The rebuilding Detroit Tigers likely are staring a season of 100-plus loss season in the face.
After trading away stars such has J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander during last season’s fire sale, the Tigers simply don’t appear to have the talent to compete. ESPN in November tabbed the Tigers the worst team heading into the 2018 season, and they face the longest odds to win the World Series, according to Las Vegas sports books.
But, there’s a bright side, too.
All of general manager Al Avila’s wheeling and dealing, along with the 2017 draft, has helped restock a once thin farm system that Jim Callis of MLB.com writes is now one of the five most improved in baseball.
This seems to match what ESPN’s Keith Law told The Detroit News in September, calling the Tigers’ revamped system, in a word, “promising.”
“Detroit went from contending for the better part of the previous 11 seasons to losing 98 games in 2017,” Callis writes, “and the club embraced rebuilding along the way.”
Trades last season netted the Tigers seven of their top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com, plus 24-year-old third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who has since exceeded the number of plate appearances to still qualify as a "prospect," yet is a big piece of the franchise’s future.
Candelario came with infielder Isaac Parades from the Cubs system for reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila, while the late-night blockbuster that sent Verlander to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros brought back a package that includes right-hander Franklin Perez, considered the jewel of the Tigers’ system. Two other pieces acquired in that trade — outfielder Daz Cameron (No. 5) and catcher Jake Rogers (No. 7) — are in the Tigers’ top 10.
The Tigers also did some deft work in the draft and international market, Callis writes.
“They also stole righty Alex Faedo with the 18th overall choice in June,” he writes, “and added two more seven-figure bonus babies in catcher Sam McMillan (fifth round) and shortstop Alvaro Gonzalez (Venezuela).”
Also making MLB.com’s top five most improved farm systems was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which actually has dealt the Tigers four prospects in a pair of trades involving Upton and second baseman Ian Kinsler. Two of the four — right-hander Grayson Long (No. 14) and outfielder Troy Montgomery (No. 26) — are among the Tigers’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com.