Sawyer Gipson-Long is an incredible name. I have no doubt in my mind that Avila maximized the amount of name bracket value and potential in the trade. In terms of pitching though… it’s tougher to assess.
Of course I and most Tigers fans reacted very poorly when we looked at SGL (I can’t be bothered to type his whole name) and saw an almost 25 year old starter in AA with an ERA of 7.17 and a FIP of 4.33. My initial reaction was one of complete befuddlement and I was tempted to call the trade awful and move on. However, now that I’ve had some time to rest and calm down. It’s time to do an assessment of the player Avila has acquired.
What better way to start assessing him than to listen to the thoughts of the man who traded for him:
"We have a pitcher there that we feel good about," Avila said. "He's a starter at Double-A right now. We all think he has a good mix of pitches where he has a chance to stay as a starter. We're projecting him probably to go to Toledo next year and be a guy that we can count on at the big league level at some point." (Jason Beck 2022 tigers.com).
When you look at SGP’s peripherals the first thing that stands out is that for the most part his FIP and xFIP have been excellent throughout his career. This is driven by his high K%. However for most of his career his FIP has been about 1.2 runs lower than his ERA. The reason for that is that he has about a .350 BABIP for his career. That’s if you include his 2022 in A+ which was a massive outlier in this regard. It’s hard for me to know exactly how sustainable this BABIP is as in the statcast era (2015-Now) only Mitch Keller has had as high a BABIP for his career. His 2022 A+ season was a massive outlier as it is the only time he’s ever managed to not just match his FIP but actually overperform it. Thanks to a .238 BABIP throughout 49.2 innings he managed to have an ERA of 1.99 compared to a FIP of 3.34. That earned him a promotion to AA where his BABIP has ballooned back to the .350 range which led to his ERA rising. To be frank I have absolutely no idea why exactly his BABIP was so great in A+. Nothing in the batted ball data that I have access to in fangraphs really offers an explanation and without being able to see his Hard Hit% and expected statistics it’s hard to know what exactly is causing these issues. However, it does leave the door open for a world where the trade makes sense… kind of.