On Thursday, Bill Shea of Crain’s Detroit reported that there are trade talks “brewing” between the Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers regarding Tigers’ ace and fan favorite Justin Verlander. If Verlander must be shipped off, the Dodgers are as good a team as any to send him to, considering how flush with young talent the club is. (And the fact he likely wouldn’t block a trade there, as is his right.) Here are some of the names that might be added to rosters of Tigers’ affiliates in the near future:
A smooth stroke from the left side of the plate allows Verdugo to hit for both power and average, and he has performed well in both categories, hitting .271 with 23 doubles and 13 home runs in Double-A in 2016. He has spent his whole professional career in center field, making up for speed that is merely average with good instincts and an arm that could even work in right field. While he is rated 3rd in the Dodgers’ system, he is ranked as the 45th best prospect in the game. Read more about him here.
Jose De Leon
A late-round pick rarely turns into anything, but De Leon, a 24th round selection breaks the mold. He uses his double-plus 93-96 mph fastball with fantastic riding life as a weapon of it’s own, but that is not the end of his arsenal. Paired with that heater is a plus changeup with deception and depth and an average slider that gets whiffs. He made his major league debut in 2016 and struck out 9 for the win in his first game. He profiles as a #2 long-term. While he wasn’t spectacular in his major league cameo overall, that is likely a fluke as he obliterated opposing Triple-A lineups, pitching to a 2.61 ERA, 3.24 FIP, and 11.57 K/9. Read more about him here.
He spent 2015 away from the game, but Toles returned with fiery vengeance in 2016. While he lacks in power, he is not short-handed with any of the other attributes you’d want in a ballplayer: he runs like the wind, is an above average defender, has the harm to handle a corner outfield job if necessary, and is still 24 with many years of cheap club control on his contract. That still leaves out his advanced ability to hit for average and absolutely spectacular beard. In a mere 46 games at the major league level, Toles produced 1.6 WAR while batting .314. He benefitted from a .385 BABIP, but that is actually not that far off from career norms. Read more about him here.
A second baseman, Calhoun may not be the tallest guy in the world, but a 5’8”, he is still a very real power hitter. In 2016, he competed with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate and feasted on the pitching there. Despite a middling batting average, Calhoun managed a wRC+, a measure of overall offensive production, of 123, 23% above average. This was fuelled by his power, which was on display all year in the form of 27 home runs. He also is good at controlling the strike zone and rarely strikes out, posting an 11.6% strikeout rate. He also suffered from a miserable .242 BABIP, a significant amount below average. He is rated as the 87th prospect in the game and the 3rd best prospect at second base. He is, however, a poor defenseman, and may have a future as a DH later in his career as he loses range. Read more about him here.
The best prospect in a Dodgers’ pipeline without Corey Seager or Julio Urias, Bellinger is a first baseman with an offensive profile that would strike fear into the hearts of pitching staffs game-wide. He is a left-handed masher, but unlike most, he doesn’t struggle with strikeouts. He also is graded as having plus defense as well, an unusual trait in a first baseman, but certainly not an undesirable one and it will allow him to stay a defenseman long-term instead of transitioning to DH as most do. He spent 2016 in Double-A and batted to a line of .263/.359/.843 (AVG/OBP/OPS) with 23 home runs and a huge 12.7% walk rate. He is rated as the Dodgers best prospect and the the 31st best prospect in the game. Read more about him here.
When the Dodgers signed Buehler, a right-handed 22-year-old from Vanderbilt University, they thought they’d gotten lucky. As it turned out, he needed Tommy John surgery before throwing a single pitch in the minors, proving luck wasn’t necessarily on their side. His recovery time from the surgery dampened his shine a little, but he is still a worthwhile prospect to consider. He has four pitches in his repertoire: a 93-96 mph fastball, a curve, a slider, and sneaky changeup. His size—a lean 175lbs and only 6’2”—are of some concern, as they could hinder his power, but he has good command. Overall he shows a great deal of promise as a pitcher, especially if he’s able to continue tweaking his slider into something unique. The major ding against him is the surgery, which it remains to be seen if he can bounce back from. Read more about him here.
Julio Urias is a good pitcher. Julio Urias is a young pitcher. Julio Urias is the Dodgers’ ace of the future. Julio Urias is not coming to the Tigers, but hey, we can dream, right? If the Tigers were to win the trade lottery, they’d be getting a 20-year-old left-handed starter just coming off his first season with the Dodgers. He pitched in 18 games, including 15 starts, and managed a not too shabby 3.39 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 31 walks over 77 innings in the regular season. The Tigers love poised, gifted young starters, making Urias an ideal fit with the Fulmer and Norris lineup. He’s also a pick-off pro, catching six runners unawares in 2016 (eleven if his Triple-A numbers are counted), more than any other pitcher in the regular season. Urias has been praised by his pitching coaches for his maturity, a rare gift in a young starter, and one that makes him a highly valuable part of the Dodgers future. If the Tigers want to dream of the ultimate positive return for Verlander, Urias would be a part of the package. Read more about him here.
With the stuff to merit a defensible first-round selection, White was a steal in the second round. He was passed over in the first because he went under the knife as a senior in high school and received Tommy John surgery. The TJS didn’t take away his arsenal, which features a full four pitch mix. His best pitches are his lively 90-93 mph fastball his high-80s cutter with plenty of break. Both are graded as plus. He will also throw an above average curveball and a changeup that never really progressed to the point that his other pitches have. While most pitchers lose their ability to spot their offerings after TJS, White has no problem finding the strike zone, and strikes out plenty of batters. He did not allow a single run in his first year as a pro, only allowing 7 hits and striking out 30 in 22.0 innings pitched across 3 levels as both a starter and a reliever.