More good news for the future of the Detroit Tigers: In addition to a farm system which has new life following a flurry of July and August deals, it turns out they have some top-end young players on the major-league roster, too.
Well, one, at least. And he’s hurt.
Right-hander Michael Fulmer, currently sidelined with ulnar neuritis in his elbow, landed at No. 26 in the Sporting News’ top young MLB players rankings.
The Sporting News says its rankings are for players 26 and younger, based on the players’ “performance, pedigree and potential (current DL stints notwithstanding).”
That sums up Fulmer, 24, who could be shut down for the rest of the season. He’s scheduled to meet with renowned orthodepic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Monday for an evaluation.
Before the injury, Fulmer was 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, a season removed from winning American League Rookie of the Year honors.
“Fulmer, the prize piece of the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets, had followed up his AL Rookie of the Year award with a strong 2017 until experiencing elbow problems,” The Sporting News wrote.
The Sporting News has been releasing its top 50 10 players at a time, with the top 20 still to be announced. It’s reasonable to expect Fulmer will be the only Tiger on the list, unless soon-to-be outfielder Nick Castellanos is held in higher regard. The rankings do not appear to include prospects and/or September call-ups.
However, they do include several former Tigers among Nos. 30-50. Milwaukee Brewers closer Corey Knebel, 25, is at No. 30, having logged 30 saves and fanned an incredible 109 in just 65 innings this season. He has a 1.38 ERA.
“Knebel is putting on a show for the ages,” the Sporting News writes. “He’s on his way to becoming the fifth pitcher in history with at least 100 strikeouts and a 15.0 K/9 in a season — joining Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman (4x), Craig Kimbrel and Carlos Marmol.”
Knebel was the Tigers’ first-round draft pick in 2013. He was traded to the Texas Rangers in July 2014 in a deal for Joakim Soria.
Chicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia, 26, who came up in the Tigers system and played parts of two seasons in Detroit, is No. 33. He’s hitting .324 with 14 home runs at 64 RBIs.
“Garcia garnered comparisons to a young Miguel Cabrera and this year is his first display of true success: He matched his entire career WAR total (2.9) in just five months of 2017,” the Sporting News writes.
Garcia was part of the 2013 three-team trade that brought shortstop Jose Iglesias to Detroit from the Boston Red Sox.
Also on the list is Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Robbie Ray, who also left Detroit as part of a three-team trade — this one coming in December 2014 that brought reliever Shane Greene from New York Yankees to the Tigers.
The Tigers acquired Ray in a December 2013 trade with the Washington Nationals, who landed starter Doug Fister. Ray appeared in nine games with the Tigers in 2014, including six starts. He allowed 26 runs on 43 hits and 11 walks in 28.2 innings pitched (8.16 ERA).
Ray this season is 12-5 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He’s struck out 184 in 138 innings pitched.
“Over the past two years, this Arizona lefty has the highest K/9 ratio of any lefthanded starter in baseball,” the Sporting News writes, “ahead of even Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw.”