The Detroit Tigers are putting the struggles of 2017 behind them. Still recovering from a farm system left barren by Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers have started to clean house, moving veterans for some new youth.
The first to go was J.D. Martinez. That trade drew much skepticism, as many felt they undersold the star outfielder. The Tigers then came out on top in the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila deal, getting younger and exciting prospects in the deal.
Next was Justin Upton. The Los Angeles Angels bulked up their outfield for a playoff run, and gave up Grayson Long in the process.
What did the Tigers get in Long?
Long won’t be an ace for the Tigers. But he’s shown enough that he could be a solid back-end of the rotation arm in the big leagues.
Long is now 23 years old. The Tigers selected the right-hander in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Texas A&M. He threw just 19.2 innings in his pro debut, and was hindered by injury in 2016 as well, tossing only 65 innings.
Age 22, third round pick in 2015 from Texas A&M; posted 3.18 ERA in 65 innings between Low-A, High-A, and rookie ball injury rehab with 70/25 K/BB, 54 hits; low-90s fastball with solid-average slider and change-up, command can be inconsistent but he has stretches where he locates very well; stereotypical number four/five starter but might be more dominant per-inning if moved to bullpen. ETA 2019.
Long looked good once jumping to the Southern League this season. He went 8-6 behind a 2.52 ERA (tops in the SL) and a 1.13 WHIP. He struck out 111 and walked 38 in 121. 2 innings. A 2.82 walk-per-nine is certainly an improvement in that consistency.
Most importantly, Long has been dominant in the second half, going 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA. He’s walked a little more, but it seems questions of durability can be put to rest.
Long is big, standing at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. It doesn’t give him much in the velocity department, but most reports are happy with the life of his fastball. His slider is a useful pitch, but he lacks a dominant third option. If he can develop the change, he will stick in the rotation, if not, John’s bullpen assessment may be correct.
The righty doesn’t make the Tigers immediate contenders, but the truth of the matter was neither did Upton. This is a team searching for a new direction, and the recent acquisitions of Jeimer Candelario, Isaac Paredes and Dawel Lugo are starting to identify that. Long is another addition to the new identity, and at the very least gives the Tigers hope for the future rotation.