On Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers traded closer Shane Greene to the Atlanta Braves in return for two minor leaguers: lefthander Joey Wentz and outfielder Travis Demeritte. There are reports circulating that Detroit had also picked up a player to be named later in the exchange, but no third prospect was announced when the deal was made official on the team’s Twitter account.
Here’s a look at the two players the Tigers acquired from Atlanta. We will follow with a breakdown of the two prospects involved in the Nicholas Castellanos trade later on.
LHP Joey Wentz
Wentz, who was the 40th pick in the 2016 MLB draft, was recently rated as the seventh best prospect in the Braves’ farm system by MLB Pipeline, and 11th by our friends at Talking Chop. He was drafted below his talent relative to the class, but the Braves paid him a $3 million bonus that went well over-slot, and his pro debut went as well as could be expected. He tore up Low-A in his first full season of pro ball, but his development hit a speed bump when an oblique injury kept him off the mound for most of 2018.
Spending most of 2019 in Double-A, reports are mixed on Wentz’s progress. He has been injury-free in 20 appearances, yielding a 4.72 ERA and 4.36 FIP through 103 innings pitched. His strikeout numbers are up from last season, but there are still questions about how much his stuff has backed up since turning pro three seasons ago.
In high school, Wentz’s fastball sat in the 90-95 mile per hour range, but during his injury-addled 2018 campaign, it was down to the high-80s, topping out at 92 mph. It appears he has added back some of the velocity lost as an aftermath of the oblique injury, though. Fortunately, there seems to be the feeling that the injury won’t effect him long-term once he has built back up to the mid-90s. FanGraphs still rates it as an average pitch, but notes that it plays above its velocity.
Wentz also throws a breaking ball and a changeup, both of which hold promise. The curveball shows solid depth and could be above average, but MLB Pipeline wrote that they’d like to see him tighten it up to become a true out pitch.
Both of his secondary offerings, his changeup and curve, could be at least above-average pitches in the future. He could still stand to tighten his breaking ball a bit more. It has good shape to it, but making it a little sharper could help it become a true out pitch.
A fading changeup rounds out Wentz’s arsenal, and FanGraphs grades it as already being plus. Both work well as compliments to the fastball because each is in a distinct velocity band, which helps keep hitters off his fastball.
Wentz is commended for his athleticism and build, as well as a good delivery that shouldn’t present issues for his health or command. His walk numbers are surprisingly high for a pitcher who fits that bill. Fortunately, the Tigers have had good success in recent years helping athletic pitchers like Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning refine their command and put up big strikeout numbers. Maybe they can work that magic with Wentz as well.
2B Travis Demeritte
The 24-year-old Demeritte is the distinct secondary piece in this trade. He’s also a former first round selection, but the shine that made him the 30th pick in 2013 is mostly gone. His hit tool has been called into question from the moment he entered professional baseball. The questions about his ability to make contact with the ball is what kept him both unprotected and unpicked through the past two Rule 5 drafts.
He has improved statistically in 2019, though. The new Triple-A ball has yielded good results for Demeritte, who is batting .286/.387/.558 in 96 games. Even with the hitter-friendly baseball permeating Triple-A right now, that’s good for an overall performance 37 percent above average, according to wRC+. Demeritte is also working long counts and putting up better walk and strikeout rates than he has in almost any extended stint in his pro career.
Demeritte originally came into pro ball as an infielder, but hasn’t played on the dirt since 2017. This is a bit strange, as FanGraphs noted “he’s also a potential 70 defender at second base with remarkable range and athleticism,” when they ranked him as the Braves’ No. 15 prospect heading into the 2017 season. Baseball America also praised him that winter for “good arm strength and above-average range and athleticism.” While it seems the Tigers will play him in the outfield for now — it’s where he has played for the past two seasons, after all — he could potentially move to the infield as well.
If he stays in the outfield, however, Demeritte could slot into the the current MLB lineup immediately as a one-for-one replacement for Castellanos. He’s a low-risk acquisition, although he will probably struggle upon his introduction to the major leagues thanks to his persistent struggles with strikeouts. Steamer projects that, given consistent at-bats, Demeritte would end up hitting .232/.302/.412. That’s good for an 83 wRC+, which looks pretty nice when stacked up against most of the players the Tigers have been running out there so far this season.