We’ve been taking a little sabbatical to sit back and enjoy postseason baseball, but the Tigers news never fully comes to a halt. Other than a few waiver claims, the roster news has been quiet as you’d expect in October. We’re still waiting to see who will be hired into the general manager and scouting director positions, and those will potentially be the most impactful moves of the offseason. Still, there are a few Tigers’ items to catch up on, and some managerial news from around the league to add to the mix. We’ll start with second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s selection as an AL Gold Glove finalist on Thursday.
Schoop had an incredible year defensively, contrasting sharply with the worst offensive season of his 10-year career. The 31-year-old infielder ranked first in all of major league baseball in defensive runs above average, and led the league with a whopping 27 outs above average (OAA).
Schoop has been nominated before and was a finalist for the award as recently as 2020. However, he’s never taken home the hardware. As we know, this is supposed to be a purely defensive award. So, Schoop should be the easy favorite, but it never quite plays out that way. Usually the equation, voted on by all 30 major league managers and up to six coaches on each team, tends to come out to the best defensive player among the good hitters at each position, though there are exceptions.
We have to look no further than Juan Soto this season, named a finalist for the NL Gold Glove in right field, for an absolutely deranged result. Soto will vie against fellow finalists Mookie Betts and Daulton Varsho, despite finishing last among 39 qualified right fielders with negative 15 outs above average at the position. Okay then. In a down year for one of the elite hitters in the game this makes even less sense, but here we are.
for some, it will be difficult to care much about Schoop’s chances considering the disastrous results at the plate. After one of the best seasons of his career in 2021, Schoop didn’t just crash to Earth, he explored the depths of the Marianas Trench, posting a .202/.239/.322 slash good for a miserable 57 wRC+. As a result, and because he’s a free swinger who doesn’t fit the Scott Harris profile of a desirable hitter in the first place, there’s a possibility he won’t even be back in 2023 despite a year and $7.5 million left on his contract. His glove and accurate arm made him a valuable defensive weapon, but there’s no telling how he’s going to grade out with a little more quickness and range required next season in the absence of full defensive shifts.
You can find the complete list of the Gold Glove finalists here. The winners will be announced after the completion of the World Series.
Cool Colt Keith rocks the desert
Several Tigers prospects are still playing in Arizona Fall League action with the Salt River Rafters. None have stood out like infielder Colt Keith.
The 21-year-old soared up our prospect rankings with an outstanding first half, combining newfound power, with the disciplined approach and good contact ability that was on display from the moment he debuted on the Tigers’ farm. He was the big story on the farm in the early going before a shoulder injury ended the regular season for him in early June. Keith added some 25 pounds of muscle last offseason, and started catching more balls out front with loft, showing the development of his power potential as well as his pure hitting ability.
So far he’s picking up right where he left off. There’s an argument to be made that Keith is the Tigers top prospect, and he’ll be featured on top 100 lists around the industry this offseason. Everything we’ve seen in Arizona from him only confirms those impressions.
Playing alongside a talented group of prospects on the Rafters that includes Jordan Lawlar, Zac Veen, and Masyn Winn, Keith has held his own with an .921 OPS through 10 games. He’s walked nine times to only five strikeouts and holds a .488 OBP. While Keith continues to need improvement with his glove work and overall technique, he’s generally sure-handed and has a cannon of a throwing arm that would play behind the plate or on the mound, let alone as a third baseman.
The Tigers made a rare crafty move to snatch him in the fifth round of the truncated 2020 amateur draft with an overslot bid when most teams thought he was headed to college. It’s paying off handsomely already and after dominating High-A ball in 2022, we’re not expecting him to need a full season of Double-A ball before reaching the Triple-A level on the verge of a major league debut. If he can clean up a few things defensively, there’s a good chance he moves quickly.
Parker Meadows just hasn’t had much batted ball luck in Arizona so far, but he was another Tigers’ positional prospect who made a leap in performance at the plate in 2022. After struggling to the point that many were giving up on him, Meadows continued to shorten his swing and improve his mechanics under the new Tigers’ player development group. He got off to a good start in West Michigan, stumbled a bit in May as he was promoted to Erie, and then raked the rest of the season, peaking in August when he mashed eight home runs and posted a .970 OPS.
The lanky, powerful center fielder holds just a .614 OPS for the Rafters thus far, but is again posting excellent strikeout-to-walk numbers and impressed with an absolute moonshot early in AZL play against a good pitching prospect in Quinn Priester. Signs have rapidly turned very positive on the Meadows’ front, and while he’s probably going to fall just shy of 50 FV top 100 status, he’s right on the brink with huge tools in his speed and power combination that will send his stock soaring if he gets out to early success with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens next year. Still just shy of his 23rd birthday, Meadows the Younger will look to push his way into the Tigers outfield alongside his brother and Riley Greene next summer.
The other notable performance has come from left-hander Joey Wentz. The competition level is really weak in the AFL compared to his experience level and age, so we’re not getting too hot and bothered by his great results in eight innings of work. However, Wentz really locked in over his final outings of the regular season, showing the best command of his pro career and looking quite ready for a full-time role in a major league rotation. Nothing we’ve seen from his performance has altered that assessment. He’s just there to add some innings to his 2022 workload after missing time with a shoulder issue, but it also makes good sense to let him keep pitching considering the groove he’s in.
As for infield prospect Gage Workman, he continues to play impressive defense on the left side of the infield, and shows plus raw power when he does make solid contact. However, the swing and miss is still really plentiful, especially hitting right-handed, dimming hopes that he’s going to develop into more than just org depth in the upper minors.
Around the horn
An Aaron Judge would-be home run ball that fell short of the wall in Game 2 of the ALCS led to a storm of derision after New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone complained about the roof being open at Minute Maid Park. The eighth inning fly ball was caught at the wall 345 feet from home plate by right-fielder Kyle Tucker despite leaving the bat at 106 mph with a pretty optimal launch angle. Apparently the home team allowed that bad old wind in there specifically to foil the Yankees’ chances. The Astros now lead the series 2-0 as they head to New York for Game 3 and 4 on Saturday and Sunday. The commentary pretty scathing as multiple Yankees followed their manager in pinning the loss on the open roof rather than their performance.
We’ll go with this rebuttal as a choice example.
This team is remarkably soft. Between the in-fighting during the Guardians series, getting their fee-fees hurt by Josh Naylor, and now this, they are focusing on all the wrong things. https://t.co/eNtQwf4qBo— Bill Baer (@Baer_Bill) October 21, 2022
Some really good starting pitching this postseason has helped reverse the recent trend toward bullpen dominance in October. Jay Jaffe investigates for FanGraphs. They also have good breakdowns of both Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander’s starts in the ALCS for the merciless Astros’ juggernaut. Esteban Rivera also takes a look at the best infield arms in baseball.
The Texas Ranger hired long-time San Francisco Giants manager, Bruce Bochy, as their new manager on Friday. They signed the three-time World Series championship winner to a three-year contract. Bochy retired from the Giants job after the 2019 season.
In other managerial news, Terry Francona announced he intends to return for his 11th season as skipper of the Cleveland Guardians on Friday. Health problems had led to some speculation that the two-time World Series championship winning manager with the Boston Red Sox might retire.
Finally, with Tony La Russa retiring again after a disastrous stint managing the Chicago White Sox, speculation abounds over who will take the reins on the south side. I jokingly suggested a few days ago that it had to be Ozzie Guillen, drawing some good-natured ire, but lo and behold, the White Sox are now set to interview their former manager for the job. Names like current Astros’ bench coach Joe Espada, Braves coach and long-time Rangers’ manager Ron Washington, and Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol, are among a host of candidates rumored to be in the mix for the position. Let’s hope Jerry Reinsdorf doesn’t let those punk kids in the front office make the decision. This requires a shrewd, decisive executive with a half century of experience. This is your call, Jerry. Don’t let them change your mind.
Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics owner, Ted Leonsis has put together a group that looks like the front runner to buy the Washington Nationals from the Lerner family. Meanwhile the New York Times has an interesting piece on the emerald ash borer and how it’s virtually eliminated ash bats from the game.
Finally, Chris Brown put together a really nice assessment of Scott Harris’ work with the San Francisco Giants for Woodward Sports. We’re all trying to figure out what to expect, and it’s a good summation of his time working with Farhan Zaidi.