Keith Law: Detroit Tigers

Joakim Soria Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsJoakim Soria fills a need for the Tigers, but they paid a steep price to get him.
The price for Joakim Soria is steep, as you'd expect for a pitcher of his pedigree and present performance, but he fills the Detroit Tigers' most critical need and is likely to help them in the postseason as well.

The Tigers needed late-game relief help, and they have always placed a high value (higher than I would) on experience in the closer role. Soria was the best Proven Closer™ available in trade this year -- perhaps a little underrated because he's toiled for non-contenders his whole career -- and he pitches like a starter, with a full assortment of pitches, rather than like a traditional reliever who throws hard and then harder.
RodonAP Photo/Mark CrammerHard-throwing lefty Carlos Rodon leaps to the top of the White Sox's system.
Law's 2014 draft archive: Winners and questions Insider | AL analysis Insider | NL analysis Insider

The 2014 Rule 4 Draft is over, which means every club just got an influx of top talent into its farm system. Assuming all these top picks sign, here are five teams who just acquired a new No. 1 prospect as well as notes on two other teams' first overall picks and where they might slot into the prospect rankings of each organization.

Chicago White Sox: Carlos Rodon, LHP

The White Sox's top two prospects coming into 2014, Erik Johnson and Matt Davidson, have disappointed thus far.

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With the help of Christopher Crawford of MLB Draft Insider, we have compiled the minor league assignments for all prospects in Keith Law's organizational top 10 rankings.

Due to injuries and late assignments, some minor league rosters are not yet official. In those instances, we took our best guess as to where those prospects will be assigned to begin the year.

Note: Players with an asterisk have been traded since the top-10 lists came out, and they are listed with their assignment for their new club.


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Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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videoIn analyzing Miguel Cabrera's enormous contract extension with the Detroit Tigers, I might as well just rerun my column on the Ryan Howard contract from April 2010: Teams just do not need to extend veteran players who are two years from free agency out into their late 30s (or beyond).

The Tigers might as well just light much of the $292 million they're giving to Cabrera on fire or invest it in downtown Detroit real estate.

Cabrera is one of the best hitters in the game but not the best player even in his own league, because being the best player involves more than just hitting -- defense matters, position matters, baserunning matters, and Miggy, although preternaturally gifted at hitting, isn't very good at those other things.

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FoltynewiczAP Photo/Alex BrandonMike Foltynewicz has elite stuff, but his delivery needs refinement.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- A few scouting notes from Wednesday's Detroit Tigers-Houston Astros Grapefruit League matchup, which featured a number of my top 100 prospects.

• The standout prospect for Houston was Mike Foltynewicz -- my No. 70 prospect -- who hit 99 mph several times in his first inning of work and was 94-99 over the two innings, pairing his fastball with a 78-83 mph curveball that ranged from just below average to plus.

Foltynewicz has the two pitches and size to start, clearly, but he was altering his arm slot pitch by pitch, dropping down for most of his fastballs, resulting in something akin to a flat two-seamer, lifting his slot to three-quarters so he can get on top of the breaking ball.

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 Rick PorcelloAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarRick Porcello is ready to thrive with a better infield defense behind him.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- I've started a brief run through some Florida spring training games, tied to seeing a couple of potential first-round picks from the high school ranks, before heading to Arizona next week for a longer scouting run. Here are my notes from Tuesday's game in Lakeland between the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates:

Rick Porcello's superficial numbers the past two years have given a lot of people the impression -- based on my Twitter replies Tuesday, at least -- that he's a disappointment, nothing more than a fifth starter. That's unfair to Porcello, a ground-ball pitcher who played in front of a pretty bad infield defense in 2012 and for most of 2013, at least until Jose Iglesias arrived to shore things up a little bit. He'll benefit even more this year from having Miguel Cabrera, who looked fully healthy again, at first rather than at third, plus a full year of Iglesias' wizardry behind him.

On Tuesday, Porcello's pure stuff was good -- a sinker at 89-93 mph, an average to slightly above-average curveball at 74-78 with tight rotation and an inconsistent changeup at 83-86 that ranged from below-average to pushing plus.

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Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

Top 20 impact prospects for 2014 

February, 11, 2014
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Nick CastellanosBrian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesThe path is clear for Nick Castellanos to get at-bats and improve Detroit's defense.
My top 100 prospects ranking from late January focused on long-term career value, which meant the list included many teenaged prospects who easily could be five years from producing any positive value for a major league team. If we're looking just at this upcoming season, however, the rankings are very different, and I've produced my ranking of the top 20 impact prospects for 2014.

After those 20, I've listed a number of other players who could come up this season and be above replacement-level if they get the chance.

I do not rank players with experience in a foreign major league as prospects, though those players are still officially considered rookies in MLB when they debut here.

If I included them on my rankings, Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu would be 1-2 on this list;

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Tigers make a mistake in strategy 

December, 3, 2013
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NathanAP Photo/Jim CowsertCloser Joe Nathan signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
Viewed in a vacuum, the Tigers just misdiagnosed their bullpen problem as an isolated issue with the ninth inning rather than a lack of depth or quality across the board. Signing Joe Nathan to a two-year deal isn't excessive, as he probably has at least that many years of production left in the tank. But Nathan has started to lose velocity and had to shift to heavier usage of his slider as a result, and he's a traditional, one-inning, break-glass-only-in-case-of-save-situation closer, the kind of player usage foisted on us by a stupid stat invented by a writer decades ago.

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Tigers don't get enough for Doug Fister 

December, 2, 2013
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The Washington Nationals seemed like a good bet to go after an undervalued starter for the back of their rotation (I guessed Brett Anderson, who was originally drafted by Mike Rizzo in Arizona, in a post earlier on Monday) and they did just that, sending some quantity -- infielder Steve Lombardozzi and lefties Ian Krol and Robbie Ray -- to the Detroit Tigers for Doug Fister, who'll give Washington one of the best rotations in either league for 2014.

Detroit might fill some minor holes, but I don't think they got full value back given the market for starters right now and how effective Fister has been the past two seasons.

The Nats get Fister for the next two years before he hits free agency, coinciding nicely with their main window of contention, as Jordan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, and Tyler Clippard are all scheduled to hit free agency after 2015 as well.

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Detroit and Texas pull off challenge trade 

November, 20, 2013
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FielderTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportPrince Fielder will now be swinging the bat in Arlington wearing a home uniform.
This is a classic challenge trade, my position player for your position player, both guys with huge contracts but who are also coming off disappointing years -- or in Ian Kinsler's case, two disappointing years. In the pending deal that sends Kinsler to the Tigers and Prince Fielder plus $30 million to the Rangers, Texas gets the better end of the trade in baseball terms, I think, but that assumes that Fielder's miserable 2013 was more about bad luck and personal troubles than a sudden, early collapse of his skills at age 29. And there's more to the deal than just the immediate on-field impact.

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My MVP and Cy Young picks 

November, 14, 2013
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Mike TroutAP Photo/Jae C. HongYes, folks, Mike Trout should be on the verge of his second straight MVP.
On Monday, I revealed my rookie of the year ballots (I voted in the National League). Today I wanted to reveal what my ballots would look like for the other major player awards. Again, I only voted for NL ROY, so this is for the purpose of discussion.

National League Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Cliff Lee
4. Matt Harvey
5. Jose Fernandez

This one was a rout, and the first-place vote that Wainwright received is quite a bit surprising. Wainwright was a pretty clear No. 2 for me, with Lee third as he was below Wainwright in WAR (per FanGraphs) and pitched in 19 fewer innings.

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My problem with the 'clutch' argument 

October, 15, 2013
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David OrtizAP Photo/Elise AmendolaDavid Ortiz is amazing at hitting baseballs. Can we just leave it at that?
David Ortiz's game-tying home run on Sunday night in Game 2 of the ALCS spawned a discussion about whether he's a clutch hitter, something I don't believe exists, but many people inside and outside the industry do, pointing to Ortiz and Carlos Beltran as exemplars of the species.

The statistical arguments here are largely unsatisfying to both sides, but I dislike the idea of the "clutch hitter" not just because I see no evidence he exists, but because of what this term says about how we watch and enjoy the sport itself.

One huge problem with the "clutch" narrative is that its proponents define clutch as needed to fit the situation. There is no clear definition of the term, no threshold for the scenario, so an at-bat is clutch if someone says it is, and arguing the other side is pointless because clutchness can't be proven or disproven. This also leads to extensive cherry-picking after the fact, where at-bats may be discarded as insufficiently clutch because they don't provide the desired results.

We can look at high-leverage situations, or "close and late" statistics, but those may be tossed because they include situations too early in games, or in games deemed unimportant.

We can look at postseason statistics, but those samples are small even for the most prolific playoff producers -- only about a dozen players have even reached 300 plate appearances in October, which isn't even half of a full season of playing time.

So we're left with clutch-is-as-clutch-does arguments -- it was clutch because we called it clutch. These are inherently unsatisfying because there is no rigor to them at all, and because we can simply redefine situations post hoc if we're not getting the answer we want. If you're telling me that Player X has magic powers, then show me magic. Either he's better in some empirically demonstrable way, or you might as well tell me he can bend spoons with his mind

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Royals punished by CBA; LDS picks 

October, 3, 2013
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RoyalsOtto Geule Jr/Getty ImagesThe Royals get punished by the new CBA for being good but not making the playoffs.

By the standards of their own recent history, the Royals had a very successful season. The team won 86 games, their best record since 1989, and they outscored their opponents on a season for the first time since 1991. Their two biggest offseason acquisitions, Ervin Santana (in a dump trade with the Angels) and James Shields (in the Wil Myers trade with Tampa Bay), both pitched very well for the big club, helping the Royals allow the fewest runs of any team in the American League, 23 fewer than the division-winning Tigers. Some young players took strides: Eric Hosmer hit .317/.365/.492 after the team fired hitting coach Jack Maloof; catcher Salvador Perez had his first full, healthy season in the majors and performed well.

There were plenty of positives for the Royals, but because the season went well, some of the structural reasons that helped the team get to this point will now work against the team.

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