Going into the MLB trade deadline, the Detroit Tigers need starting pitching above all other things. The laws of commerce say that you cannot get something for nothing, and the market for starters is incredibly shallow, leading to even more concerns. The cost of any worthwhile acquisition is going to sting.
However, the cupboards are not bare, and unlike under former president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, the price of an addition to the big league club is not going to come with the warning label that reads: "CAUTION: EXECUTION OF THIS TRADE WILL RESULT IN UTTER DEVASTATION OF THE FARM SYSTEM."
However, any deal for a solid player will cost the Tigers some good young talent. Let's take a look at some of the top prospects that we may be saying farewell to in the near future.
Beau Burrows, 19, RHP
With an above-average curveball that is only bettered by his fastball, a surprising lack of control issues, and a changeup that is actually a viable option, Burrows is a good pitcher that it would hurt to lose. Playing this year at Single-A West Michigan, Burrows has pitched well, compiling a 3.75 ERA and 1.22 WHIP that are bloated slightly because of a blowout he suffered in June. He gave up eight runs in two innings in that start. While it is naive to think that he is guaranteed to pan out, if he does, he looks like a No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher in the rotation.
If Burrows is traded, he will likely be the centerpiece of a deal for a mid-rotation or front-end starter involving several other prospects. The Texas Rangers made a similar, though much flashier deal for Cole Hamels last year, a trade that netted Philadelphia several good prospects in return. Hamels turned out to be the spark plug that launched Texas into first place in the AL West, where they remain this year.
Derek Hill, 20, OF
Considered a must-see talent in 2014, it was a shock to many that Hill slipped to the Tigers at the end of the first round of the draft. He is still thought of highly by scouts, but has not exactly lived up to expectations. It is not hard to see what scouts love about him, though. What he does well, he does very well.
On FanGraph's scouting report, Hill received an 80 (elite) grade on his speed, one that is not thrown around without weight. He has been clocked at 4.05 seconds to first from the right-handed batter's box, and that time has gone as low as 3.97 seconds. Hill has also been clocked at 6.44 seconds in the 60-yard dash. His defense is spectacular, and he is leaps and bounds ahead of even established big leaguers.
Hill's stats currently reek of poor contact skills, extreme platoon splits, and anemic power. However, he has turned things around lately, hitting .289/.329/.374 since June 1. If he is traded, he will either be a big part of a package for a star stating pitcher or the major piece in a smaller deal.
Matt Boyd, 25, LHP
One of the three lefties acquired from Toronto last year, Boyd dazzled in Triple-A to start the season. He has earned call-ups throughout the season to make spot starts in place of injured or awful starters in the Tigers' rotation. Boyd has done better this year than last, and recently had an impressive start against his former team, holding the Jays to one run through five innings. He had an equally as impressive outing on June 2nd, holding the Yankees to one run through six innings. However, he promptly blew up in the seventh inning, surrendering four runs, and he was tagged with the loss.
Boyd's marketable points include marked improvement from year to year. He came into 2015 with an improved fastball, having increased its velocity from the 88-92 range to the 92-94 range. He spent the most recent offseason improving his slider, which was already his most effective pitch. His long-term potential is of a solid mid-rotation starter. If he gets traded, it will most likely be as a secondary pice of a deal.
JaCoby Jones, 25, IF/OF
Jones is a boom or bust prospect, who will either be an ultra-versatile power-speed guy or will amount to absolutely nothing. He has impressed scouts with remarkable bat speed and easy power. The ball jumps off his bat, and he has speed enough to stick at virtually any position. Jones has played all over the diamond, including reps in centerfield at Double and Triple-A this season. In the past, he has played mostly shortstop, but has also gotten time at third base. He could also take over at second base in a pinch. These are all attractive qualities in a player, but because of the very low floor and recent ice-cold streak, if Jones is traded, he could be a secondary piece in a larger deal.
The downfall of this athlete whose career seems to hang precariously in the balance is strikeouts. That is an affliction that is common among most pure power hitters, and Jones seems to have a severe case. Rob noted this in his preseason prospect summary of Jones.
He has a gaudy 28.2 percent strikeout across all minor league levels. He whiffed 52 times in 137 plate appearances at Double-A Erie last season, a Steven Moya-like 32.5 percent strikeout rate. Jones' rising walk rate is a positive sign, though the notes about his aggressive plate approach may halt that progress as he moves up the minor league ranks.
Joe Jimenez, 21, RHP
A favorite here on Bless You Boys, Jimenez is a very talented reliever that may be targeted heavily by prospective trade partners. He has been taking the minors by storm, and after dominating Class A ball last year and High-A and Double-A this year, seems to be ready for major league action.
Jimenez's fastball is the better of his two pitches. It has reached 99 miles per hour, but lives in the 94-97 mph range. He is able to control the ball better than most power pitchers of his age. His "lesser" pitch, a power slider, has enough bite to become an effective out pitch. One of the main concerns with Jimenez when he signed was whether or not he could develop his slider and be able to throw it for strikes. He has been able to dispatch this concern, and now the biggest issue with it is keeping it low in the zone. It would take a lot to pry Joe away from the Tigers.
Christin Stewart, 22, OF
Guys with power and patience are hard to come by, and it looks like the Tigers have found a good one. Taken in the first round in 2015 as compensation pick for losing Max Scherzer, Stewart is a lefty bat that has been destroying High-A competition. He has been able to smash 20 home runs so far this season, a rate of one home run per 13.85 at-bats. Stewart has also silenced those doubting his plate discipline, taking free passes at a 23.5 percent rate. However, he strikes out even more, at a sky-high 32.1 percent rate. He will likely never hit for average, and is batting a mere .253 at the moment.
Stewart will never be confused for a Gold Glover either, and his defense inabilities are the only thing that could possibly detract from his value. His bat will cover a multitude of sins, however, and his trade value is on the rise. Stewart is talented enough to be highly valued by the brass as is, but the Tigers will be in need of at least one corner outfielder after J.D. Martinez's contract expires following the 2017 season. If he is traded, it will likely be in a larger deal, potentially with Burrows or Hill.