What a time to be a Tigers fan, with the boys in the Olde English D sitting over the .500 mark after September 1 for the first time since 2016 and in the hunt for a spot in 2020’s 16-team expanded field playoffs. While the good times are currently rolling after a 12-1 drubbing of the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night, there has been quite a bit of buzz in Motown these past few days, from trades to injuries. But maybe the biggest news is the latest assessment of the team’s crop of prospects down in the development system.
Tigers climb latest MLB Pipeline rankings
MLB Pipeline released its midseason rankings of all 30 farm teams on Tuesday, with one particularly eye-popping result: the Detroit Tigers sitting second among all major league clubs. Tampa Bay led off the list having also sat at the top of the preseason rankings earlier this year; the San Diego Padres, the previous No. 2 in the preseason poll, slipped to No. 3.
The Tigers moved up three spots from its preseason position at No. 5, and has steadily climbed from tenth in the 2019 preseason rankings with a stop at sixth in the 2019 midseason rankings to its current second place perch. The team currently has five top 100 prospects in its ranks: Spencer Torkelson, 3B/1B (No. 7), Casey Mize, RHP (No. 8), Matt Manning, RHP (No. 25), Riley Greene, OF (No. 31), Tarik Skubal, LHP (No. 49). Pipeline provided the following explanation for its assessment.
Four of Detroit’s five Top 100 prospects are former first-round picks after the team selected Torkelson with the No. 1 overall pick in June. What’s more, all six hitters drafted by the Tigers this past June now rank among the club’s Top 30 prospects, giving the formerly pitching-heavy system balance it had previously lacked.
As teams use more and more of their top prospects in this coronavirus-shortened season, it should be interesting to see how these rankings shake out moving forward. With many teams graduating their studs to the big leagues — including the Tigers — a seismic shift in these standings is not out of the question.
With Maybin gone should Schoop and Romine return?
Cameron Maybin’s third trade from the Detroit Tigers may have come from “out of nowhere” according to manager Ron Gardenhire, but the general consensus has been that it was the correct move to swap the ailing aged outfielder for the Chicago Cubs’ young and spry shortstop Zack Short. It is not quite the haul that he helped fetch in his first trade — which brought Miguel Cabrera to town back in 2007 — but he provided value in multiple ways this year both on the field and on the market, and was once again a net positive for the franchise.
Now that Maybin is gone (for now), Cody Stavenhagen over at The Athletic asks if the Tigers should bring back Austin Romine and Jonathan Schoop. Basically, since the two were not traded at this year’s deadline and have both brought surprising stability to a young ballclub that has been competing well so far, why not sign them again for a (hopefully) full season in 2021? General manager Al Avila offered the following thoughts on retaining the two veterans.
“Anytime you have players that are playing well, obviously you have interest in bringing them back,” Avila said, before explaining again how the Tigers ultimately hope to compete with a homegrown nucleus. “… Right now sitting here today, yes, it is a little early to say, who would we bring back, or who would we go out and try to sign? It’s a little early for that right now.”
So while we may be engaging in premature rosterbation, there is no harm in looking forward to the future — after all, it is all about the future in Detroit right now. Keep in mind that the 2006 Tigers team did not make it to the World Series with a ferocious lineup of stars, but an assemblage of youth and experienced role players who performed their parts superlatively. Romine and Schoop could be the glue that helps bridge the team to the promised land.
The best and the worst of the deadline
Speaking of the trade deadline, Stavenhagen also put together an overview of Al Avila’s record as general manager at the storied swap date. The topic is the source of a great deal of criticism, as Tigers fans and the media alike are quite bearish on Avila’s performance to date. And the numbers do bear out the negativity so far: during his tenure, Avila’s trade partners have acquired players worth 29.7 bWAR at the MLB level, with the Tigers only receiving 0.4 bWAR in return to this point. Ouch.
Stavenhagen ranks all nine transactions from first to last, starting with the Isaac Paredes and Jeimer Candelario for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila swap, for which the Tigers have won the bWAR with 2.9 gained and 1.3 given up. The Shane Greene and Willi Castro trades sit at second and third, respectively.
Which trade was the worst of the bunch? Unsurprisingly, it was J.D. Martinez for Sergio Alcantara, Jose King and Dawel Lugo, which resulted in -0.4 bWAR for the Tigers and 2.4 bWAR for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yikes!
Old friend(s) alert
It gets better: Lefty Joe Mantiply is also joining the Diamondbacks.— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) September 1, 2020
Can we get the D'Backs to call up John Hicks too? https://t.co/QCpUYbLZtQ
Around the horn
Which Major League Baseball team has the best starting rotation? Here are the top trios. In appreciation of Albert Almora Jr., who may have played his last game for the Cubs. Baseball Prospectus takes a look at the questions and answers posed by the trade deadline. After five years running Major League Baseball, who is Rob Manfred as a leader? New Rays slugger Jose Martinez is a coffee entrepreneur. Remembering George Spriggs, the only Royals player to play in the Negro Leagues. In their own words: Women in sports media speak out.