By: Will Burchfield
Add another name to the list of new Tigers prospects.
Detroit acquired right-handed pitcher Grayson Long from the Angels on Thursday in exchange for Justin Upton. He was the ninth-best prospect in the Angels’ organization, per MLB.com.
Long has pitched mostly at Double-A this season, where he has a 2.52 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP over 23 starts.
The 23-year-old was the Angels’ third-round pick in the 2015 draft out of Texas A&M. He has been a starter for the duration of his college and professional career.
Based on scouting reports, Long brings to mind former Tigers’ pitcher Mike Pelfrey. He’s big — 6’5, 230 pounds — and induces a lot of ground balls with his fastball by throwing on a downward plane. His heater, which tops out around 93-94 mph, is often described as “heavy.”
Per MLB.com, “It plays up because of its life and because of his ability, when he’s on, to locate it well.”
Most scouts seem to agree Long projects as a workhorse, back-of-the-rotation starter. Could he become a No. 3? Sure, but a No. 4 or No. 5 is more likely.
“Grayson has been a standout player this season in the (Double-A) Southern League, which features some of the best prospects in baseball,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said in an official release. “Grayson is a workhorse-type starter who throws strikes and has a great makeup. Our scouts project him to be a starter at the Major League level.”
In 121 2/3 innings in Double-A this year, Long is averaging 8.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. The strikeout rate is likely to come down as he moves up the ladder — he isn’t really a swing-and-miss pitcher — but the walk rate is encouraging and likely sustainable.
Long also throws a slider and a changeup, with the latter considered the stronger of the two. His changeup has generated solid whiff rates in the minors. Again, whether this continues as he nears the majors remains to be seen.
Injuries limited Long to just 65 innings in 2016, about half of what the Angels were hoping for. But he’s regained his health this season, and the stats back it up.
He was promoted to Double-A in April after starting the year in High-A. He was named to the Southern League All-Star Team in July.
His 2.52 ERA is tops in the league and his .226 batting average against is fourth. His 1.13 WHIP ranks fifth.
Long is now the No. 12-ranked prospect in the Tigers’ organization, per MLB.com. Since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, they’ve added five prospects to their top 30.