2022 Season Preview: Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers

by Daniel Pardi

2021 Record: 77-85 (.475 win%, 3rd in Division)

2021 Payroll: $86,348,945 (24th)

Projected 2022 Lineup:

1. CF Akil Baddoo, .243 AVG/.332 OBP/.416 SLG, 1.8 fWAR

2. LF Robbie Grossman, .240 AVG/.347 OBP/.397 SLG, 1.6 fWAR

3. SS Javier Baez, .246 AVG/.291 OBP/.447 SLG, 2.3 fWAR

4. 3B Jeimer Candelario, .253 AVG/.339 OBP/.431 SLG, 2.7 fWAR 

5. DH Miguel Cabrera, .257 AVG/.323 OBP/.408 SLG, 0.1 fWAR

6. 1B Jonathan Schoop, .264 AVG/.311 OBP/.441 SLG, 1.9 fWAR

7. 2B Willi Castro, .251 AVG/.302 OBP/.404 SLG, 0.1 fWAR  

8. C Tucker Barnhart, .229 AVG/.307 OBP/.350 SLG, 1.4 fWAR

9. RF Victor Reyes, .263 AVG/.303 OBP/.400 SLG, 0.3 fWAR

Projected 2022 Rotation:

1. Eduardo Rodriguez, 185.0 IP/3.84 ERA/1.26 WHIP, 3.4 fWAR

2. Casey Mize, 171.0 IP/4.56 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 1.7 fWAR

3. Tarik Skubal, 138.0 IP/4.14 ERA/1.25 WHIP, 2.0 fWAR

4. Matt Manning, 123.0 IP/4.86 ERA/1.42 WHIP, 0.9 fWAR

5. Tyler Alexander, 154.0 IP/4.83 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR

Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:

1. Gregory Soto, 68.0 IP/3.59 ERA/1.32 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

2. Michael Fulmer, 64.0 IP/3.84 ERA/1.25 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR

3. Andrew Chafin, 66.0 IP/4.14 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 0.2 fWAR

Offseason Recap:

The Detroit Tigers shocked the world with their 2021 performance. Projected a bottom-five finish in MLB, AJ Hinch brought his team just four games out from a .500 win season and 3rd in the AL Central in his first year with the club. The Tigers looked to continue adding pieces this offseason, progressing their promising rebuild.

Right out of the gate, catcher Tucker Barnhart was acquired in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. The revolving door of guys behind the plate was something the Tigers had to deal with all last year. What seemed like a position patched for the time being with Wilson Ramos, instead saw five guys get time throughout the year, a list that included the aforementioned free agent signee as well as Grayson Greiner, Jake Rodgers, Eric Haase, and Dustin Garneau. 

Between injuries and other roster moves, Detroit found themselves still needing a guy to headline at catcher going into this season. Barnhart is solid defensively as he was in the 79th percentile for framing last year and should serve reliably behind the plate. Barnhart will likely get the majority of starts while splitting time with Garneau and Haase.

Southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez was next to join the roster as he agreed to a five-year deal with Detroit. The 28-year-old is just three years removed from his sixth-place Cy Young finish with the Red Sox. Rodriguez fills a crucial role in Tigers’ rotation as he will likely serve as their ace for the majority of the year. His presence also offers aid in the form of experience to the otherwise young, developing pitching staff. His career-high 4.74 ERA last year will almost definitely fall back to a high three, about where he has hovered since premiering in 2015.

Making one last move before the lockout, the Tigers capitalized on this year’s standout shortstop class and went big with Javier Báez. Inked to a six-year deal worth $140 million, Báez fills a large hole that riddled this infield last year. The largest concern with him is his plate discipline as he posted a 33.6% strikeout rate last season and was in the bottom percentile for chase rate, all while walking a measly 5.1% of the time. However, whatever he may lack at the plate, Báez makes up for on defense, ranking in the 82nd percentile for Outs Above Average. An aspect of Báez immeasurable by numbers is his electricity on the field. Wherever he seems to be, El Mago is a fun player to watch and should bring excitement to games in Comerica Park.

Finishing off their eventful offseason post-lockout, the Tigers bolstered their pitching staff once again, signing Andrew Chafin and Michael Pineda. Chafin had a successful 2021, posting a 1.53 ERA, and was in the 89th percentile for xwOBA. Chafin was a target by many teams for their bullpens and Detroit definitely needed better options in relief. The bullpen in Detroit struggled last year outside of a couple of standout guys so the veteran reliever will add some consistency to the pitching staff outside of starters. Pineda will serve as the fifth starter for the Tigers in a rotation that will be subject to much change through the course of the year. 

2022 Season Preview:

This season is a prove-it year for the Tigers. Every piece of this team is going to be given a chance to take that next step in getting Detroit their first winning record since 2016. Between hometown heroes, emerging prospects, and new faces to the Motor City, there is a lot to look forward to in the team wearing the old English D.

The time has finally come for Detroit to reap the benefits of its rebuilding years. Top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene are set to debut in a Tigers uniform this year. The pair dominated the minors. Torkelson and his immense power that broke Barry Bond’s home run record at Arizona State slashed a .267/.383/.552 with 30 bombs last year. In Greene’s first year playing in AA and AAA, he posted an average of .301 with an OPS of .935. So yeah, the kids can play. 

The duo will bring some much-needed strength to the Tigers’ offense. As for when we see the two make their first start as a Tiger, it may come sooner rather than later. General Manager Al Avila has made it apparent that he wants the future of this team to start playing in Comerica Park as soon as possible. As of now, it seems unlikely that they suit up for Opening Day but Tigers fans should be ready to see the talent headlining their pipeline make an impact this season.

Speaking of young talent, Detroit’s three-headed monster that is their second-year pitchers will have to find their footing if the Tigers want to find success in 2022. Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning were all top prospects just last year. Mize performed well last year in his 30 starts, even finding himself in the AL Rookie of the Year conversation at some points during the season. Skubal struggled at the beginning of last season, visibly seeming to lack control over his pitches. However, his second-half performance showed major improvement and allowed him to finish in the 65th percentile for strikeout rate. 

Manning did not seem ready for the big leagues when he was brought up last season. But with the 2021 pitching staff riddled with injuries, the then 23-year-old was forced to step up. His 5.80 and 1.512 WHIP were egregious yet his 4.62 FIP suggests his lackluster performance may not be completely his fault. Regardless, Manning will need to improve in 2022.

Do not be fooled by the predicted lineup above. The starting nine for the Tigers is going to see an immense amount of variation throughout the year and the lineup card on opening day will not look like the one for game 162. Players likely to be axed from this list include middle infielder Willi Castro and outfielder Victor Reyes. Both saw significant playing time during last season but just don’t make sense for this team moving forward. 

With Jonathan Schoop likely getting moved to second once Torkelson is promoted, Castro will become a utility guy, playing on regular starters’ off days. As for Reyes, if he lives up to his projections he’ll easily be the team’s fourth outfielder. But with Greene almost guaranteed a spot when he gets called up, Reyes just does not compete with players currently occupying the Tigers outfield.

Akil Baddoo was a surprise to everyone from the moment he sent his first pitch in a Tigers uniform over the right-field wall. Acquired in the Rule 5 draft, Baddoo never saw an opportunity with the Twins, the team from which the Tigers got him. He started off hot and was a fan favorite for the beginning of the year until slowing down in the second half. However, he still had a good year. Slashing a .259/.330/.436 Baddoo made the most out of his opportunity with a new organization. He also proved effective on the basepaths, stealing successfully 18 times. 

Baddoo’s veteran counterpart in the outfield Robbie Grossman was also a valuable contributor to Detroit’s success last year. With the Tigers being his fourth team since 2013, Grossman saw his largest role ever last season. He played a career-high 156 games and was a reliable bat at the top of the lineup. Where he served most effectively, however, was with his discipline at the plate. Grossman picks his pitches with extreme precision. He had a chase rate lower than 99% of the league and walked 14.6% of the time. His OBP was .357 despite having a batting average of only .239. With the middle of the lineup slowly evolving in Detroit, having Grossman on base is going to contribute to a lot of valuable runs.

The bullpen is where the Tigers look to improve through this year and into the next offseason. The aforementioned Chafin is definitely a step in the right direction but the group of relievers is still nowhere near what it needs to be if this team wants to contend. Tigers’ 2021 all-star Gregory Soto is the highlight of this group. With a fastball that clocked in at a high of 98.3 MPH, Soto saved 18 games last year. If he can control his 14.5% walk rate, the Tigers will find themselves with a fantastic closer. 

Former starter Michael Fulmer seems to have officially converted to his role in the bullpen and will hopefully avoid injury this year. The 29-year-old won Rookie of the Year in 2016 and was an all-star the year after. But since going 3-12 in 2018 and undergoing Tommy John surgery, Fulmer was never the same. The group of relievers in Detroit has their work cut out for them, but one or two emerging guys might be all this team needs to start being able to rely on the bullpen.

Tigers legend and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera seems to be nearing the end of his career and looks to do it with a bag. After securing his 500th home run last season, Cabrera is just 13 hits away from joining the Mr. 3000 club. While he is still in Detroit though, he slightly hinders the team. The Former Triple Crown winner slashed a .256/.316/.386 last season which is far from the number that earned him a $30 million a year deal. But with Cabrera off the books in the coming years, the team will have some more spending room once hopefully in contention.

Record Prediction: 79-83

The Tigers will probably finish with a record similar to last year. The Chicago White Sox are too far out of reach for this developing team and will likely finish first in the division. Second place is where Detroit should aim if they want to keep their expectations reasonable. But with the Minnesota Twins recently acquiring Carlos Correa and getting Byron Buxton back from injury for what they hope will be a full year, it seems like they will be the roadblock for Detroit. 

A middle of the division finish is fine for Detroit. What should matter to them right now is acclimating their young players to the MLB scene. If done correctly, the Tigers will have a solid group of established players to build upon in a free-agent market down that road. While 2022 might not be their year, expect to see this team make a push in the future.

Player to Watch #1: 2B Jonathan Schoop

Jonathan Schoop had a complicated role with the Tigers last season. He saw time at both first and second base as well as games at DH when his bat was hot. Schoop had an incredible June, posting a .340/.379/.698 slash line for the month. But looking back at his April performance you may be disappointed as he had an average of .198 during the month. Nonetheless, Schoop is a staple of the Tigers. He’s in the top 90th percentile for outs above average and 98th for max exit velocity. 

When Schoop does hit balls, he crushes them, hitting 22 home runs last season. Schoop’s main job moving forward should be to serve as a mentor towards up and coming players. While he’ll likely be dethroned by the likes of Torkelson as the main power of the lineup, Schoop still has a crucial role to play for continued Tigers success. 

Player to Watch #2: Riley Greene

Riley Greene was drafted with the fifth pick in 2019 by the Tigers and is by far the most versatile player in their pipeline. The 21 year old has obvious offensive prowess but is also effective in the outfield, showing off his athleticism by making a diving catch just a few days ago. Having a handful of extra base hits and two home runs in spring training, Greene is proving that he is ready for the big leagues. The young talent in Detroit is going to be an exciting group to watch and with Riley Greene leading it, the future of the Tigers looks very bright. 

Player to Watch #3: Jeimer Candelario

Jeimer Candelario flew seemingly under the radar in 2021. He has the third-highest rWAR among 3rd basemen since 2020 with 5.8, finishing only behind Jose Ramirez and Manny Machado. Last season he slashed .271/.351/.443 which made him one of Detroit’s best power hitters. Candelario could find himself again as one of the Tigers’ best middle of the lineup guys in 2022, propelling this team forward. With what will hopefully be a lineup better suited for offense this year, Candelario’s continued success at the plate will serve well for the Tigers.

Categories: 2022 Season Preview

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