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Tigers add 3 prospects to 40-man roster, announce several front office hires

Robertson's surprise addition to the roster is largely based on natural talent and an arm that can hit 98 mph.

Emily Waldon / Bless You Boys

Friday's 8 p.m. deadline to protect prospects from Rule 5 Draft exposure has come and gone. In all, the Detroit Tigers added four players to the 40-man roster, ensuring they can't be snatched up by teams during the upcoming Winter Meetings that start on Dec. 10. Right-handed pitcher Luis Cessa was the first (Nov. 3) and on Friday the team added three more.

Right-handers Michael Fulmer and Montreal Robertson, and left-hander Jairo Labourt all made the roster, placing the 40-man roster at 38. Fulmer was a shoo-in for the roster after he and Cessa came to Detroit in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, as was Labourt, who only pitched at High-A Lakeland but has lofty potential. However, Robertson was a surprise. Equally so was who the Tigers left off the list: left-handed Double-A starter Josh Turley.

It's interesting that the team chose a right-handed reliever over a left-handed starter at the same level. Robertson wasn't even at Erie for the entire 2015 season -- he spent a good portion of it in High-A Lakeland before getting promoted to the SeaWolves. He also played in the Arizona Fall League this year, where he posted a 1.84 ERA in 14 2/3 innings pitched, giving up three earned runs in eight relief appearances.

2015 season ERA IP ER HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 Opp. AVG WHIP
Josh Turley 3.29 153 56 0.88 2.06 6.06 .256 1.22
Montreal Robertson (2015) 3.31 68 25 0.40 4.63 7.68 .241 1.44
Robertson in Single-A 3.16 37 15 0.00 4.87 6.81 .203 1.30
Robertson in Double-A 3.48 31 12 0.87 4.36 8.71 .285 1.61

When Robertson went from Single- to Double-A, his ERA went up only slightly -- from 3.16 to 3.48. What did jump, though, was opposing batters were hitting .285 against Robertson in Double-A versus .203 when he was with Lakeland. His WHIP climbed from 1.30 to 1.61, but he also struck out 30 batters in only 15 games as opposed to the 19 he needed to dust 28 batters. He did give up three home runs at Erie after not surrendering one in Single-A, though.

For the Tigers to protect him over Turley, it begs the question: What does the team see in Robertson that they don't in Turley? Robertson has command issues, which are reflective in his high walk rate, and his slider is inconsistent according to TigsTown's James Chipman. The answer may be nothing more than the difference in natural talent.

Robertson has reportedly topped out at 98 mph per TigsTown’s Mark Anderson, while Turley's fastball sits around 88 mph. Turley's secondary pitches are also below average offerings, though scouts are intrigued by his knuckleball The Tigers are well known for their affinity for high-velocity pitchers, and this is no different. At this point, Robertson is a 98 mph flame-throwing "maybe" but it's a heck of a lot better than the alternative "maybe," who rarely breaks 90 mph.

Front office hires

The team announced on Thursday that there had been several changes made within front office positions, to include their scouting and analytics departments. Among those was a familiar name, former bullpen catcher Jeff Kunkel has been promoted to serve as an area scout for the upper Midwest (Northern Illinois, Northern Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin).

In addition to Kunkel, Jim Bretz, will serve as the area scout for the Northeast region (Eastern Canada, New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania) and RJ Burgess will cover North Florida. Dave Dangler will cover the Northwest region (Western Canada, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming), and Justin Henry will oversee the Southeast region (Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi). Steve Hinton was named the national crosschecker for amateur scouting.

Oneri Fleita will handle the Mid-Atlantic region (District of Columbia, Maryland, Western Pennsylvania and Virginia), as well as perform international crosschecking duties for the club. Ray Crone, Joe Ferrone, Randy Johnson, and Jimmy Rough have all been named major league scouts, with Murray Cook being named senior advisor. Jesus Garces will be the team's area scout in Venezuela.

As for baseball operations, Alan Avila was hired on as an assistant counsel to baseball operations. Jay Sartori has been hired as the team's Senior Director of Baseball Operations and Analytics, while Andrew Koo has been named Baseball Operations Analyst. Also, Chris Long will assist the department as an Analytics Consultant.