Detroit Tigers Dissector: Luke French, Prospects and Contention

Johnny LawrenceCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2009

Welcome to Rudy Dominick and Johnny Lawrence's Week 17 installment of Detroit Tigers information and analysis. Each Thursday, we will delve into all things Tigers.

Read and digest, or skim and spit out our insightful banter.

Keep An Eye On...

Cory Satterwhite, Relief Pitcher—Erie Seawolves (AA)
12 IP, 9 H, 13 K, 4 SV, 0.75 ERA

Drive-By Argument: Will Luke French Cut It With The Tigers?

LAWRENCE: Luke French does not fire the hardest fastball, have the sharpest break, or possess Greg Maddux-type pinpoint control.

He simply takes care of business more often than not.

Just as Armando Galarraga ascended from the depths of the minor league system and evolved into a legitimate rotation option last year, French has enjoyed measurable success at the end of the staff.

His strikeout total does not wow you, but his response to runners in scoring position should. So far, his RISP stacks up favorably against Detroit's other starters. Though he has succeeded in a smaller sample size, he holds batters to a .205 average with runners in scoring position.

French will not consistently carry the Tigers into the eighth and ninth innings, but he can suitably fill some of the large void created by washed up arms Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis.

DOMINICK: While every Tiger fan wishes success upon French, Detroit cannot rely on upon an unheralded rookie for a serious playoff run.

One-hit wonders happen every year, and though I'm not officially labeling him such, many signs point in that direction. In his last start against Texas, he came crashing down back to reality. French allowed eight hits and walked two, surrendering five runs in five innings.

French is more likely to rest in the same one-hit wonder category as the 1990's band Spacehog, rather than achieve a legendary status like Metallica.

"In the meantime" we should enjoy French's 15 minutes of fame while it lasts and hope for an improved rotation in 2011 when Bonderman, Robertson, and Willis come off the books.

Detroit, Don't Get So Caught Up With Prospects

Every year, the trading deadline slowly approaches and passes.

Experts speculate, fans react.

Whether to increase the likelihood of a playoff berth, or to build a future contender, the conversation topic eventually shifts toward "prospects."

In Detroit, the inescapable Doyle Alexander-for-John Smoltz talks painfully reappear each summer.

Former Tigers GM Bill Lajoie and former team president Jim Campbell battled over which pitcher to send to Atlanta to acquire Alexander, Steve Searcy or John Smoltz. On August 12, 1987, Campbell won out and sent Smoltz packing because Searcy was thought to be more Major League ready.

Epic fail.

Along those same lines, 2007's Jair Jurrjens-Edgar Renteria deal had the feel of the Smoltz swap. Detroit received a veteran primed to put the team over the top, while giving up a high-ceiling, young arm.

Chalk this up in the loss column, too.

Outside of Detroit, similar deals have been struck in recent times.

In 2002, Bartolo Colon shifted to Montreal for a half season, as Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips wound up in Cleveland.

And current Tiger Carlos Guillen was traded to Seattle with Freddie Garcia and John Halama for rental Randy Johnson in 1998.

None of the mentioned teams won a World Series that season and the players given up went on to shine for new teams.

If a general manager were to look exclusively at these one-sided trades, it would prod him to keep his prospects close to his vest.

But despite horrifying deadline stories, the fact remains.

To get something, you must give up something.

Now let's apply this logic to the Tigers' current situation. Detroit thirsts for consistent hitting and the back end of the rotation remains unproven.

Upgrading may be difficult in this trade market, as most teams are following the protocol Toronto set in Roy Halladay trade negotiations and asking a king's ransom for proven talent.

Detroit has been linked to Adam Dunn, Jarrod Washburn, and even placed an inquisitive phone call centered around Halladay to Blue Jay shot-caller, J.P. Riccardi.

So far no results.

Determining which Tiger prospects to be made expendable for these players is an exacting challenge. With no scientific formula at a GM's disposal, he must weigh what prospects he can and can't afford to give up.

As teams like the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates look to rise again from the youth of other organizations, they do their best to avoid risky transactions.

With that being said, an immeasurable amount of Tiger prospects fail to live up to expectation. Most, it turns out, would offer more to Detroit in the talent they could reel in if traded away.

From 2000 to 2003, Detroit selected 24 players in rounds one through five.

Only one of the 24 flowered into a full-time contributor (Curtis Granderson).

The rest? Unspent resources.

GM Dave Dombrowski's track record has certainly been more impressive than the previous tenure, but nature states a large number of draftees will sink through the cracks.

If there was a way to spot the future underachievers, Detroit could certainly build a powerful team before the deadline. Instead, Detroit must weigh to varying levels, their prospects versus trade targets.

As long as Dombrowski realizes that only the rarest of prospects should be considered untouchable, the Tigers may wind up a more viable contender come August 1.

Favorable Matchups

July 31: DET Curtis Granderson vs. CLE Fausto Carmona (12-for-27, 1 HR, .516 OBP).

July 31-August 2: CLE Jhonny Peralta vs. DET Fernando Rodney (.071, 1-for-14, 6 K).

July 31-August 2: CLE Jhonny Peralta vs. DET Armando Galarraga (.150, 3-for-20, 3 K).

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