The situation is dire for the Detroit Tigers.
Thursday’s 17-7 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago White Sox on Thursday at Comerica Park was the Tigers’ 12th in 14 games during September. They have been outscored by a whopping 103-47 during the month and are now only one game ahead of the White Sox for fourth place in the five-team American League Central.
Making matters more difficult for the Tigers is that they were not able to get many premium prospects in return for trading five of their veterans in July and August.
Mainly, a measure of salary was gained by dealing right fielder J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila to the Chicago Cubs, right-hander Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros, and left fielder Justin Upton to the Los Angeles Angels.
Right-hander Franklin Perez, acquired from the Astros, is rated the 43rd-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario, acquired from the Cubs, is No. 84. Candelairo is now serving as the Tigers’ starting third baseman while Perez finished the minor league season at Class AA Corpus Christi despite being just 19.
The Tigers believe they have a potential gem in the 23-year-old Candelario. He is hitting .356/.420/.533 with one home run in 13 games, an admittedly small sample size.
“What I like about it is he isn’t intimidated at all by the surroundings,” Tiger manager Brad Ausmus said. “He has the confidence that he belongs here. It’s not really cockiness, just a belief in his ability.”
Candelario was blocked on the Cubs’ depth chart by Kris Bryant, who was the National League’s MVP last season after being voted Rookie of the Year in 2015. The Tigers have shifted third baseman Nicholas Castellanos to right field to clear a spot for Candelario at the hot corner.
Castellanos arrived in the major leagues late in the 2013 season as an outfielder, but was converted to third base the following spring training. Just 25, Castellanos is considered a building block for the Tigers, hitting .265/.317/.476 with 22 homers in 141 games.
“He’s done well in right field so far, as well as you expect from someone who hasn’t played there in a few years,” Ausmus said.
Perez was a combined 6-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 19 games, including 16 starts, for Corpus Christi and high Class A Buies Creek this season. He has a four-pitch arsenal and consistently repeats his delivery.
“For me, he’s at least a No. 3, maybe a No. 2 at the big league level,” a scout from an AL team said. “He’s moving up the ladder quickly and I can see him in Detroit’s rotation in 2018. Like Candelario, he can be a piece of the rebuild, but they’re going to have to be patient because he’s still just a teenager.”
One AL scout believes Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez should win the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
Ramirez is hitting .314/.368/.573 with an AL-high 50 doubles, 26 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 140 games for the AL Central leaders, who set a league record with their 22th straight victory Thursday night. He has also played reliable defense at second base after shifting from third base to replace the injured Jason Kipnis.
Ramirez’s 5.8 WAR ties him for sixth in the league, trailing Astro second baseman Jose Altuve (7.7), Indian right-hander Corey Kluber (7.3), New York Yankee right fielder Aaron Judge (6.7), Los Angeles Angel shortstop Andrelton Simmons (6.6), and Angel center fielder Mike Trout (6.0).
“Altuve is going to win MVP and I understand that because he’s a great player on a great team,” the scout said. “For my money, I’ll take Ramirez. He’s turned into one helluva player. He can hit, he can run, and he can play multiple positions. And he brings a real energy to that team.”
Outfielder Mickey Moniak, the first pick in the 2016 amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, has had an underwhelming first full professional season.
The 19-year-old hit just .236/.284/.341 in 123 games with low Class A Lakewood, hitting five home runs and stealing 11 bases. Most distressing was the left-handed hitting Moniak’s .179/.236/.248 line in 127 plate appearances against left-handed pitching.
“I don’t want to put too much stock in a teenager having a bad season, but his inability to recognize off-speed pitches really worries me,” a scout from an NL team said. “A lot of young left-handed hitters have problems against lefties, but you’ve got to do more than hit fastballs from right-handed pitchers to make an impact in the big leagues.”
The pace of infield shifts has slowed this season, according to ACTA Sports.
Coming into the week, major league teams had shifted a total of 23,998 times, a pace of 27,187 for the season. Last year, shifts were deployed 28,130 times.
The numbers of shifts have risen each year since 2011, going 2,350 to 4,577 to 6,822 to 13,229 to 17,826 to last year’s record figure.
The Milwaukee Brewers had shifted a major-league high 1,454 entering the week, followed by the Astros (1,349) and Tampa Bay Rays (1,336). The Astros led the majors last season with 1,849.
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