DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers were quiet until the eleventh hour ahead of the MLB trade deadline but ultimately traded Shane Greene to the Atlanta Braves and Nicholas Castellanos to the Chicago Cubs for four minor league prospects.
After the dust had settled, general manager Al Avila spoke about the team's deadline haul and revealed the immediate plan for all four new members of the organization.
"We're very happy with the guys, obviously, that we acquired," Avila said.
LHP Joey Wentz
Immediate plan: Double-A Erie starting rotation
The centerpiece of the Greene trade brought left-handed starting pitcher Joey Wentz, the Braves' No. 7 overall prospect, to Detroit. He ranks No. 10 in the Tigers' prospect rankings and is the No. 6 pitcher behind Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Franklin Perez and Alex Faedo.
"First of all, from the Braves, Joey Wentz, left-handed pitcher, you know, he's a high draft pick, 21 years old," Avila said. "Right now, we expect him to go right into the rotation in (Double-A) Erie along with Casey Mize and Manning and Faedo and those guys. So he'll be one of the guys in that rotation so it'll be one of the best rotations, I'm sure, in minor league baseball, so we're pretty excited to have him there."
Wentz was selected with the No. 40 overall pick by the Braves in the 2016 MLB draft. Before the 2018 season, he was ranked the No. 45 overall prospect by Baseball Prospectus before falling out of the rankings by 2019.
He averaged more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings from 2016 to 2017 while posting a solid WHIP and low ERA. Wentz had his best season in 2017, striking out 152 batters in 131.2 innings with a 1.10 WHIP and 2.60 ERA.
He fell out of the top 100 prospects after 2018 despite posting a 1.09 WHIP and 2.28 ERA, likely because his strikeout rate plummeted to 7.1 K/9.
This season, he's struggled in his first taste of Double-A ball, posting a 1.31 WHIP and 4.72 ERA. He has 100 strikeouts in 103 innings, so the dominance has bounced back, to an extent.
With Mize, Manning, Skubal, Faedo, Anthony Castro and Kyle Funkhouser currently in Erie, Wentz will create a domino effect for some -- perhaps promotions or moves to the bullpen.
INF/OF Travis Demeritte
Immediate plan: Detroit Tigers roster
Even though the Tigers are desperate for bats in the minor leagues, Travis Demeritte is the only position player acquired at this year's trade deadline.
Demeritte, 24, was the No. 30 overall pick by the Texas Rangers in 2013. Texas traded him to Atlanta in 2016 for Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez, and he's been in the Braves' organization ever since.
Demeritte showed solid power and plate discipline early in his minor league career, posting a .915 OPS in 2016.
"Travis Demeritte was a guy that was a high round pick," Avila said. "He was right after the first pick, a compensation pick. He's a tremendous athlete. Right now, I believe he's got 20 home runs in Triple-A. He's been performing very well."
His numbers took a nosedive the past two seasons. Demeritte struck out a combined 274 times in 252 games with a low on-base percentage and only 32 total home runs.
This year, he's broken through with Triple-A Gwinnett. Demeritte has 20 home runs, 28 doubles and 51 walks in 96 games, good for a .387 OBP and .558 slugging percentage. The Tigers are hoping his reemerging power and high walk rate can mask the lingering strikeout problems.
Demeritte has played all over the field in his minor league career. In total, he's played 327 games at second base, 194 games in the outfield, 74 games at third base and 28 games at shortstop.
This year, he played 38 games in left field and 36 games in right field for Gwinnett.
"We believe right now -- and we're going to talk about it a little bit later tonight, if not tomorrow morning -- to take him straight to Detroit," Avila said. "We feel that he's ready to go out there and start his career at the major league level. But, depending on the roster situation, we might end up starting him in (Triple-A) Toledo first, but right now, at some point, he'll be in Detroit, if not in the next couple of days, soon thereafter."
With an opening in right field after Castellanos' departure, it seems likely Demeritte could take over that job if he lands on the MLB roster.
Demeritte is not ranked among Detroit's top 30 prospects.
RHP Paul Richan
Immediate plan: Single-A Lakeland starting rotation
The highest-rated prospect in the Castellanos deal was Paul Richan, who was the No. 16 prospect in the Cubs' organization and is now No. 19 for the Tigers.
Richan, 22, was drafted in the second round -- No. 78 overall -- by the Cubs in 2018 out of the University of San Diego.
In 10 games after being drafted last season, Richan struck out 31 batters in 29.2 innings while posting a 0.81 WHIP and 2.12 ERA in Low-A ball.
He was promoted to the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans to begin this year and has made 17 starts, striking out 86 batters in 93 innings with a 1.23 WHIP and 3.97 ERA. The most positive signs for Richan this season are low walk and home run rates.
"With the Cubs, we got Paul Richan, who, obviously he's one of their top prospects also," Avila said. "He's going to start in Lakeland, go into that rotation."
Avila said the Tigers targeted Richan because he has good control of four pitches: a fastball, curveball, slider and change-up.
"Strike thrower, a guy that we feel has a four-pitch mix of pitches that will move up the ladder fairly soon," Avila said. "Pretty happy to have him. He was also a pretty high pick."
RHP Alex Lange
Immediate plan: Double-A Erie bullpen
The second pitcher acquired in the Castellanos trade is Alex Lange, the No. 23 prospect for the Cubs and now No. 29 for the Tigers.
He started 53 games for LSU in college and all 45 of his appearances in the minors have been starts, but the Tigers see him as a relief pitcher.
"Alex Lange was a former also first-rounder just not too long ago out of LSU," Avila said. "He's got a very good arm. He's been starting, but we feel that he's better fit probably out of the bullpen, and he's one guy that we're going to send to Double-A right now and probably throw him out the bullpen at this point because we feel that that's his coming. Talking to the LSU manager, Paul Mainieri, he figured that that would be his best fit."
Lange, 23, hasn't been particularly dominant in parts of three minor league seasons, striking out just eight batters per nine innings with a 1.35 WHIP and 4.62 ERA. His home run rate is very low and the walks are manageable, so Lange could be more effective out of the bullpen.
He throws an above-average fastball, curveball and change-up, in addition to a decent cutter, according to MLB Pipeline.
You can listen to Avila's full comments in the video posted at the top of the page.