14 strikeouts, eight walks, two home runs allowed.

Things have to change with this group.

Just when Krol looked to be turning a corner (2.89 ERA in 13 July appearances) he imploded against the Red Sox. One of the pieces acquired in the Doug Fister trade, Krol allowed four runs on four hits and a walk in 0.2 innings. Right handed batters are hitting .320 off the Tigers’ reliever while lefties hit .359 against Krol. He was optioned to Triple-A, with Ryan taking his place.

Maybe the most maddening pitcher in terms of results, Feliz isn’t really this bad. This is the pitcher who won Rookie of the Year while posting a stellar 2.69 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 261.1 innings for Texas—not to mention racking up 93 saves.

Gorzelanny deserves somewhat of a pass because he just returned from a stint at Triple-A to work on a different arm angle. But the former Pittsburgh Pirate did allow Jackie Bradley Jr.’s home run—an uncommon statement given the Boston outfielder’s career .191 batting average and .280 slugging percentage. The one-time starter showed promise early in the season with

Farmer has the taxing job of being the Tigers’ long reliever. The top prospect’s career numbers aren’t pretty to look at as both a starter (11.54 ERA) and a reliever (5.00). The young pitcher has potential, but he may not be ready quite just yet.

Yet another long reliever/starter, Ryan will take Krol’s place in the bullpen. While he’s struggled this season, Ryan actually performed fairly well as a reliever last season, posting four scoreless outings in five total appearances. For now, he’ll be another long option in the ‘pen while allowing the Tigers to experiment with Farmer’s stuff as more of a single-inning reliever.

Angel Nesbitt started the season with plenty of promise, posting a 2.92 ERA in his first 12 appearances. His next 12 appearances didn’t go as swimmingly. The rookie’s ERA was 8.68 over that span while opponents hit an unsightly .359 off him. His ERA in Triple-A Toledo is currently 5.14, so don’t expect to see him in Detroit any time soon.

Something has to change. Detroit can’t keep going back to the same well of relievers when that well has consistently produced poor results. The Tigers haven’t won a World Series ring because of bullpen failures, the team’s new front office should learn from this and fix the bullpen. There are a number of relievers that hit the market on an almost-weekly basis. The Tigers should be taking fliers on all of them to see what sticks ahead of next season.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Grading the Tigers’ Trade Deadline Trades

As the MLB Trade Deadline passed, the Detroit Tigers firmly planted their flag on the “rebooting” side of things (as they like to call it). For a team that was so used to buying at the deadline, the Tigers replenished their farm system (the most overused term of the day) and generally did well for themselves.

General manager Dave Dombrowski turned rental players David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes into prospects Daniel Norris (Van Man!), Jairo Labourt, Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer, Luis Cessa and JaCoby Jones.

All seven players are now top-fifteen prospects in the Detroit system, per MLB.com.

While the Tigers system was heavy on position players, Dombrowski and company clearly focused on adding pitching. Norris is already in the Tigers’ rotation while Boyd, Cessa and Fulmer have the potential to join him next season. This won’t happen obviously, but it gives the team more options moving forward than Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan.

Now onto the grades.

The Trade: Price to Toronto for Norris, Labourt and Boyd

Grade: A

The Tigers probably weren’t going to re-sign David Price thanks to his likely out-of-this-world price tag, and did well to cash in on him when they had the chance. Norris is a future front-line starter and already owns a 3.86 ERA this season in five starts for the Jays. He’ll likely fill Price’s shoes in the coming years and gives the Tigers a legitimate piece to build around—pitching wise.

Labourt is a potential starter, but control issues may force him to the bullpen. At worst, he’s a reliever at the big-league. The former Jays’ farmhand is the “lottery ticket” of the deal and the hardest to project. Norris and Boyd are more surefire bets to make The Show, but Labourt has a chance talent-wise.

Last but not least, Boyd has big league potential. He’s displayed good control and feel for his pitches. This has clearly been on display this season with the left-hander posting a 9-2 record with a 1.68 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 112.2 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting a measly .178 off him. The former sixth-round pick has been effective at both Double-A and Triple-A, so a Major League call up may not be far away. Worst-case-scenario (in terms of his future) he’ll compete for a job with the Tigers next Spring Training.

The Trade: Soria to Pittsburgh for Minor League Shortstop JaCoby Jones

Grade: B+

While not the biggest haul for Soria, Jones is an intriguing prospect. Well, maybe “intriguing” is underselling the point. Tigers’ fans probably thought Soria would bring more of a return, but Jones has the chance to be special.

Granted he’s still a work-in-progress, but the Double-A shortstop has raw power to go along with plus speed. He’s big for a shortstop (6’2”) and has the athleticism to play other positions. The outfield is also a possibility for a player who has drawn comparisons to Adam Jones.

Jones comes with a great deal of risk, but his combination of raw power, plus speed and elite athleticism (not to mention his ability as a plus-plus defender at a number of positions) make him a player with difference-maker/star potential. He’s certainly worth the gamble for a half season of Soria.

The Trade: Cespedes to the Mets for Fulmer and Cessa

Grade: A

If Labourt (acquired in the Price trade), pans out as a big-league starter, the Tigers will have acquired an entire starting rotation for Price and Cespedes. Judging on a number of reports, tweets and what-have-you, the Mets seemed to like Fulmer a lot.

And rightfully so, Fulmer has a mid-90’s fastball and some nasty off-speed offerings. In terms of the future, it’s not hard to imagine Norris and Fulmer headlining the Tigers’ rotation for a decade. The former first-round pick was blocked in New York thanks to the presence all the Mets’ young starters (i.e. Zach Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom), so a move to Detroit is clearly beneficial for his future prospects.

Cessa is another starting pitcher who profiles as a back-end starter more than anything. He’s a converted infielder with a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90’s with two off-speed offerings that could play in the Majors. He’s struggled at Triple-A this season, but nonetheless shows promise.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Former Infielders Hitting Well With Other Teams

What do the Toronto Blue Jays’ Devon Travis, the Cincinnati Reds’ Eugenio Suarez and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Hernan Perez have in common?

Not only are they all 24-years-old, they were all at one time (in the last year) a member of the Detroit Tigers’ farm system. Another trait they have in common? They’ve all been pretty successful with the bat this season.

Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays

Acquired from the Tigers for centerfielder Anthony Gose, Travis established himself as an early candidate for Rookie of the Year honors with a .325 batting average, six home runs and 19 RBI over the season’s first month. The second baseman struggled in May (his average dropped to .269), and eventually hit the disabled list.

The former Tigers’ farmhand returned in late June and has been on a tear ever since. His batting average since returning is an absurd .354. His home run (0) and RBI (eight) numbers since aren’t the same as before, but no one can deny Travis’ hitting ability.

The Tigers certainly aren’t complaining. Travis wouldn’t have unseated Ian Kinsler at second, while Gose has provided strong defense in center to go along with a .272 batting average and 14 steals in 82 games. Gose has also contributed 19 extra-base hits.

Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds

Sent to the Reds in the Alfredo Simon trade, Eugenio Suarez has been almost as much of a surprise as Travis at the plate. The shortstop didn’t make the team out of Spring Training, but has been excellent since being called up. He’s hitting .313 with five (!) home runs and 18 RBI in 36 games. His OPS is .825 and he’s already earned a WAR of 1.

With the Reds going through a transition with Johnny Cueto now departed, look for Suarez to receive more at-bats as the team evaluates for the future. Safe to say Suarez has already made quite the first impression.
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Hernan Perez, Milwaukee Brewers

Lost via waiver claim to the Brewers in early June, Hernan Perez, like Travis and Suarez, has raked. The American League’s eighth youngest player in 2012 owns a .311 batting average in 41 games for the Brew Crew after an awful .061 line in 22 games for Detroit. Perez has driven in four runs and smacked 11 extra-base hits (nine doubles, a triple and a home run) while playing three positions across the infield.

Like Cincinnati, Milwaukee is going through a transitional period. Perez seems to be making the best of the situation.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Time for Dave Dombrowski to Pull His Usual Trade Deadline Magic

With the news that the Detroit Tigers are in fact not going to be sellers, its once again time for general manager Dave Dombrowski to pull is standard trade deadline magic.

The Tigers need the help, and thankfully, Dombrowski is adept at providing it.

Dombrowski has a long history of winning trades. He fleeced the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, turned Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson into Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke as well as acquiring Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson (plus a prospect) for Rick Porcello.

While those trades are wonderfully lopsided (at least in the Tigers’ favor), some of the Tigers GM’s best work has come at the trade deadline. He convinced the Mariners into parting with Doug Fister essentially for a singular reliever while acquiring Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante for what has amounted to a couple of A-ball pitchers.

However, the most impressive trade on Dombrowski’s resume may have been dealing for David Price. The Tigers dealt Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly and Willy Adames (a top shortstop prospect, but not one that was going to unseat Jose Iglesias as the team’s long-term starter) in order to acquire their current ace.

It’s time for Dombrowski to work that same magic.

There’s probably skepticism in the Tigers adding at the trade deadline. If you made a dollar for every time someone lambasted Detroit’s “lack of a farm system,” you’d have more cash than Bill Gates. Still, Dombrowski acquired Price without surrendering a hoard of top prospects, and did the same with both Fister and Sanchez.

It would not be surprising to see Dombrowski dip into the Tigers’ farm system and deal for talent. The reality is that Detroit’s system isn’t nearly as bad as people think. Two of the team’s top prospects last year (Detroit was again critiqued for having a bad farm system), now rank as two of Baseball America’s top 50 prospects in. Both were traded at the deadline, but it just goes to show that the prospects in the Tigers’ system may get a bad rap.

Additionally, the system has produced notable, young big leaguers such as Devon Travis, Smyly, Avisail Garcia, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Castellanos and James McCann.

Travis is hitting .302 in his rookie year in Toronto. Smyly has been injured a good deal since heading to Tampa Bay, but owns a stellar 1.96 ERA as a member of the Rays. Like Travis, Suarez has been a force at the plate for his new team, hitting .315 with five home runs and 18 RBI in only 35 games. Garcia is a cornerstone player for the White Sox, while Castellanos is finally showing signs of being the hitter the Tigers envisioned when they drafted him. McCann has quickly established himself as one of the premier young backstops in the league, making Alex Avila and his comparatively massive salary expandable.

If anything, the trade for Price, with Adames and Smyly going the other way, has proven that Detroit’s system is underrated. While it is unlikely that consensus top prospect Steven Moya is moved, the team has a glut of minor league catchers and relievers that may interest teams. The Tigers are set behind the plate with McCann and have Bryan Holaday in Triple-A. They could deal Avila, or top catching prospects Grayson Grenier, Shane Zeile or Arvicent Perez. Infield prospect Javier Betancourt (Adames’ former double-play partner) could also be dealt in the right trade given not only Iglesias and Ian Kinsler’s presences, but also the presence of two-way infield prospect Dixon Machado.

Regardless of who is traded, it’s time for Dombrowski to slightly rejig the team in an attempt to claim the World Series. The Tigers have the offense to succeed in October, and can look to their division-rival Royals as an example of a team that (last year) made a second-half run all the way to Game Seven.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Regardless of Buying or Selling, Bullpen Must be Fixed

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, the Detroit Tigers bullpen imploded, costing them the game—against the offensively anemic Seattle Mariners no less.

Detroit lost the contest Tuesday by a score of 11-9 in a game that sums up the bullpen problems in Detroit.

The Tigers essentially have three reliable relievers bridging the gap to the equally reliable Joakim Soria. However, Al Alburquerque, Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy can’t pitch every game. Heck, every other game for all three is probably too much. The word “burnout” is going to make its way into the headlines eventually if that happens.

Outside of those three, the Tigers don’t have much. The team’s hope is that Neftali Feliz and Bruce Rondon join the “reliable” fraternity. But at this point, it’s just that– a hope. Feliz served up the grand slam to Franklin Gutierrez that gave the M’s the win on Tuesday, while Rondon’s ERA has hovered around nine as of late.

The reality is simple for the Tigers, their bullpen isn’t working—and must be fixed. The Tigers have tried almost everything. It’s gotten to the point where the players who aren’t performing have to be shuffled on. Whether it be optioned to Triple-A Toledo, or designated for assignment, Detroit has to try different options.

Regardless of if they’re “buyers” or “sellers” at the trade deadline, the Tigers’ brass must fix the bullpen.

Soria, Alburquerque, Wilson and Hardy are keepers, but the rest is in serious question. Feliz was solid up until he surrendered the grand slam to Gutierrez, and may be worth keeping around given his track record. Rondon has tremendous potential, but might benefit from a stint in the minors. Ian Krol has been better of late, but still owns a rather ugly ERA (5.87).

There are a number of low-buy relievers on the market, an area in which Detroit should be actively searching for a replacement—searching to the point that the team is throwing any reliever they can acquire at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Krol and Rondon should be optioned to the minors in order to make room for the new additions. It seems drastic, but the team needs all the help it can get.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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