Cale Iorg has been a lightening rod of consternation for the better part of three years as a shortstop in the Tigers organization. Despite the fact that his physical tools, and his defensive wizardry keep the scouts drooling, Iorg has never been able to progress into any kind of a hitter.
Iorg has spent his entire career swinging and missing. In 362 minor league games, Iorg has struck out 430 times. Instead of getting better as he tries to work his way up through the system, Iorg has made seemingly no progress.
It’s not as if he tears the cover off the ball when he does make contact, either. Iorg has some pop, reaching double figures in home runs in each of the past three seasons, but has never slugged better than .405 for a year. His line over his minor league career is just .228/.283/.358, that’s a .641 OPS.
Still the Tigers haven’t given up hope that their one-time phenom will become the all-star caliber shortstop. After a semi-successful promotion to AAA Toledo this August, the Tigers sent Iorg to the Arizona Fall League to compete against the top prospects from the other organizations. It hasn’t gone well.
With just shy of half the AFL season in the books, Iorg has managed to strikeout in 10 of his 27 at bats over seven games played. He has just four hits, two walks and one hit-by-pitch. His line is .148/.233/.333. Now three seasons removed from signing his first pro contract, Iorg would be eligible for the Rule V draft this winter if not protected by the Tigers on the 40-man roster.
It’s hard to imagine that Detroit would make a move to add him to the roster after so much unfulfilled promise, but it is possible that another club would take a stab at Iorg. He has the tools to play tremendous defense at shortstop right now. If a club thinks they can work with his bat, they’ll jump at the chance to add him to their roster. After all, worst case scenario is that he ends up being offered back to the Tigers for a mere $25,000.
The way the Rule V draft works, a player who is not a member of the parent club’s 40-man roster will be eligible for selection by another organization. Baseball America explained the criteria for a player’s eligibility for the draft.
"Players who were 18 or younger on June 5 preceding the signing of their first contract must be protected after four minor league seasons. Players 19 and older must be protected after three seasons."
In years past, the parent club would have to finalize their 40-man roster by November 20, ahead of the winter meetings. The Rule V draft takes place at the end of those meetings, usually held in early December.
With the MLBPA approving MLB’s plan to bump up several key dates in the offseason (described here), there is rumor that the Rule V draft would actually be moved up as well, possibly to that Nov. 20 date, though the winter meetings take place December 6-9 this year.
If a player is selected during the Rule V draft, that player must remain on the selecting club’s 25-man roster for the entire duration of the following season. If, at any point, the selected player is removed from the selecting club’s 25-man roster, that player must be offered back to the original club. Often in these cases, the two clubs will work out a trade so that the selecting club can keep the selected player and assign that player to their minor leagues.
The Tigers don’t have a lot of talent in their farm system, so losing a player with the potential that Iorg has wouldn’t be ideal, but Iorg’s lack of progression might signal the end of his tenure with the Tigers. His defensive prowess alone could be enough to entice another club to select him. My guess is that Iorg might just need a change of scenery to jump start his career. I’m sure he and the Tigers have tried everything else.