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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Tigers still jostling for draft position as season winds down

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The Tigers are in a battle for picks 3-8 in the 2019 MLB draft.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Tigers are out of the playoff hunt and the Baltimore Orioles have won 44 games, there is little else for Tigers fans to cheer about over the final 11 days of the season. Sure, there are the old standbys — promising performance and good health are always crucial — but a team this far out of the playoffs is just kind of... there.

But there’s always the MLB draft, of course. The Tigers are currently in line for the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft, a half-game “behind” the San Diego Padres. The Tigers hold tiebreakers over any other team thanks to their 64-98 record last season, so evening up with San Diego would give Detroit the better pick.

The top two picks are all but decided, with Baltimore locked in at No. 1 and Kansas City just a couple of losses from the No. 2 overall pick. Following them is a bundle of teams jostling for picks 3-6; the Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins both have a 59-92 record, 1 12 games clear of Detroit. Behind the Tigers are the Texas Rangers (64-88) and Cincinnati Reds (65-88), with the Atlanta Braves locked in at No. 9 because they failed to sign their first round pick in 2018.

Luckily, the Tigers shouldn’t fall past any of those teams. The New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays can still mathematically catch Detroit, but just one more Mets win (or Tigers loss) guarantees the Tigers a top-10 pick. If Toronto wins two more, Detroit will have the No. 8 pick or better.

Kansas City Royals (52-100) at Detroit Tigers (61-91)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jorge Lopez (2-4, 3.93 ERA) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (9-12, 4.08 ERA)

Game 153 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Lopez 52.2 17.0 9.9 3.76 0.6
Boyd 165.1 22.9 7.2 4.09 2.6

If you’re wondering who this Jorge Lopez guy is and why you have never heard of him before, don’t worry, you’re not that far behind. Lopez has spent parts of three seasons in the majors after being drafted in the second round back in 2011, but he did nearly all of that with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew traded him to Kansas City in July when they acquired Mike Moustakas from the Royals. Lopez has made six starts for the Royals since his arrival, and has a 4.64 ERA in 33 innings.

He should like this matchup, though. Here’s BP Kansas City on what he brings to the table.

Lopez looks like he’s in line to make this start after leaving his last one with a chest contusion after running into Hunter Dozier. He couldn’t quite follow up his near perfect game, going just 4.1 innings before the injury and allowing three runs on nine hits, but he really fell apart after the pain started, so it’s probably not fair to box score scout. He threw four shutout innings to start, and if he has his curve working against the Tigers, that’s a team that hasn’t seen him before and a really bad lineup, so he has an opportunity to put up a fantastic start if it’s working for him. The one thing I’d like to see is the swinging strikes like he got against Baltimore when he had 14 in 99 pitches. This Tigers team seems like one he could absolutely dominate, so it might be fun.

I disagree on the level of fun. Lopez has a plus fastball and an above-average curveball, the latter of which he throws roughly 25 percent of the time. It sits in the low 80s, a nice difference in velocity from his 92-93 mile-per-hour fastball. He also features a changeup against lefties roughly 15 percent of the time, but it lags behind his other pitches. He has managed modest reverse splits this year, but has a better strikeout-to-walk ratio against right-handed batters.

Key matchup: Boyd vs. the Royals

This one seems obvious, but those paying close attention may remember that Boyd has struggled considerably against the Royals in his young MLB career. He has a 6.50 ERA in 13 starts against them, and they are hitting .318/.344/.489 as a team. Thirty of their 84 hits off Boyd in 282 plate appearances have gone for extra bases. Even this season’s team — a shell of the 2015 World Series champs that dominated Boyd in his rookie year — has beaten Boyd three times and scored 12 runs in 25 innings.

While most of those runs were scored at Kauffman Stadium, Boyd hasn’t exactly been dominant at Comerica Park either. He still only has a career 4.32 ERA against the Royals at home, and a 1-3 record to boot. The lone win? His Tigers debut, all the way back on August 5, 2015.

Prediction

Boyd picks up win number 10 with a strong outing.

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