What do you do when you have a right-handed pitcher throw a critical postseason pitch to Big Papi, with the bases loaded, and the ball stays up? And Big Papi knocks said pitch over the wall for a dagger in the heart of all of Detroit? And you decide to move your one valuable left-handed pitcher into the rotation? Apparently you come to believe that southpaw prospects are the most valuable commodity in the game.
Ian Krol leads the return for Doug Fister. Krol was drafted out of high school in the seventh round of the 2009 amateur draft by Oakland, and traded to Washington before last season. There is some hope for a seventh round pick as Fister was one as well. He already has five minor league seasons under his belt. He was mainly a starter until 2013, when the Nationals moved him to the bullpen and his numbers jumped dramatically. He struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings, and walked only 2.4. His WHIP was a minuscule 0.81, and ERA 1.21.
That is all fine and dandy, but the numbers are mainly from Double-A and less than 30 innings. It earned Ian a promotion to Washington where he held his own: 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.32 WHIP, and a 3.95 ERA in 32 games. If you are clutching at straws and need some silver lining, he held left-handed hitters to a .200 batting average and a .320 slugging percentage. Which is to say that the average lefty hit worse off Krol than Steve Lombardozzi hit off an average pitcher.
Krol throws hard for a lefty, averaging over 93 miles per hour on his fastball. His experience as a starter shows in his three pitch arsenal. He throws a two seam fastball most of the time, mixing in a curveball about one in six pitches and the occasional changeup.
Robbie Ray is the other 22 year old left-handed pitcher acquired in the deal for Fister. Ray was drafted out of Brentwood, Tennessee high school in the 12th round of the 2010 draft. He has started in his three seasons in the minors, striking out an impressive 9.1 per nine innings, and finishing this season in Double-A. Ray was ranked by Baseball America as the Nationals' fifth best prospect and third best pitcher. Given Detroit's thin farm system, Ray will begin the season in either Double-A or Triple-A as the top starting pitching prospect in the upper minors.
With Drew Smyly moving into the rotation, Robbie will be on the short list of emergency starters in Detroit. He is even more likely to arrive in Detroit in 2014 as another lefty arm in the bullpen. But his control needs to improve or he will simply be a slightly shinier version of Casey Crosby.
The Tigers may have just traded Doug Fister for a pitcher who can only throw in relief and to a left-handed batter. I had no idea that it was so hard to find a LOOGY.