Will the Tigers Roar Back in 2022?
The Detroit Tigers finished the 2016 season with a 86-75 record and missed the postseason. After winning the AL Central four years in a row (2011-2014) and an AL Pennant in 2012, by 2016 it became apparent things would change. Sure enough, the fire sale would happen in 2017. JD Martinez was the first to go, in a trade to Arizona. Then it was Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Cubs and Justin Upton to the Angels. The big one happened late that summer with Justin Verlander‘s trade to the Astros. Following the season, the Tigers would move Ian Kinsler to the Angels. The rebuild had officially begun.
In the 2018 season the Tigers finished 64-98 and in 2019, just 47-114. They nearly reached 2003 status when they went 43-119. Yet, it was three years after that lowly 2003 season that the Tigers reached the World Series, launching nearly a decade of winning ways. As the 2022 season begins, Tigers fans are anxious to see if this is the year the team will bare the fruits of the rebuild.
Ten Tigers to Watch
Rather than weighing in on the entire Tigers roster, I am more interested on zeroing in on just ten with the most interesting story lines. Here’s my Top 10 Tigers to watch:
- Tucker Barnhart. An off-season trade acquisition from the Reds, Barnhart is a two-time Gold Glove winning veteran who should give the Tigers some stability behind the plate.
- Michael Fulmer. One time starter and future Ace of the franchise, injuries set his career back. He settled into a new role in the bullpen last season. He’s off to a rough start this Spring, but could play a critical role in the bullpen if the team is going to contend.
- Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod was an off-season signing who spent the he Red Sox. Tigers locked him into a five year, $77 million deal and will sit at the top of the starting rotation. Let’s hope he improves on his 4.74 ERA and his season looks more like his 19 win, 203.1 innings pitched in 2019.
- Spencer Torkelson. The first overall pick of the 2020 MLB Draft has made the Opening Day roster. While the Tigers are counting on him as their future slugger, he hasn’t had much time in the Minors. He’s the #4 overall MLB prospect.
- Tarik Skubal. He pitched great in Spring Training and looks to settle in as a solid middle of the rotation guy. He was drafted in the 9th Round of the 2018 Draft (out of Seattle), but has quickly moved through the ranks to the Big Leagues.
- Miguel Cabrera. While he may be in the twilight of his career, Miggy zeros in on 3,000 hits early this season. He’s expressed enthusiasm for putting together a winning team. His leadership could be a key factor this season.
- Riley Greene. The fifth overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft had a hot bat this Spring. He’s out with a broken foot right now, but his return later in the season will be highly anticipated. He’s the #5 overall MLB prospect.
- Akil Baddoo. The hidden gem acquired in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft. He had a nice season with the club last year (13 HRs, 55 RBIs, 18 SB, .259 BA / .766 OPS). If he can hold steady and replicate those numbers, or better yet improve, he will be a key asset to the team.
- Casey Mize. The first overall pick of the 2018 Draft is expected to be the Ace of the future. He showed plenty of promise in his first full season, but will need to settle in and take charge this year. His level of success will say a lot about the future of the starting rotation.
- Javier Baez. The marquee signing that everyone hopes will provide the team with the production and star power they need to compete in the postseason. Baez is a two time All-Star and cornerstone of the 2016 World Champion Cubs.
Are the 2022 Tigers Postseason Material?
There’s no reason to think that this Tiger team won’t be able to compete in the AL Central. The White Sox remain the favorite to take the division, but off-season moves by the Tigers and Twins will make things interesting. I predict the Tigers will sneak into the postseason this Fall. At mid-season, I will evaluate the performance of these ten Tigers referenced in the article and how that fits in to the overall team performance.
In the mean time, enjoy Opening Day Detroit!