After a 99-win playoff season the Tigers had a very quiet off-season and while Detroit fans enjoyed having their Lions in the NFC Championship and the Red Wings are now a competitive team, they are starting to notice that Tigers’ owner Mike Illitch Jr. is nothing like his beloved father.
After years of being the team with the highest budget (aside from the Dodgers who are on a league on their own) they currently have the 15th highest payroll in the league and they have seen many popular players leave on free agency.
Let’s take a look at their possible Opening Day roster.
Catcher (2): Christian Bethancourt, Austin Hedges
This front office has always favored defense above all at the backstop position and as such possess 2 of the best defensive catchers in the game. Bethancourt had a 101 wRC+ last year so he should get the bulk of the playing time.
The team also has Johandry Cortez who is one of the best catching prospects in baseball according to experts and he’s already in AAA and on the 40-man roster so expect for him to be in the majors at some point during the season.
First base (3): Nick Castellanos, Danny Schaefer, Miguel Cabrera
Tigers have a lot of depth here, trade deadline acquisition Schaefer was on fire since joining the team with a 163 wRC+ and he’s a lefty so he should get more at-bats than Castellanos who had a disappointing 2020.
Miguel Cabrera is still a very solid defender even at age 37 so maybe he’ll get 1 or 2 starts per week. Joey Gallo also can play the position and is a former Gold Glove so there will be playing time for him here as well.
Second base (1): James Ramsey
Fan favorite Ramsey is already 31 and unfortunately seems to be declining already. His defense is still his calling card and although he wont be the team lead off batter again he can manage to get on-base despite his low average.
The team #7 prospect Jose Navarro is making some noise in training camp but he hasn’t played above A-ball yet. Barring a trade, this is Ramsey’s job.
Third base (2): Joey Gallo, Nick Castellanos
Gallo has resurrected his career after leaving Texas but he can play the outfield as well, so Castellanos will be getting plenty of starts in the hot corner despite the aforementioned disappointing 2020.
Number 1 prospect Al O’Mullan has been added to the 40-man already so look for him to get a cup of coffee this year.
Shortstop (1): Orlando Arcia
Jose Iglesias is no longer with the team but former top prospect Arcia seems to be ready to carry the same offensive prowess; sounds like a compliment but unfortunately it isn’t.
Arcia is a fine defensive player but he’s obviously not at Iglesias level and as such a 46 wRC+ is not acceptable. The Tigers will give him the opportunity this year but if he doesn’t improve the team is in trouble as their best prospects in this position Ricky Aracena and Dan Jackson haven’t played above AA.
Outfield (5): Steven Moya, Bradley Zimmer, Jonathan Roberts, Luis Torrealba, Michael Gettys
Steven Moya is on a contract year so if he stays healthy watch out.
While Jonathan Roberts is not well-liked by his teammates he’s beloved by the sabermetricians for his approach to the game, although his statuesque defense will be getting him some starts as DH.
Playing CF and batting lead off seems to affect Zimmer come September so look for the team to either move him to a corner position or lower in the lineup.
Rookie Luis Torrealba was a nice surprise getting almost 3 WAR despite a relatively low playing time, look for him to get more starts this year.
Michael Gettys has a guaranteed spot on the roster for his defense and for being the only RH bat in the outfield.
Starting Pitcher (6): Brandon Maurer, Jonathan Carroll, Josh Hader, Nick Travieso, Marcus Stroman, Blake Snell
This is the only position the FO upgraded in the off-season, making a trade with their friends at Toronto for Marcus Stroman, although truth to be told he’s no longer at the level that made him the best AL pitcher in 2017.
And the 2018 CY Young winner Brandon Maurer is currently unhappy with the organization as contract extension talks are getting nowhere; he might ask for a trade before the season starts.
The fans are very excited to see former first round pick Carroll on the rotation this year after being lights out as a reliever (168 ERA+, 100 IP).
Relief pitcher (7): Bruce Rondon, Ricardo Sanchez, Angel Nesbitt, Duane Cooper, Doug Foster, Andres Sanchez, Jim Nelson
This group had an amazing 2020 being top 3 in almost every major pitching category and, aside from Doug Foster who had TJS, will return intact for next season.
It is unlikely the team will have the same luck with injuries as last season so look for players already on the 40-man roster like Jesus Zambrano, Rocky Smith, Lucas Giolito, and Andriu Martin to pitch some innings at one point or another.