When teams become sellers and trade away their established big leaguers for prospects, evaluating the return typically takes some time. Even the Astros didn't know what they had in Jeff Bagwell when they got him from the Red Sox in late August 1990.
Houston had to wait until 1991 to see what Bagwell was all about because of how late that deal was consummated and, of course, he was the National League Rookie of the Year. The Tigers will have to be patient as well following their late August deal, ironically with the Astros. Because they didn't send Justin Verlander to Houston until Aug. 31, they barely got a look at right-hander Franklin Perez, outfielder Daz Cameron or catcher Jake Rogers.
While Rogers is headed to the Arizona Fall League, which begins on Tuesday, Cameron and Perez are participating in instructional league play, giving the Tigers' player development staff its first opportunity to see the pair of prospects, let alone work with them.
Cameron, now the Tigers' No. 5 prospect, played in just three games with West Michigan before the regular season ended, though he did see action in an additional three playoff games. While the instructs schedule was pushed back because of Hurricane Irma and games just recently started, Tigers farm director Dave Owen has already been impressed with how the son of former big leaguer Mike Cameron carries himself.
"What a pro," said Owen, who added Cameron did have a couple of hits and a stolen base in his opening instructional league game on Tuesday against the Braves. "He's come in and you can tell he has fun, he loves to play, but when we're out doing our drills, he's all business. It's nice to see with a young guy like that. He's made a nice impression."
The 2015 draftee hit some road bumps right out of the gate, struggling with an assignment to the full-season Midwest League in his first full season. But he righted the ship, especially this season before the trade, further testament to his work ethic and ability to deal with adversity.
"I know he had some trouble gaining some traction," Owen said of the 20-year-old outfielder. "We've seen how crazy this game is. It clicks for some guys, who knows what it is? They finally gain traction, figure something out and it gets them on track.
"Mike was a late bloomer, too. I'm not sure of the trajectory of his career, but his son is a good-looking kid."
Perez's trajectory is heading straight up. Still just 19, the Tigers' top prospect and the No. 40 prospect overall made it to Double-A with the Astros and pitched well there. With the season just about over and Perez dealing with a minor blister issue, the Tigers saw no point in rushing him out for an end-of-year start post-trade. They still haven't seen him in a game; that will likely come early next week when general manager Al Avila and some other members of the front office will be in Lakeland, Fla. but Owen can see what the fuss is all about already.
"He's here and he's throwing. His sides have been good," Owen said. "His live BP was very impressive. He looks like what they look like in the big leagues. He is way more mature than his number of years. I'm really looking forward to him throwing in a game."