When reporters announced that the Detroit Tigers were nearing a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks for J.D. Martinez, most fans grew nervous. Nobody wanted to see Martinez traded, after all. Around here, fans grew even more anxious, knowing that the Diamondbacks have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Those fears were realized when the team announced that they had acquired three minor league infielders: Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and Jose King.
After the return for Martinez was announced, the general reaction was: “Who?” I’m no prospect hound, but I’m generally aware of the top few prospects in each team’s farm system. This trade left me scrambling, as the Tigers had plunged the depths of a rather shallow system to find their trade targets.
There is plenty of fire spewing about this trade elsewhere on the site — click here for the hot takes, if you’re into that sort of thing — but not much on the prospects themselves. Let’s meet the newest members of the Tigers organization.
The centerpiece of this deal, Dawel Lugo is a shortstop-turned-third-baseman who doesn't really fit the profile for either position. MLB.com isn't particularly bullish about his bat, giving him an average grade for his contact and a below-average rating for power. This makes him a bit of a square peg in a round hole at third when compared to the offensive expectations placed on those at that position. Lugo couldn't stick at shortstop, though. Despite an acceptable bat for the position and a plus arm, he is a slow runner and an slightly below average defender.
John Sickels, SB Nation’s premier baseball prospect analyst, had this to say about the 6'0 righty.
Erratic feel for the strike zone is a big handicap; some observers think he can improve substantially and hit for both power and average going forward but this is not unanimous; declining range fits best at third base but will put more pressure on his bat. ... Personally I’m among the optimists and think he could be a solid player and he’s made some progress with the strike zone this year.
One of the more overlooked perks that Lugo brings to the table is that he doesn't strike out much. While this is tempered by a low walk rate, he posted an impressive 8.5 percent strikeout rate during his stint in Double-A last season. This year, he has struck out 13.8 percent of the time in 88 games at the Double-A level. That is a bit higher, but still nothing to sneeze at. His walk rate is quite low, however, limiting his overall upside as an offensive player.
It’s very difficult for hitters to develop better patience and plate discipline over time, but Lugo’s burgeoning power could lift his overall value. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen graded Lugo’s raw power as potentially plus at peak, and above average at present. He has displayed more power since moving up to Double-A, with a .147 isolated power (ISO) in 369 plate appearances this season. He won’t become the next J.D. Martinez, but the uptick in power despite moving to a less hitter friendly environment is encouraging.
The best case scenario for Lugo would be to see him become a low-end slugger with a high rate of balls put in play. However, unlike players with extraordinary gloves or sure-fire bats, there is no easy path to the bigs for him. He will need to make major improvements before he can be a major leaguer.
A glove-first player by a mile, Alcantara is a living, breathing stereotype. A shortstop with incredible defensive abilities, his bat is quite deficient, with below-average contact ability and truly anemic power. He's a 5'9 switch-hitter who is spending his age-20 season in the High-A California League.
Alcantara has been showing well at the plate compared to previous seasons, hitting 279/.344/.362 with 15 doubles in 378 plate appearances. However, that is fueled in large part by a .327 BABIP and the hitter-friendly ballparks of the Cal League. John Sickels had only this to say about Alcantara’s bat: "He hasn’t been a terrific hitter thus far, he makes contact and has some feel for the strike zone, giving him a chance to improve as he matures physically."
Alcantara won’t add much muscle to his slight build, but power isn’t his game. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen listed Alcantara among the honorable mentions when breaking down Arizona’s farm system earlier this year.
Alcantara has a 70 arm, is an above-average runner and plays an adequate defensive shortstop. A switch-hitter, his swing is better from the right side where he has better barrel control, is quicker into the hitting zone and integrates more explosion from the lower half.
While the bat may be underwhelming, it doesn't have to be very good for him to get to the majors. Possessing well above average defensive abilities and a dazzling throwing arm that rates as the best in the system — both FanGraphs and MLB.com graded it as double-plus — he could ride his glove to the majors as a backup or a lower division regular.
Since King has not appeared above rookie ball and only signed for $75,000 as an amateur, there aren’t many publicly available scouting reports detailing his strengths and weaknesses. Baseball Prospectus’ Mark Anderson identified what most have assumed.
King is the ultimate wild card among the prospects in this deal. He's a premium athlete who has physical projection remaining, and aside from the general athleticism the profile is highlighted by plus-plus speed that plays well in the field and on the bases. King has some feel for the barrel and a chance to develop a contact-oriented bat with limited power. He fits better at second base due to a fringe arm, but he could be an above-average glove at the position.
King is athletic and toolsy, but a looooong way from the majors. He only has 74 professional games under his belt, and hasn’t flashed much in-game power yet. He has star potential if everything clicks, but we’re several years away from seeing that come to fruition.