The Detroit Tigers just wrapped up a two-game series in Cincinnati against the Reds, a brief clash between two teams at different stages of their respective rebuilds. The Reds’, of course, has been going on much longer, and though it hasn’t produced much in the way of real-life major league wins, it has produced a strong farm system that has seen more breakouts than busts in 2018. The Tigers, despite being much earlier in the stages of their rebuild, have also already built up an impressive stable of minor league talent, one that only gets better after landing the consensus top prospect in this year’s draft.
What is interesting about these two organizations and their minor league talent is how slanted each one is. As it stands now, five of the Tigers’ top six prospects on MLB Pipeline are pitchers — some close to the majors, some still a few years away. Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, is yet another highly-touted arm to add to that list. But the Tigers’ young bats are a different story. The team’s two best position prospects have struggled a ton this season, and there are few others in the system that appear ready to step in and make a big impact in Detroit in the coming years.
The Reds, meanwhile, have position prospects occupying six of the team’s top eight spots on MLB Pipeline, and that only scratches the surface of the young offensive talent the organization has accumulated. The two most major-league ready players drafted by the Reds this season, Florida’s Jonathan India and Illinois’ Bren Spillane, only add to that wealth. But any excitement borne out of that kind of position depth can flame out quickly when considering the pitching woes of these last few seasons, and how far away a fix to that feels.
My modest proposal is this: For each team to identify its untouchable prospects, and once those guys are tossed aside, negotiate a trade that could help plug up the holes these two organizations have. The Reds have no business trading Nick Senzel or Taylor Trammell, and ousting Greene in a deal like this sort of defeats its purpose. Likewise, the Tigers probably don’t have much interest in trading Franklin Perez — the premiere player landed in the Justin Verlander deal — before he even throws a pitch for the organization.
Beyond that? See what fits.
The Reds’ starting pitching needs are pretty scary, and unlike three years ago, the team doesn’t have a stable of arms in the upper minor leagues to dream on being the foundation of its next great pitching staff. Many of those guys, ironically enough, have found their way back in the upper minors, and haven’t demonstrated being ready for another chance. Others have moved to the bullpen. Others are missing entirely.
To find the Reds’ next serious starting pitching prospect, you have to venture all the way down to Advanced-A Daytona. That’s where Tony Santillan, the 21-year-old No. 4 prospect of the team, will likely spend the entirety of the 2018 season. He’s still years away from the majors. Behind him is Hunter Greene, who has as high a ceiling as any pitcher in the sport, but is still just 18 years old, pitching in Dayton, years away from his major league debut.
An Alex Faedo would look pretty good in this organization. He’s 22 years old, and was the first round pick of the Tigers in 2017. He just made his first AA start, after throwing 61 innings in Advanced-A with a 3.10 ERA, 51 strikeouts, 13 walks and three homers allowed. He could probably be a major leaguer in 2019.
Beau Burrows would also be nice to see in the Reds’ system. He’s just 21 years old, but has pitched in AA all season, holding a 3.36 ERA in 69.2 innings with 54 strikeouts, 26 walks and five homers allowed. He’ll probably be a major leaguer in 2019.
The Reds don’t have either of those guys right now, but what they do have is maybe the deepest collection of potential second basemen in baseball. The Tigers, meanwhile, are watching their two best middle infield prospects struggle to get on base at a .300 clip in the minors while their major league second baseman is OPSing a downright Billy Hamilton-esque .544 this year. That’s an organization that would probably love to see Shed Long OPSing .780 as a 22-year-old in AA, or even Jeter Downs OPSing .747 with 18 stolen bases as a 19-year-old in single-A. Maybe packaging one of them with Jose Siri, T.J. Friedl, Stuart Fairchild or even Scott Schebler lands the Reds Faedo, Burrows or Kyle Funkhouser.
The point is, it seems like there’s something here worth exploring. Obviously, the Reds would love to hold onto as many of their prospects as possible. Obviously, they would prefer to land a proven major leaguer if they do part with any prospects. Obviously, they would prefer to gain young pitching by sending a valuable big league piece to a contending team.
But I don’t know if you can count on any of that happening. Teams value proven, young, cheap starting pitching above anything else in this game right now. Trying to land, say, Michael Fulmer instead of Faedo would at the minimum require Trammell, and more likely require Greene or Senzel. And after this last offseason, nobody knows how aggressive or passive contending teams will be in July. The Reds might get worthy offers for Raisel Iglesias, Scooter Gennett, Matt Harvey, Jared Hughes, or David Hernandez. They might also get worthy offers for none of them.
And if the Reds can’t rely on contending teams to bolster their own farm system, they may need to get creative. Maybe there’s a deal between these two rebuilding teams that helps put both in contention sooner rather than later.