Detroit Tigers Top 30 Prospects for 2024: #8 Sawyer Gipson-Long

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

Continuing the top 10 of top Tigers prospects for 2024 is one of the few names on the list to have already made their MLB debut, and that's Sawyer Gipson-Long. And what a debut it was. In just four starts, SGL showed some serious big league starter potential.

In 20 innings pitched, Gipson-Long had a 2.70 ERA, a 3.16 FIP, and struck out 11.70 batters per nine innings. He was a very pleasant surprise for a pitching staff that needed innings down the stretch.

Now, we should mention one disclaimer here: all four of his starts were made against some pretty bad offenses. He faced the Royals, A's, Angels, and White Sox. All of those teams were below league average in terms of runs per game, with two of them (OAK, CHW) being in the bottom three in all of baseball. Still, these were technically big league hitters he was going up against, and he more than held his own.

SGL has spent a lot of time in the Tigers' newfound pitching lab since he was acquired from the Twins in the Michael Fulmer trade at the 2022 trade deadline. He's added a sinker and a cutter to his pitch arsenal, and has thrown his changeup more often. He's also figured out how to sequence his pitches effectively. He's put in a ton of work ($$), and it paid off in September.

Here's what MLB Pipeline has to say about Sawyer Gipson-Long:

"Standing tall at 6-foot-4, Gipson-Long sits 91-93 with a fastball that features a good amount of arm-side run. Because of the lack of eyepopping velocity, he stands out more for his secondary pitches. A low-80s slider sweeps well across the zone and features good depth, causing some Double-A batters to look silly on whiffs. He also sells an 82-84 mph changeup well out of the hand before it dips below bats. The Tigers have worked with Gipson-Long on adding an upper-80s cutter this season to give him a harder breaking look."

MLB Pipeline

With his performance in his short big league stint, there was even thought that he could crack the starting rotation in 2024. But after the additions of Jack Flaherty and Kenta Maeda, that doesn't seem nearly as likely. Still, he could be a very useful arm for the Tigers in the event of an injury, which is bound to happen at some point.

Gipson-Long likely projects as a fourth or fifth starter long term. He has good stuff — everything moves. But he's not overpowering. He still struggles with his command at times as well. With all that being said, a backend of the rotation guy still has value.

SGL was Al Avila's final trade acquistion as Tigers GM. We didn't know it at the time, but he may have left us with one last parting gift on his way out.