Logan Shore is the newest prospect in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system — literally. The Tigers acquired Shore as the player to be named later in their midseason trade with the Oakland Athletics, finalizing the deal on September 19. Because of this, Shore did not appear in any games with a Tigers affiliate in 2018, instead ending his season after a somewhat disappointing run with the Midland RockHounds, Oakland’s Double-A affiliate in the Texas League.
While Shore looks the part of a typical Tigers prospect — he’s a big-bodied righthander who pitched in the SEC in college — he doesn’t have the high-octane stuff we have normally seen them target in the past. However, his polished profile, excellent track record, and above-average command makes him a potential back-of-the-rotation starter, which would be a nice get for a couple months of Mike Fiers’ services.
How good was Logan Shore in college? The Florida Gators had three different first round picks on their roster while he was in school — A.J. Puk, Brady Singer, and Tigers prospect Alex Faedo, for those keeping score — but Shore was their Friday night starter, and arguably better than all three. He won 30 games in three years and managed a 2.41 ERA in 312 college innings, striking out nearly four batters for every walk. He was Perfect Game’s Freshman of the Year in 2014, a two-time All-SEC performer, and a unanimous All-American in his junior season.
This isn’t to say Shore went unnoticed on draft day. The Oakland Athletics picked him up in the second round in 2016, making him the 46th overall pick that year. He made quick work of his competition in rookie ball that summer, as most polished college prospects do. Unfortunately, a lat injury sidelined him for two months in 2017, limiting him to just 80 2⁄3 innings across two levels. However, despite a 4.09 ERA, he managed a stellar 4.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 appearances at High-A Stockton. He made a few more dominant starts in High-A to begin 2018, but took a step back once he moved up to Double-A; in 68 2⁄3 innings, Shore allowed a 5.50 ERA and struck out just 16.1 percent of the hitters he faced.
Shore’s best attribute is his excellent control, which has helped him limit walks at every level he has pitched. Even when struggling in Double-A last year, he walked just 6.1 percent of the hitters he faced, a passable rate for any pitcher. Shore is able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes, and can spot his fastball and changeup on both sides of the strike zone. He is still working on the command side of the spectrum, and will need to refine all three of his pitches to make his somewhat pedestrian arsenal (more on that in a bit) at the highest levels of the game. But there is potential here — FanGraphs noted at this time last year that Shore could potentially have plus command at his peak.
The key to Shore’s entire arsenal is a plus changeup, which is easily his best pitch. John Sickels, formerly of Minor League Ball, said it was “already a major league quality plus pitch” before Shore was even drafted, and the needle hasn’t moved much on that since then. Both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline also grade the pitch as a plus offering, with Pipeline saying Shore “locates and sinks [the changeup] extremely well.” While no outlets are offering a specific velocity band for that pitch, reports of an impressive differential between it and his low-90s fastball lead us to believe he works in the low 80s with the change.
That difference in velocity is essential for Shore. His fastball is somewhat fringey, as a low-90s pitch, but gets on hitters quicker because he is able to differentiate it from his changeup. His heater won’t get any lofty grades from scouting outlets, but it plays up because he locates it well and can play it off of the changeup.
If Shore had just a little more gas on his fastball, he might be one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Shore sits in the low 90s with his heater, and has topped out as high as 94 miles per hour. This has improved somewhat since his college days, but it isn’t fast enough to miss many bats. MLB Pipeline is higher on the pitch than most, grading it as an above-average offering “with late sinking action that nets him many ground balls.” FanGraphs isn’t nearly as kind, giving it a 40 grade at present. Though Shore’s fastball plays higher than that thanks to his control and the threat of his changeup, he doesn’t have the room for error that a pitcher working in the mid-90s does.
Shore’s other big weakness is a slider that hasn’t improved much since his college days. Wayne Cavadi gave a nice summary at the now-defunct Minor League Ball when the Tigers acquired Shore.
His biggest setback is a third pitch. His breaking ball which appears to be a slider, but has been described with splitter characteristics in several reports, is still rough. It lacks consistency, and obviously shape with different reports citing a different pitch.
Both Pipeline and FanGraphs gave the slider below-average grades, citing similar concerns about the shape and consistency of the pitch. Shore will need to refine his breaking ball if he hopes to stick in the starting rotation.
If there is a theme here, it’s a general lack of bite from Shore’s raw stuff. He certainly has the means to make things work, but without a bigger fastball or a swing-and-miss offering — even the changeup isn’t a true “out” pitch yet — Shore’s margin for error is much slimmer than most pitchers. He throws hard enough that the “crafty righty” label isn’t quite appropriate, but he isn’t far off from that zone. His game doesn’t need a major overhaul, other than maybe the slider, but rather could stand to improve slightly in several different areas.
Projected team: Double-A Erie SeaWolves
The Tigers have something of a logjam in their Double-A rotation right now. As many as seven starters could begin the year with Erie, and that rough count does not even include top prospect Casey Mize. That said, Shore should get one of the spots. He spent most of his 2018 season at Double-A, but was roughed up by the advanced competition he faced. If Shore can get back on track, he could be a pitcher we see the Tigers fast track. Not only will it clear any roster issues at the Double-A level (especially with Mize likely on the way), but it will also give them a chance to see what they have in Shore. Even the best case scenario might not include a big league call-up — though he will be Rule 5 eligible next winter — but it certainly could put him in the mix to make the team in 2020.