The Detroit Tigers are finding value at any price point

Tigers infield and outfield prospects took the field for workouts during spring training Minor League minicamp Monday, Feb. 21, 2022 at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida.Tigers5
Tigers infield and outfield prospects took the field for workouts during spring training Minor League minicamp Monday, Feb. 21, 2022 at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida.Tigers5 /

In the last few seasons the Detroit Tigers scouting department has found value in all corners of the baseball universe.

In the past, whenever the Detroit Tigers had their best prospects graduate from the farm system, the depth would plummet. Case in point, the 1984 Tigers squad was built with drafts from the mid-70s that kept the team competitive until the early 90s.

The Dombrowski-era Tigers graduated a few top prospects, like Curtis Granderson, Rick Porcello, and Justin Verlander, but they mostly used minor leaguers for trades.

The cost of this strategy was losing players who would go on to be stars elsewhere, but that was the price of keeping a competitive team on the field. The 1987 Tigers come to mind, and the trade everyone brings up over and over, so I will spare the repetition.

There are teams across the league, like the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Houston Astros, that have been able to keep their farm system flush with talent while staying competitive at the big-league level. But if you think this is me bringing up examples of the past shortcomings of the Detroit Tigers ability to develop talent, think again.

The Detroit Tigers are setting themselves up correctly

With the impending graduations of Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson out of the prospect realm, the Detroit Tigers farm system is looking a bit shallow again. But the next wave of prospects are coming.

And for once the prospects don’t seem to be all draft picks. Jackson Jobe is certainly exciting, but young international talents like infielders Cristian Santana and Manuel Sequera have started making headlines, too. Getting production from high-bonus international picks is something Detroit Tigers fans should expect, but it hasn’t always been the case.

But to keep a strong farm system teams need more than just their big-money signings to succeed. Recently, the Tigers’ new personnel changes in the minors have a Los Angeles vibe to them. While we are all excited Matthew Stafford won a Super Bowl in L.A., the West Coast feeling coming to Detroit now is one Tigers fans can embrace without feeling conflicted.

And this started even before the club hired Ryan Garko to handle player development and brought in Gabe Ribas to mentor young hurlers. There are a few examples that come to mind as far as getting production from anywhere.

Jason Foley was an undrafted pitcher signed as a free agent in 2016. Wilmer Flores, who I wrote about back in January, is now considered one of the better pitching prospects in the system. Gabriel Sequeira, one of the few lefties in the system, struck out 74 in 47.2 innings pitched for Lakeland last year. Both Flores and Sequeira signed for just $20,000 after going undrafted in 2020.

Is it too early to say Foley, Flores, and Sequeira are going to be All-Stars from the Detroit Tigers pitching staff. Yes, but Detroit definitely seems to be identifying talent better than in the recent past. There is still a long way to go.

Take a step back from the spring training videos and the prospect hype for a moment and look at the bigger picture. The Tigers identified the talent in Akil Baddoo during the 2020 Rule 5 draft.

Think about that for a moment. To me it’s mind blowing, considering Baddoo never played above A-ball and the Tigers took him with confidence, knowing last season their outfield depth was shallow. Detroit’s bold pick, not gamble, paid off.

For the first time in years, we might see players who were not on Top-100 prospect lists make a contribution to the Detroit Tigers in the future.

To end this article, and to end any future debates about keyboard warriors, take a moment to mark down the date October 30th, 2020. It should be a day to celebrate change that was building slowly, with the help of Sam Menzin, Jay Sartori, and Kenny Graham, then it was put into a higher gear with the hiring of A. J. Hinch. It could be a Michigan holiday in the future to celebrate a potential path of winning.

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