Most of my interaction takes place on twitter @tigersprospects. Any time I open the field to questions, I get 25+ responses, and we have an excellent dialogue. However, as most of you know, twitter isn't the best medium for in depth question answering. I get about one sentence, and most of that is annotated. In this format, it's much easier for me to articulate what I really mean without coming off as terse, short, uninterested, etc. Let's get to the questions, shall we?
Dave: With a few months to reflect on the Fister trade, I can understand Dombrowski's logic. 1) If DD had a couple good starters in the mid minors, does he make Fister available to more teams and take the best package of prospects regardless of what position they may play? 2) Also, with Robbie Ray projected as a starter for 2015, who is the next Tigers starter to be traded or allowed to walk, and moreover, does this change the way the Tigers negotiate with Scherzer or Porcello?
1) The Tigers don't have enough depth at any particular position in order to be trading from 'a position of strength' in the minors. As you've probably seen by now, the farm system ranks anywhere from 25-28 in the minor leagues, depending on who is doing the ranking. That's not very good. It's hard to look at it from an accurate perspective unless you've delved into other minor league systems. Even at the top 10 level, the Tigers lag behind other organizations, but where they are laggards is in that 10-30 range. While their top end talent isn't awful, where the org falls short is position player talent with an every day ceiling. They have MAYBE five guys who possess that title, and after #10 (on my list anyway), there's only one or two at the most. In terms of starting pitching, that's a bit better, especially after last year's draft, but still, it's not great.
2) Even though I like Ray, and sneak preview, he's going to be in my top 5 of Tigers prospects, it's hard to envision what happens a year from now. The Tigers are going to be in a different position, as they are every year. For instance, they don't have any of the same infield starters as the 2014 team (Cabrera to a different position, of course). Who would have seen that coming? Their OF needs an overhaul. Can Avila stay healthy? What about the bullpen? I said it last year, and I'll say it again: if the Tigers won the WS last year, I have a pretty strong feeling they would have dealt Max. Just an inclination. As long as Illich is alive and owns the team, it's hard to envision letting a home grown guy get away if they're still chasing a ring..
Remember, Dombrowski has rarelyreceived comp for a free agent (one or two times in the mid 2000's), and if the Tigers like a guy, they lock him up. Depending on the outcome of this year's season, if the team goes on to win it all, or they fall short, that will certainly impact next year's plans. Basically, this answer is a roundabout way of saying that it depends on a lot of factors, and I'm not entirely sure. I know Max will be courted by other suitors, and I'm not optimistic that they get a deal done before the season starts. However, I do think the team pays up for him in the offseason. Just a hunch. That leaves Porcello. He's expendable, especially after another offseason of letting prospects develop and the cards falling where they may. I'll take him as the most likely guy to be moved. Remember, next offseason, he'll only have one year left on his deal, and he's almost a sure fire qualifying offer candidate. That means the Tigers will need to receive close to first round value in return for his services, and I think they may be able to do that.
John: Fast forward three years, what does the minor league system look like? Have we stocked up on picks that are ready/near ready? Have we given up picks to sign free agents?
Again, this is a difficult question to answer because I can't see the future. I do believe that the Tigers will probably forfeit one of the three year's first round picks to sign a free agent, just because that's how they run things. However, with a first round pick last year and this year, that certainly helps the talent influx. In addition, Jackson, Scherzer, and Porcello will all be free agents in the next two years, and the Tigers will do one of three things with those guys: 1) sign them 2) Let them walk 3) trade them. Options two and three will likely bring in young talent, whether it's MLB ready or still in the system remains to be seen. I'd wager to guess that at least one of them gets traded or is let walk, so with that young talent, plus the fact that they're keeping first round picks more frequently, I believe the system is on the upswing.
As a tangent, the Tigers have a dearth of young Venezuelan prospects at this point, and while none are top notch talents, the pipeline is certainly open. As that continues to mature, the system is going to be stockpiled with more talents from that country, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some of those guys materialize.
Rob: Which one of the Tigers prospects could be the first 10M a year guy?
Obviously Castellanos is the easy answer to this question, because he's the best prospect. It's the correct one as well. But, I don't want to take the easy way out. I'll go with Jake Thompson. I'm a big fan of Jake, and he'll certainly be in the top 5 as well. I'll have a full blown profile on him at that time, but basically, he's a young pitcher with a very high IQ, solid mound presence, and a damn good swing and miss breaking ball. He actually throws two, technically, one as a chase pitch when he's ahead in the count, and another for a strike. He absolutely toyed with low A hitters at times, even at 19 years old, and if he learns a change up, will probably be a top 100 prospect in the game. Again, I don't really like comparisons (unless I make them, and it's my mailbag), but he kind of reminds me of Erik Johnson on the Whitesox. Thompson is a physically mature kid, and I don't think there's more fastball velo left in the tank. Yet, he's 90-93 with good life with a bit of wiggle, and he looks like he could eat innings. If he can be a middle of the rotation innings eater with a high 3's ERA, that's a 10M pitcher, no doubt; especially with the way salaries are escalating.
Ben: What kind of season do you see Castellanos having, and does he reach his potential?
SPOILER ALERT: I'm going to spend about 2500 words waxing poetically about Castellanos as the number one prospect in the Tigers system. I won't go into too much detail here but, I really like him. I think that much is apparent. He's a natural at the plate, and a low heartbeat hitter. If you're not familiar with that term, go watch Xander Boegarts against the Tigers in the playoffs. I see Nick having some bumps in the road this year, but all in all, I wouldn't be surprised to see him as a future .280-.290 hitter with 40+ doubles and around 20 homers. He doesn't have HUGE power, but 55-65 XBH is a hell of a lot.
This season in particular, I'm expecting a triple slash somewhere in the neighborhood of 265/320/425 or so. If he can play fringy defense at 3B, that's an outstanding rookie year.
Everybody: Can Moya make the team in LF? Is he ready?
Short answer: no. Long answer: Nooooooooooooooooooooo.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but less than 20 PA in spring training means less than nothing when it comes to indicating major league performance. Moya has prodigious power and is very talented, but the notion that he's even close to ready to hit major league pitching at this time is laughable. You're looking at a guy who has had less than 1400 PA since coming stateside. He's 22 years old. For reference, in the same age range, Hernan Perez has 2300, Daniel Fields has 1800+, Nick Castellanos 1750+. All three of those other guys have played more winter ball than Moya, too, and most of their PAs are A+ and above. Moya has less than 400 High A PA, and hasn't even reached the high minors yet. Remember, this is the same guy who had a .296 OBP against A+ pitching last year at Lakeland, and a 597 OPS against left handed pitching. It'd take about 50 PA for pitchers to figure out his weaknesses, and by the second time through the league, he'd probably OBP .175, not to mention that major league lefties would absolutely tear him apart. So, please. Take a step back. Let Moya develop. He's a lottery ticket. Let's see what happens when the lights come on. If he tears up AA, talk to me next offseason. I'll still probably tell you 'no', but will at least reconsider then. For now, just let him play.
Jim: Do we have anyone internally that can play LF at this point? What options externally do the Tigers have?
Great question. I don't believe the Tigers have anyone who's ready to play LF and hit righties in their farm system at this time. Kelly is best suited for the job, as painful as that sounds, and I don't think Carrera or Crowe are much of anything aside from org filler. Fields and Collins simply aren't ready yet, and of the two, Fields would fare better at this point, because he's a much better fielder. I don't believe Daniel is ready at the plate yet. So, what do the Tigers do?
Well, it's probably going to have to be a trade, if they do anything at all. Some of the names that I'll float: Nate Schierholtz, Matt Joyce, Mike Carp (if you don't care about defense), and Alejandro de Aza. All of those guys would be enough of an upgrade over DKB in order to warrant a trade. Then you'll ask: what do the Tigers have to give up? Frankly, I'm not in the front office so I can't really speak to that, but probably some type of mid range (5-15 or so on my list) prospect, and potentially a lottery ticket guy a la David Paulino in last year's Veras trade. The Tigers are in the position where they need someone for '14 and probably '15 as well, as Hunter most likely walks after this year. The OF is probably going to be retooled, and a lot of it hinges on whether or not the Tigers are able to lock up Jackson long term. I can't really speak to Dirks' health, but I'd imagine the organization is getting frustrated with his injury problems, inconsistent performance, and overall flakiness. Not to say he's ousted, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a replacement via trade.
Thanks for the questions everyone, and I hope to do this again soon!