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Evaluating the Tigers’ prospect return in the Ian Kinsler trade

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The Tigers acquired a likely fourth outfielder and a lottery ticket arm for Kinsler on Wednesday.

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers completed the final piece of the sell-off on Wednesday evening, sending second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Los Angeles Angels. The final movable piece of the Tigers’ veteran core will now move to Anaheim to join Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani in a shot to contend in 2018. In return the Tigers, unsurprisingly, didn’t get a whole lot back.

The Angels will send their 20th and 24th ranked prospects (per MLB Pipeline) to Detroit in exchange for Kinsler. They will also pick up the full cost of Kinsler’s one year, $11 million extension.

OF Troy Montgomery

Troy Montgomery was selected in the eighth round of the 2016 draft out of Ohio State University. The Angels have built up a stockpile of tools-y college outfielders with limited upside. Montgomery fits that mold. He also had a solid first full season of pro ball that built up his profile a bit.

Montgomery draws 60 grades for his speed, and has the defensive ability to handle all three outfield positions at an above average level, according to MLB Pipeline. He probably profiles best as a corner outfielder, but can handle center field as well. He pairs the ability to go and get it with a quality throwing arm, setting his floor at a reasonable level as a likely fourth outfielder with modest upside if he can develop a bit of gap power. His raw speed and aggressive playing style hasn’t really translated to swiping many bases, leaving him a very narrow path to any sort of a breakout.

A legitimate power surge isn’t in the cards, as the 5’ 10”, 185 pound Montgomery is somewhat undersized. Unlike most Tigers’ prospects in recent years, Montgomery will do a decent job of drawing walks, and, so far, has limited his strikeouts. His advanced approach as a college player was the key in 2017 as he hit his way through three levels. Unsurprisingly, he ran into a bit of a wall in wrapping his season with the Double-A Mobile BayBears. He’ll have to find a way to handle the higher caliber of competition to continue to advance toward the major leagues.

He doesn’t have enough upside to get excited about, but Montgomery has the tools to chip in from the bench. He’s something of a solid floor, low ceiling outfield prospect with a reasonable chance to reach the major leagues, but solely on the back of his defensive ability. It would take a major, and very unexpected, change in contact and raw power to turn him into a regular in the show.

SP Wilkel Hernandez

Hernandez is an 18-year-old pitching prospect from Venezuela, signed for $125,000 in 2015. Listed at 6’ 3”, 160 pounds, the wiry Hernandez has enough projection in his frame to make him an interesting addition to watch. However, there are questions about his athleticism, and he’s best described as a quality project arm at this point. MLB Pipeline describes him as raw, but with some interesting upside.

“He'll touch 95 mph at times, sitting more in the low-90s with good movement. His breaking ball is also inconsistent, but he shows a feel to spin it and it has the chance to be at least average in time. He's not afraid to throw his changeup and it could give him a third solid offering.”

Hernandez did well against rookie ball competition in 2017, striking out roughly a batter per inning. Walks were an issue, but that’s hardly unusual in an 18-year-old pitcher. He has a lively arm and a quick delivery, but he has a lot of work ahead of him to refine his curveball-changeup combination.

He’s a lottery ticket, but if he can build himself up in terms of his strength and overall athleticism, he should be showcasing an above average fastball down the road. A major step with his secondaries and command would then be required to turn him into a legitimate starting pitching prospect.

Outlook

Neither of these players is likely to move the needle on the Tigers’ farm system. Montgomery has the speed and defensive ability to make it to the major leagues in a utility role. Next year will be big for him as he’ll presumably take on a full season at the Double-A level. There’s a chance he hits just enough in the coming years to ride his glove to a regular role in the majors.

Hernandez is a decent, raw arm talent whose future won’t start to come into focus until he grows into his slender frame. He only threw 44 innings in 2017, so he’s still at the project phase. The Tigers may choose to keep him around Lakeland to work on his body and mechanics, leading to stints in rookie ball or short season A-ball with the Connecticut Tigers. Or, if they like what they see, Hernandez could find himself in West Michigan at some point in 2018.