Dombrowski disputes Tigers farm's last-place ranking

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Dave Dombrowski usually balks at discussing experts' analysis of the Tigers farm system.

Everyone's got an opinion, and Dombrowski is inclined to let them have their say.

But given some of the things ESPN's Keith Law said to The Detroit News on Wednesday, after Law had released his rankings of baseball's 30 farm systems and had Detroit last, Dombrowski decided to respond.

"I don't agree with him," Dombrowski, president and general manager of the Tigers, told The Detroit News. "He can say whatever he would like, but I remember after 2006 people said we wouldn't win anytime soon, and people have talked about that after other years that we wouldn't be good for years to come."

Law said it wasn't an overly difficult decision to rank the Tigers last, given that from his top-10 prospects list a year ago, Detroit has traded five, one is in the majors, and two were injured much of last season.

Last year, Law ranked the Tigers system 28th, and never has been the biggest fan of the young talent Detroit has accumulated.

That's not to say he's overly critical of Dombrowski, who uses the farm system differently than other general managers. Rather than grooming them to become everyday players in Detroit, Dombrowski has used them as trade chips to acquire guys such as Miguel Cabrera, David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Joakim Soria, Jose Iglesias and, recently, Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon.

The formula has paid off, at least in terms of making the playoffs. Detroit has won four straight American League Central titles.

"Eventually, the music stops, and you look up and Miguel Cabrera is 36 with a 46-year-old body, (Justin) Verlander's not what he was, Scherzer's gone," Law said. "Eventually, this ends and this ends ugly. You hope they win a World Series before that happens."

But Law isn't sure they have much more time to accomplish that before the window officially slams shut on the Tigers.

"Two or three years from now, this could be a 100-loss team," he said, and a very expensive 100-loss team, at that.

Again, Dombrowski is confused, given the Tigers are on a nine-year run in which they've averaged 88 wins a season.

"When I look at our ballclub, our infield, Miguel is gonna be 32 so it's not like he's near the end of his career, (Ian) Kinsler, a young shortstop, a young third baseman, in right field we're not very old, we'll see what happens in center with (Anthony) Gose but he's young, we've got a young outfielder named (Steven) Moya who we like, we have a lot of young catching, we've got a lot of good, young pitching," Dombrowski said. "So I'm not really sure what he's talking about."

Law does, however, have some nice things to say about the Tigers, too.

For starters, he likes center fielder Derek Hill, a first-round pick in 2014 who will be the only Tigers prospect in Law's top 100 that will be released today. Hill was a surprise pick, given Detroit's fondness for drafting hard-throwing relievers high.

Law also is impressed with Detroit's player-development department that has turned guys such as Eugenio Suarez into legitimate big leaguers and, eventually, quality trade chips. Law acknowledges Dombrowski hasn't been burned on any trades, even some which Law didn't like at first.

"It's very enlightening that we're always ranked near the bottom," Dombrowski said of the rankings. "Then we trade them, and then they talk about how good the players are that we traded.

"(Experts) didn't like them when they were here, but then they like them other places."

During the last year, those prospects included Corey Knebel, Jake Thompson, Devon Travis, Jonathon Crawford, Willy Adames, Robbie Ray, Domingo Leyba and Suarez, all of whom helped the Tigers acquire Soria, Price, Simon, Gose and Greene.

This season, the Tigers will be getting two of the top 35 picks for the first time since 2001, as compensation for losing Scherzer. By comparison, from 2010-12, the Tigers never had one top-35 pick, having lost them to sign Jose Valverde, Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder. Law agrees this extra pick is good news.

"We like getting an influx of young talent," Dombrowski said. "Our scouting and player-development departments, David Chadd, do a good job. And it's apparent that other (teams) feel the same way."

It's just not enough for Law, a Harvard graduate and former member of the Blue Jays front office who is releasing a comprehensive look at each team's farm system Friday at

Then, he will make his case, in depth, why the Tigers are ranked last.

"Tigers fans who all are getting their pitchforks ready," Law said, "just wait till Friday."

Law lowdown

ESPN's Keith Law ranked every MLB team in terms of strength of its farm system. Here are the top five and bottom five:

■1. Chicago Cubs

■2. Minnesota Twins

■3. Houston Astros

■4. New York Mets

■5. Boston Red Sox

■26. Oakland Athletics

■27. Los Angeles Angels

■28. Milwaukee Brewers

■29. San Francisco Giants

■30. Detroit Tigers