Archive for Tigers

Daily Prospect Notes: 8/29 & 8/30

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.


Tom de Blok, RHP, Detroit (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 21   Org Rank: NR  Top 100: NR
Line: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 8 K

de Blok has been one of the more interesting stories in minor-league baseball this year. He was signed out of the Netherlands by Seattle in August of 2013, but he didn’t enjoy his time training in Arizona, some of his things were stolen, and de Blok retired during extended spring training the following year.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/28

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Michael Hermosillo, OF, Los Angeles AL (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 14  Top 100: NR
Line: 3-for-4, 2 HR, BB

Hermosillo, a 28th rounder in 2013, was a two-sport high schooler committed to play football at Illinois, but he was coaxed into pro ball by a $100,000 signing bonus. He opened up his stance a bit last year and hit fairly well during an injury-shortened regular season before heading to the Arizona Fall League, where his physical tools measured up nicely compared to some of baseball’s better prospects.

This year, Hermosillo’s in-box footwork has again been tweaked, and he’s deploying a slower, more committed leg kick. Hitters who have deployed a leg kick like this in recent years have noted that it not only unlocks more pull-side power but also improves their timing. This is what seems to have happened for Hermosillo, who’s now more consistent and comfortable in the batter’s box than he was last season. He’s patient, athletic, and might do enough offensive damage to project in more than just a bench outfield role if these changes have truly unlocked previously dormant physical ability.

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Mikie Mahtook on the Return of His Healthy Swing

Mikie Mahtook is healthy and riding his old swing to a resurgent campaign with the Detroit Tigers. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in January for a PTBNL (Drew Smith), the 27-year-old outfielder is slashing a robust .288/.338/.464, with nine home runs in just 267 at-bats. Following a sluggish start that included limited playing time, he’s emerged as one of the few bright spots on what has turned into a moribund Motown ball club.

Last year was tough sledding for the Louisiana State University product. Coming off an impressive 41-game cameo with the club that drafted him 31st overall in 2011, he logged a .525 OPS over 196 plate appearance. Physical issues played a role — oblique and hand injuries were the primary bugaboos — but thanks to an offseason of healing and hard work, Mahtook is once again at full strength.

The change of scenery isn’t hurting. The Tigers are in team in transition, which means Mahtook is getting an opportunity to show what he can do. His body is giving him that opportunity, as well. Mahtook talked about his 2016 maladies, and the return of his swing, in the middle of this month.


Mikie Mahtook: “I’m healthy. Last year I wasn’t. I hurt my oblique at the beginning of the season and it really affected my swing, which in turn affected my approach at the plate. Instead of being linear and allowing the ball to travel — staying extended and getting through the ball — I was basically cheating toward it to mask the pain in my oblique. I was going forward and everything was rotating toward left field.

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Should Justin Upton Opt Out?

We’ve seen a lot of premium free agents negotiate opt-outs into their contracts in recent years. Teams like the fact that they can use opt-outs to decrease the total amount they have to guarantee the player in order to sign him, and players like the flexibility of hitting the market again if they play well and increase their value. But by and large, most of these end up not getting used, as free agents are almost always older players by design, and older players usually don’t get better as they age.

Johnny Cueto has an opt-out for this winter that he almost certainly won’t use, as his poor 2017 season — and now an extended DL stint — would force him to take a pay cut this winter. Masahiro Tanaka probably won’t use his opt-out this winter either, since he’s developed a home run problem this year. Wei-Yin Chen definitely isn’t opting out. Neither is Ian Kennedy. Looking ahead to the future, it’s hard to imagine either Jason Heyward or David Price walking away from the remainder of their guaranteed years at this point.

A year ago, Justin Upton fit into that category. In the first year of his six year, $132 million contract, he hit .246/.310/.465, posting a career-low (as an everyday player) +1.4 WAR. He joined a host of other albatross contracts in Detroit, and all the money owed to aging, unproductive players was part of the reason the Tigers decided to start rebuilding this year, moving veterans for younger, cheaper talents when they could.

But this year, Upton has gone right back to being the Justin Upton the Tigers hoped they were signing. He’s currently at .282/.366/.546 and +4.1 WAR; his 140 wRC+ would be the second-best of his career, behind just the 141 mark he put up in 2011. He won’t match the +6.3 WAR he put up that year, but if he finishes strong over the next six weeks, he’ll crack +5 WAR for just the second time in his career. Regardless of how he finishes, this will likely go down as one of Upton’s best seasons.

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Cabrera and Votto: Two Passing Ships?

Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto — they’re both cinch future Hall of Famers, as close approximations as any among current major leaguers to the ideal all-around hitter. They have consistently made hard contact to all fields, hit for average and power, and not conceded many free outs to opposing pitchers. And obviously, they’ve done it without any contribution from their legs; it’s been all bat.

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Tigers Prospect Anthony Castro on Venezuela

Anthony Castro is emerging as one of the top pitching prospects in the Detroit Tigers organization. Two years removed from Tommy John surgery and armed with plus stuff, the 22-year-old right-hander is 9-4 with a 2.70 ERA in 18 starts for the Low-A West Michigan Whitecaps.

Following his last outing, a coach for the opposing team was highly complimentary of Castro’s cutter, which is actually a mid-90s four-seam fastball that has natural cutting action. As the native of Caracas, Venezuela, explained, “It just comes out that way. That’s crazy.”

It’s not crazy to believe he’s ready to prove himself at the next level. As the aforementioned coach told me, “I’m not sure why the kid is still in the Midwest League.”

Castro has taken his family out of their homeland, and for perfectly understandable reasons: with the situation in Venezuela growing increasingly worse, the youngster feared for their safety and well-being.

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Corey Dickerson and the Best Bad-Ball Hitters

While writing about Miguel Sano last week, I connected two thoughts that had laid dormant next to each other for a while.

Those thoughts, as follows:

  1. It’s easier to lift and drive balls that appear in certain parts of the zone; and
  2. How pitchers approach batters in terms of location is part of an endless loop of adjustments that makes judging a batter’s true talent difficult.

That confluence of ideas led to an innocuous enough question: could we adjust exit velocity for pitch location?

The answer is yes, of course we can. The next question, however, was much more interesting: what the heck does this measure?

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Updated Top-10 Prospect Lists: AL Central

Below are the updated summer top-10 prospect lists for the orgs in the American League Central. I have notes beneath the top 10s explaining why some of these prospects have moved up or down. For detailed scouting information on individual players, check out the player’s profile page which may include tool grades and/or links to Daily Prospect Notes posts in which they’ve appeared this season. For detailed info on players drafted or signed this year, check out our sortable boards.

Chicago White Sox (Preseason List)

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B
2. Eloy Jimenez, OF
3. Michael Kopech, RHP
4. Lucas Giolito, RHP
5. Luis Robert, OF
6. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
7. Blake Rutherford, OF
8. Alec Hansen, RHP
9. Dylan Cease, RHP
10. Zack Collins, C

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The Multiple Paths to a Tigers Rebuild

Michael Fulmer is likely part of the solution in Detroit. (Photo: Keith Allison)

This is Ashley MacLennan’s second piece as part of her August residency at FanGraphs. Ashley is a staff writer for Bless You Boys, the SB Nation blog dedicated to the Detroit Tigers, and runs her own site at 90 Feet From Home. She can also be found on Twitter. She’ll be contributing regularly here over the next month. Read the work of all our residents here.

For a team that seemed poised to begin the rebuild process, the Detroit Tigers managed to coast through the trade deadline doing very little. They’ve been promising since the offseason that their goal is to become leaner and younger, but when July 31st had passed, they’d only moved three players. Observers are left asking themselves: have the Tigers done enough to craft a contending team for the future?

The short answer? No.

The more complicated answer is that the team may not have been able to make the moves they wanted, thanks to a market that favored relief pitching over everything else.

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Getting the Tigers a Real Prospect for Justin Verlander

It wasn’t a big surprise when Justin Verlander stayed in Detroit at the July 31st trade deadline, because for Verlander, the 31st wasn’t really a deadline. With $28 million salaries for each of the next two years, he wasn’t in much danger of being claimed on waivers; sure enough, he reportedly went unclaimed last week, and is again free to be traded to any team in baseball. And now that prospective buyers don’t have the distraction of other possible options, it might actually be easier for the Tigers to trade Verlander this month than it was in July.

Of course, easier doesn’t mean easy. As Jeff noted a month ago, there appears to be something of a gap between how the Tigers see Verlander and how the rest of the league sees him. Detroit seemingly is shopping him as if he’s still the ace he pitched like last season, not the average-ish starter he’s pitched like this season. And Jeff’s piece laid out why that isn’t a totally unreasonable position.

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Ranking the Prospects Traded During Deadline Season

Among the prospects traded in July, Eloy Jimenez stands out. (Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

Below is a ranking of the prospects traded this month, tiered by our Future Value scale. A reminder that there’s lots of room for argument as to how these players line up, especially within the same FV tier. If you need further explanation about FV, bang it here and here. Full writeups of the prospects are linked next to their names. If the player didn’t receive an entire post, I’ve got a brief scouting report included below. Enjoy.
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Projecting Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes

The Cubs traded for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. Below are the projections for the prospects the Tigers received in exchange for their services. WAR figures account for the player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

Jeimer Candelario, 3B (Profile)

KATOH: 4.4 WAR (108th)

KATOH+: 4.3 WAR (83rd)

Candelerio was slashing .266/.361/.507 in the Pacific Coast League this year, with a bunch of doubles and walks. The PCL has surely helped his power numbers a good deal, but his 12% walk rate illustrates that he does a decent job of controlling the strike zone. Defensively, Candelario has been an above-average third baseman this year in the minors. Although he’s been in the Cubs’ system forever, Candelario’s still just 23. A 23-year-old third baseman who can both hit and play average-ish defense is a fine prospect.

To put some faces to Candelario’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps. I calculated a Mahalanobis distance between Candelario’s Triple-A performance and every Triple-A season since 1991. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun.

Jeimer Candelario Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Scott Stahoviak 3.8 1.7
2 Joe Crede 4.0 10.0
3 Howard Battle 2.5 0.3
4 Chad Tracy 4.8 8.0
5 Willy Aybar 3.8 2.4
6 Gary Scott 2.8 0.0
7 Tom Evans 3.6 0.1
8 Garrett Atkins 4.6 9.7
9 Casey McGehee 2.8 4.5
10 Brian Barden 2.5 0.1

Isaac Paredes, SS (Profile)

KATOH: 5.2 WAR (76th)

KATOH+: 3.6 WAR (104th)

Despite being just 18 years old, Paredes is already in and has held his own in full-season ball, slashing .261/.341/.399 with a 14% strikeout rate in Low-A. That’s encouraging for an 18 year old, but it’s especially encouraging coming from an 18-year-old shortstop. Scouts are a tad skeptical of Paredes, citing a lack of physical projection and athleticism needed to stick at shortstop long-term. KATOH picks up on this too — by way of his height (5-foot-11) and lack of stolen bases — but still finds him very intriguing due to his combination of youth, contact and defense. As a Low-A hitter, Paredes has a long way to go, but he has several characteristics that often portend to big league success.

Isaac Paredes Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Raul Chavez 2.2 0.0
2 Luis Cruz 2.1 0.0
3 Juan Melo 5.3 0.0
4 Brent Butler 3.8 0.0
5 Pokey Reese 4.3 6.4
6 Kenny Perez 1.8 0.0
7 Hector Made 1.9 0.0
8 Danny Klassen 4.0 0.0
9 Victor Rodriguez 2.8 0.0
10 Brad Harman 2.6 0.0

Scouting Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes

Late Sunday night the Cubs and Tigers agreed to a deal sending Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to Chicago in exchange for INF Jeimer Candelario, INF Isaac Paredes and either cash or a player to be named later.

Chicago gets
C Alex Avila
LHP Justin Wilson

Detroit gets
INF Jeimer Candelario
INF Isaac Paredes

Candelario, now 23, is a known talent. He has long been a promising offensive prospect, hitting at a .270/.351/.433 career clip in pro ball with a 10% walk rate. He is fluid and comfortable in the box, shows good bat control and hand-eye coordination, and makes in-flight adjustments to offspeed pitches that he’s capable of striking to all fields. He’s a tough out and projects as a plus hitter with average game power. That power isn’t exciting at first base (where many scouts project Candelario to fall, defensively) but it is passable and, with his keen eye for the strike zone, Candelario projects as an average offensive regular at first.

Candelario has an above average arm and has improved his conditioning, so while the general consensus still believes him to be a first baseman, it’s becoming less common for scouts to knock his lateral quickness. That, combined with Detroit’s current big league roster makeup (which has seen butcher Nick Castellanos at third and immovable god Miguel Cabrera at first) and continued advancements in defensive positioning make Candelario’s defensive future a bit foggy, but hopeful. He was just barely off my top 100 entering the year and will be on the updated list in the next few weeks.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Dominican Republic
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 210 Bat/Throw B/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 50/50 45/50 40/30 40/45 55/55

Clubs have been asking for Paredes in trades for over a year now. Teams discovered him in many different ways but they’ve all become smitten with the 18-year old “shortstop” for one reason or another. Some clubs flagged him for excellent statistical performance in last year’s AZL when Paredes was just 17 but hit .305/.359/.443 and only struck out in 10% of his plate appearances. Some scout the AZL heavily and were sent glowing reports about his feel to hit. He seems likely to continue to do that. After a hot start, Paredes struggled to hit the ball hard for about a month and owned a .240/.310/.333 line on June 4. He’s righted the ship and has tallied 19 extra-base hits since then and was up to .264/.342/.401 before the trade.

Scouts have varied opinions about Paredes’ defense. He does not project to shortstop for any scouts with whom I have spoken, nor does he for me. Some clubs who entertained the idea of acquiring him last year had plans to move Paredes, who was rather girthy at the time, to catcher. Others have him projected to either second or third base. Paredes has improved his conditioning and isn’t as soft-bodied as he was last year but he remains boxy, square, and simply unlike what the lion’s share of big league shortstops look like when they’re 18. Of course, if he hits the way many in the industry think he will, that might not matter.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Mexico
Age 18 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 40/50 30/50 50/40 40/50 55/60

Cubs Win Justin Wilson Bidding War

While Zach Britton is the big name, and Brad Hand has been priced like an even bigger name, Justin Wilson might have actually been the most sought after reliever on the market this week. Basically every contender in baseball wanted him. The finalists were reportedly the Dodgers, Astros, Nationals, and Cubs, and the Tigers really couldn’t have asked for a better group to have bidding up the price on their best trade chip.

In the end, it appears that the Cubs put the offer on the table Detroit liked most. While the deal isn’t official yet, the teams are reportedly reviewing medical information, which means it should be done soon.

The deal is reportedly as follows.

Chicago Receives
Player Position Age 2017 WAR Rest of Season WAR Contract
Justin Wilson RP 29 0.9 0.5 Arbitration for 2018
Alex Avila C 30 1.9 0.8 Free Agent after 2017
ROS WAR is based on ZIPS/Steamer projection of 24 IP for Wilson and 170 PA for Avila.
Detroit Receives
Prospect Position Age Level Prospect Rank
Jeimer Candelario 3B 23 Triple-A #4, 50 FV
Isaac Paredes SS 18 Low-A #17, 40 FV
Prospect Rank is based on Eric Longenhagen’s preseason team write-ups.

The strong market for Wilson reflects the way the game has changed. He’s only been a closer for a couple of months now, and he has just 14 career saves. His ERA last year was 4.14. He’s never been an All-Star. Yet all of the best teams in baseball wanted him, because despite the lack of accolades, Justin Wilson is really good.

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Finding a Home for Justin Verlander in Washington

What do you get the team that seemingly has everything? The Washington Nationals have the best pitcher in the National League with Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list. They have two of the best position players in the National League right now in Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. They have depth in the lineup with the fantastic Daniel Murphy and the rejuvenated Ryan Zimmerman. Their bullpen was terrible about a week ago, and that’s been seemingly solved with the addition of Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. They already have a playoff spot nearly locked down, with an 11.5 game lead on a division full of sellers. So what do you get the team that’s already set for the playoffs in July? How about Justin Verlander?

We probably wouldn’t be talking about the Nationals adding a pitcher if Stephen Strasburg hadn’t left his last start after two innings. With Max Scherzer followed by Strasburg, then Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, the Nationals have one of the better top-fours in baseball. Take away fifth starters, and only the Boston Red Sox have a higher projected WAR the rest of the way than the Nationals. That’s a really formidable playoff rotation, and it doesn’t really matter that Joe Ross is out for the year or one of the best teams in baseball is using Edwin Jackson as a starter because they will make the playoffs and the fifth starter doesn’t matter. However, it does matter if Strasburg can’t be counted on, and depending on the potential acquisition, even if he is back, a great third starter could help a lot in the playoffs and next season.

There might be some temptation on Washington’s part to go for a rental. With the team already set for the regular season, a rental’s value is limited to the postseason. How much in prospects and money is a pitcher worth for one game? Assuming the Nationals don’t catch the Dodgers–who are way out in front right now–and the Cubs take control in the NL Central, the Nationals will play the Cubs in the Division Series. The team would certainly like its chances with Scherzer against Jon Lester and Strasburg against Jose Quintana, but Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark and Scherzer on three days rest against Quintana, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks isn’t quite as appetizing. Read the rest of this entry »

What History Can Tell Us About the Approaching Trade Deadline

Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline is a mere five days away. As it nears, we’ll be treated to all the rumors and hypothetical proposals the internet is capable of providing. Many of them will be nonsensical. Some won’t. In every case, though, we’re likely to evaluate the likelihood of a prospective deal based on the same sort of variables considered by Dave Cameron in his annual Trade Value series — variables like projected WAR, salary, team control, etc.

But those aren’t the only factors at play when real people from real front offices attempt to work out a trade. There are other questions to ask. Which teams link up often and which teams avoid each other? What’s the role of familiarity in trade deals? Does it matter if the teams belong to the same division?

With the help of crack data and visualizations man Sean Dolinar, I went to work trying to answer some of these questions. Below are five statements supported by the historical data.

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Buying Low on Miguel Cabrera

At 34, in the middle of his worst season so far and with $200 million left on his contract, Miguel Cabrera hasn’t inspired many trade rumors this year — and perhaps rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t inspired any. His general manager said he would listen on veterans, and Alex Rodriguez floated the idea that Cabrera would make sense in Boston.

Is there a chance Cabrera could be moved by the end of August? To determine if such a deal would be desirable for both the Tigers and a prospective trading partner requires multiple considerations, from Statcast to the weather, from aging curves to the cost of a win.

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The Case for Keeping the Tigers Together

Even a diminished Justin Verlander is a pretty good Justin Verlander. (Photo: Keith Allison)

The Detroit Tigers should probably undergo a massive sell-off and rebuild, effective immediately. They’re a mediocre, aging team with a bunch of huge contracts set to hurt the franchise for years if they’re not moved. In truth, Detroit probably should have begun to rebuild a year or more ago, when Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander might have brought a better return and required less money to go from the Tigers to another team. Detroit has already begun to sell a bit, moving pending free-agent J.D. Martinez for a few middling prospects. Reliever Justin Wilson seems likely to go. The team could and probably should move Verlander for whatever they can get and then net some prospects for Ian Kinsler, as well. All that said, there’s an argument for keeping the core of the Tigers together this year and going for it again next season, too.

The Tigers do have a sliver of hope this season, owing to how the hunt for the AL Wild Card has become a race to the bottom and not the top. That said, whatever decision Detroit makes in the coming month-plus, it won’t really concern their present, but rather their future generally. The Tigers could save some money in the near term by trading some of their long-term deals, but they’ve never hesitated to spend the money required to field a contender.

What the club really needs to consider is how long it’s willing to stomach a rebuild. Holding on to Cabrera and Kinsler and Verlander — and even Michael Fulmer — would only extend and water down any possible rebuild effort. A more effective method would probably be for Detroit to purge itself of its current roster and attempt to start over. That being said, the allure of going for it one more time does have its appeal.

The first argument for trying to contend in 2017 has little to do with the Tigers and more to do with the division of which they’re a member. Take a look at the American League Central in 2017. The Chicago White Sox have done a great job with their own rebuild, but their outlook for 2018 isn’t good. The Kansas City Royals are making one last run with their current group, but are likely to see three of their four best players depart from a team that’s already mediocre. The Minnesota Twins have a few good players in Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano, promising development from Jose Berrios, and untapped talent in Byron Buxton, but given their current level of talent and general spending habits, it seems difficult to believe the Twins are going to be a real threat for contention.

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The Trade Deadline Doesn’t Matter As Much This Year

We’re now a week away from the July 31st trade deadline, so over the next seven days, we’ll probably some pretty good players change hands. Sonny Gray is going to be dealt. Yu Darvish might be. A.J. Ramos, Justin Wilson, Brad Hand, Addison Reed, and Pat Neshek will strengthen various bullpens. Every contender wants to add an arm or two, and so we’ll see a lot of pitching-oriented trades.

But if your favorite team doesn’t make a deal in the next seven days, I wouldn’t get too frustrated, because this year, the August trade market might be a more viable way to upgrade than in most years. For a pretty good group of players, the July 31st deadline isn’t really any kind of deadline at all.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/24

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Dawel Lugo, 3B, Detroit (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 9   Top 100: NR
Line: 2-for-5, 2 HR

It isn’t always pretty, but Lugo finds all sorts of ways to get the bat on the ball and hit it to all fields. His aggressive approach produces game power beneath what he shows in batting practice, but Lugo manages to put the ball in play consistently. Not all scouts like him at third base, citing lack of range, but he has the arm for it and his hands are okay. It’s certainly a corner profile, defensively, and seemingly one without prototypical game power, but Lugo certainly looks like he’s going to hit. He at least has the makings of a high-end platoon or bat-first utility man.

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