Detroit Tigers prospect Colt Keith's high praise leads to lots of optimism

Detroit Tigers prospect Colt Keith got some high praise recently, but a line must be drawn before suggesting a big-league roster spot be handed to him.

Toledo Mud Hens second baseman Colt Keith (39) crouches in the batters' box.
Toledo Mud Hens second baseman Colt Keith (39) crouches in the batters' box. / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA
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Detroit Tigers prospect Colt Keith gets some high praise.

It's that time of the year. This is the time when prospects become the forefront of most organizations, including the Detroit Tigers. Which players will make the opening day roster, who will make it up the ladder this year, which players will head to Triple-A, and which players will earn a promotion heading into 2024?

For the Detroit Tigers, the prospect garnering the most attention is Colt Keith. He's been atop or near the top of most top prospect lists regarding the organization and is one of the Tigers' premier prospects. MLB Pipeline recently began dropping some of their 2024 lists. One of them was with regard to the top third baseman around.

Colt Keith was ranked as the third-best 3B prospect in all of Major League Baseball, behind only Junior Caminero of the Tampa Bay Rays and Noelvi Marte from the Cincinnati Reds. Some high praise indeed from MLB Pipeline. In the Detroit News article that recently pointed out Keith's spot on the MLB Pipeline list, author Daren Tomhave also suggests that he will compete for an MLB roster spot in 2024.

Keith will undoubtedly compete, but suggesting he will contend to win the third-base job seems a bit out of range, at least for my liking. But opinions are opinions, and some of you reading this may think that Keith should be the starting third baseman over the likes of Matt Vierling, Zach McKinstry, or even Andy Ibañez in 2024.

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It's just a hard sell for me, with Jace Jung being projected to take that spot before Keith, being a former first-rounder. This is coming from someone who values Keith significantly more than Jung. But the Tigers will take their time and not rush anyone to the big leagues, especially in a year that does not matter much.

Even Jung has a path he must take to get to the big leagues. I'd call him more likely to win a big-league roster spot in 2024 than Keith. Don't let that be misconstrued. It is not to say that Keith is not as good as Jung or that Jung is better than Keith.

Detroit Tigers prospect Colt Keith should be allowed to take his time.

Keith will be a bat-first 2B/3B who swings it well, and frankly, he's been downright phenomenal in the minors. But I'd rather send him to Triple-A to start the 2024 season, let him get going and get into a groove, then call him up and give him a chance to hack it with the big-league crew.

He got his first taste of Triple-A ball in 2023 with 67 games played, logging 301 plate appearances, slashing .287/.369/.521 with 20 doubles, a triple, and 13 home runs, driving in 51 runs. This comes while managing 35 walks and striking out 58 times.

Keith also had his fair share of time in Double-A last year, playing in 59 games with the Erie SeaWolves, where he put up silly numbers, slashing .325/.391/.585 with 18 doubles, two triples, and 14 home runs, driving in 50 runs. He was seeing beach balls at the plate, which is what fueled his promotion.

Even then, I'd rather him go to Triple-A Toledo to start 2024, put up videogame-like numbers, and earn his call-up after the 2024 season is off the ground. Sure, the Tigers do not have a third baseman right now, but throwing someone into the fire in a year that won't matter since the team is not going to compete seems silly.

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Setting up Keith for success in the long run is the smarter move. Plus, as suggested already, I'd expect Jung to get big-league looks before Keith does. Jung seems more likely to break camp with the team and earn some MLB at-bats, and Keith could follow him up down the line, with both slated to be future 2B/3B options for the team.

Decisions will have to be made, but heading into Spring Training, I'd expect Keith to come out and compete for the job. In terms of "compete," I mean show up and get some big-league at-bats in during spring ball. In my eyes, the real competition is Jung getting a chance to earn a 3B spot or looking at 2B/3B, with McKinstry & Vierling being the options at second and third right now.

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