Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers announced that the team had come to terms with four undrafted free agents. This announcement officially removes the Tigers from the small group of teams who had yet to sign an undrafted free agent this year. The players who will be joining the Tigers’ farm system are 1B Trevin Esquerra, OF Austin Langworthy, OF DJ Poteet, and RHP Carson King.
For those unaware, the 2020 draft cycle was unlike any other, and hopefully we won’t see another like it anytime soon. The league decided to cull 35 of the standard 40 rounds of the draft, leaving 1,050 players who would have ordinarily been drafted without a home. The pressure on college baseball’s rosters created by the obvious glut of talented players needed to be relieved somehow, but the idea of large-market teams outbidding the smaller ones in a mad feeding frenzy was less than ideal.
The system created by MLB owners was to allow teams to sign as many undrafted free agents as they wanted, but capped bonuses at a maximum of $20,000. For many of us, that money is no meager sum, but in the context of the billionaires who own MLB franchises, that’s just a drop in the bucket, meaning every team had a the opportunity to lure in free agents. Detroit turned their attention next to the free agent market in recent days, and it seems that they did pretty well in this area, too.
Trevin Esquerra had been connected to the team as early as last week. The first baseman played for Loyola Marymount and broke out in 2019, batting .322/.378/.622 as a junior. He wasn’t quite as good in limited action this year, but still earned a spot on Baseball America’s list of top undrafted seniors. The Tigers added a number of corner infielders to their system within the last month, doesn’t mean that he’ll necessarily be pressed for playing time. The team’s farm system is scant on decent first baseman. He’s a little stiff in the box, but Esquerra has a little more upside than, say, Nick Ames and should be decent organizational depth at the very least.
Austin Langworthy, a senior, played both ways for the Florida Gators, and the fact that he pulled it off for several years at one of the top programs in the country is impressive. The Tigers introduced him as an outfielder, though, and he didn’t pitch during the truncated 2020 college season, so it seems likely that he won’t be a two-way player in the minors. He’s a good student and has been a reliable player for UF against good college competition. Those traits make for excellent organizational depth, if nothing else.
DJ Poteet is landing in the Tigers’ farm system after three years at Wake Forest. He’s the only junior out of the Tigers’ four signees. His college career didn’t produce incredible results, but he seemed to right the ship this year after a pronounced sophomore slump. That being said, he hit nine home runs as a freshman, which is no small feat. At his best, he’s a center fielder with a little power potential. “I try to think that I’m the greatest hitter in the world every time I step into the box,” said Poteet in a 2018 interview. “I like to swing hard. That’s always been my philosophy.”
The final player joining the ranks of Detroit’s prospects is Carson King. Langworthy may be the most well-known, but this JUCO righty is likely the best of the bunch. There’s not much out there on King, so we reached out to Brian Sakowski, the National Scouting Supervisor at Perfect Game. He broke down King’s profile neatly.
“Athletic righty with plus arm speed, does it pretty easy, FB mostly in 90-93 range, spins hard SL in mid-upper 80’s, also mixes in CB and CH,” said Sakowski. “Good piece of clay for player dev to mold. Comes from an analytically-geared and progressively-thinking program at CCF.”
None of these players are likely to be game-changers for the Tigers, but they are an injection of organizational depth in a year that prevented any team from bolstering their depth too much in the draft. There’s always the chance someone could pop and make a name for himself, and it will be interesting to discover what the Tigers have in mind for these players as they are deployed in the 2021 season.