2023 MLB Season Preview: Detroit Tigers

Image: Photo by Steph Chambers / Getty Images

2022 Record: 66-96 (.407 win%, 4th in Division)

2023 Payroll: 105,442,500 (19th)

2023 Projected Lineup (ZiPS Projections):

1. CF Riley Greene (L), .253 AVG/.323 OBP/.406 SLG, 2.9 fWAR

2. 1B Spencer Torkelson (R), .235 AVG/.324 OBP/.423 SLG, 1.6 fWAR

3. RF Austin Meadows (L), .266 AVG/.346 OBP/.472 SLG, 2.7 fWAR

4. SS Javier Baez (R), .246 AVG/.289 OBP/.422 SLG, 3.4 fWAR

5. C Eric Haase (R), .226 AVG/.286 OBP/.418 SLG, 1.7 fWAR

6. DH Miguel Cabrera (R), .250 AVG/.309 OBP/.347 SLG, -0.4 fWAR

7. 3B Nick Maton (L), .228 AVG/.308 OBP/.363 SLG, 1.5 fWAR

8. 2B Jonathan Schoop (R), .251 AVG/.293 OBP/.400 SLG, 1.8 fWAR

9. LF Akil Baddoo (L), .238 AVG/.315 OBP/.385 SLG, 1.2 fWAR

2023 Projected Starting Rotation (ZiPS Projections):

1. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, 132.1 IP/3.88 ERA/3.57 FIP, 2.2 fWAR

2. RHP Matt Manning, 96.1 IP/4.58 ERA/4.32 FIP, 0.9 fWAR

3. LHP Matthew Boyd, 91.1 IP/4.14 ERA/3.91 FIP, 1.1 fWAR

4. RHP Spencer Turnbull, 75.0 IP/4.56 ERA/4.29, 0.6 fWAR

5. RHP Michael Lorenzen, 98.1 IP/3.94 ERA/3.98, 1.1 fWAR

2023 Projected Top 4 Relievers (ZiPS Projections):

1. RHP Alex Lange, 62.1 IP/3.47 ERA/3.27 FIP, 0.6 fWAR

2. RHP Jason Foley, 61.0 IP/3.84 ERA/3.29 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

3. RHP Jose Cisnero, 45.0 IP/4.20 ERA/4.22 FIP, -0.1 fWAR

4. LHP Tyler Alexander, 91.2 IP/4.81 ERA/4.60 FIP, 0.3 fWAR

What does baseball mean to Detroit?

The Tigers have always been connected to the ebbs and flows of this city, more so than any of the other three professional teams. The Boys of Summer never vacated downtown, like the Lions or the Pistons, and they draw fans from all walks of life, unlike the sometimes homogeneous fanbase of the Red Wings. The last three stretches of Tiger dominance coincided with race riots, bankruptcy, and an extended period of ruin of a great American city. The city’s baseball team was always there, though.

Now, I’m not saying that baseball heals all. It doesn’t. Baseball can’t wash away the decades of racism that the black residents of the city faced and still face today. It can’t take away the rapid spread of urban blight in the late 2000’s. There’s no way that baseball can single-handedly return this city to its former glory. 

However, baseball offers something to brighten the days of its citizens. The smells and sounds of the ballpark on a warm, Michigan summer night are enough to make a hard day’s work a little more bearable. Instead of wallowing in what the city had become, one could travel back to childhood to see how great the city appeared to be. That’s the power this team holds when it plays.

2022 Offseason Recap:

Check my predictions for the Tigers before the offseason started here.

Scott Harris’ first offseason at the helm of the Detroit Tigers was more eventful than I thought it would be, but many of the moves merely churned the bottom of the roster, rather than completely making it over.

As one would expect of a team that played as poorly as the Tigers did last season, many of its players could be considered AAAA-caliber. Good enough to play well in the minors, but not good enough to stick around as anything more than bench players, let alone key pieces. Harris cut ties with many of those players.


Sadly, the Castbros are gone. Willi Castro has ended up in Minnesota as a minor league signing. Harold Castro found his way to Colorado. As much as I loved these two players while they wore the Olde English “D”, I don’t think that their loss will be felt too much, realistically speaking. Neither player is good enough defensively to justify a bat that only looked good because they were playing for the 2022 Tigers.

Two more players who are just not Major League-caliber, if we’re being honest, are Daz Cameron and Victor Reyes. Like the two Castbros, these two players teased us for years with their seemingly yet-to-be-unlocked potential. Much like my OOTP saves, Cameron was claimed off of waivers by the Orioles. Reyes is now with the White Sox. I don’t expect the letting go of either player to burn us.

Similarly, Jeimer Candelario was an exciting trade acquisition when he was younger. We now know what he is, even after the promise shown in 2020 and 2021. He’s a bad defensive third baseman, and one that can’t hit. Detroit is now free to give young guys time at third, instead of giving Candy about $6 million, like Washington did.

Further continuing the theme of unrealized potential, Kyle Funkhouser is the only other homegrown contributor to be let go besides Hittin’ Harold. After years of injury, Funk finally made it to the Show, and was fine in an extended 2021 audition. He didn’t play at all in 2022 due to a shoulder injury suffered during the lockout. He’ll try to claw his way back to the majors in Texas.

Daniel Norris (lefty swingman) and Tucker Barnhart (lefty catcher) are two interesting players when you look at them from 30,000 feet, but they are also guys that shouldn’t be a part of Detroit’s long term plans based on their on-field results. Norris just got cut by the Reds out of spring camp, and Barnhart is set to be a part of the Cubs’ yucky catcher platoon, being paired with Yan Gomes

It’s fairly disappointing that Andrew Chafin wasn’t dealt at the 2022 Trade Deadline. Now he’s finally gone. That is not the fault of Harris, I wouldn’t expect a team in this situation to try and re-sign a mid-thirties reliever; albeit one who was one of the best available lefties on the market. Al Avila was responsible. Signing with Arizona, Chafin has another opportunity to play for a squad that looks ready to exit a rebuild.


It’s not often that I haven’t heard of a current MLB hitter. Outfielder Jonathan Davis is an exception. The long-time Blue Jay, who was most recently with the Brewers, was signed to a minor league deal. He’s a great defender, registering five Outs Above Average in only 37 games with Milwaukee in 2022. Detroit hopes the 30 year old can alleviate some possible growing pain with their young center fielders.

Cesar Hernandez is another veteran minor league signing. At 32, he’s no longer a good middle infield defender, and his poor right handed bat would be redundant with Jonathan Schoop. I don’t expect that he’ll be more than a player that induces groans when he’s called up from Toledo in June.

The last two added bats that have seen Major League experience are also playing on the minimum. Andy Ibanez and Tyler Nevin are now both on the wrong side of 25. They didn’t hit well in 2022. Whatever.

Chasen Shreve is the veteran lefty reliever that should see some innings for Detroit in 2023. He played poorly with the Mets in 2022 through 26.1 innings, however his xERA of 4.91 is fairly low compared to his 6.49 actual ERA. In the four seasons Shreve received a regular workload (45.0+ IP), he never registered an ERA higher than 3.93. That’s a decent gamble for only $1.5 million.

Detroit signed a right-hander at $1.5 million to pair with Shreve, Matt Wisler. He’s a pitcher that’s recently exited the Tampa Bay Rays’ Reliever Reclamation Program. He’s pitched to a sterling 2.20 ERA in 73.1 innings in parts of the last two seasons with the Rays. However, 2019 was the only season he’s pitched more than 50 innings since transitioning to the bullpen, so it remains to be seen if he can produce for a full year.

The two biggest free agent signings of the offseason were made to bolster the starting rotation. Daniel Norris is out the door, but Matthew Boyd is back, baby! Funnily enough, it’s almost like he never left. 

After an odyssey of a 2022 season that started in San Francisco, Boyd found himself pitching ten games out of the bullpen down the stretch for his hometown Seattle Mariners. He was signed to a one-year, $10 million contract this offseason, which is a 33% increase from the $7.5 million arbitration estimate that resulted in his initial departure from Detroit.

Michael Lorenzen was signed for one-year, $8.5 million. He’s far removed from the pre-pandemic hype as a possible two-way player, but he’s molded himself into a competent starting pitcher. With the injuries that have ravaged Detroit’s rotation in the past, along with those that are keeping Mize and Skubal out, it makes sense to load up on starting-caliber arms.

The first Harris-era free agency went about how I expected. I didn’t think that there would be a massive spending spree, both with how the team performed last year, and with what Harris learned during his time with Chicago and San Francisco. There was minimal spending to improve the space in between the margins.


Joe Jimenez finally put it all together in 2022. I wrote this profile for Diamond Digest in September if you want to learn more. It’s unfortunate that we won’t see the rest of his prime in Detroit, but I’m glad he’ll get to contend in Atlanta. The Tigers returned two prospects: Justyn-Henry Malloy gives the organization’s pool of third base prospects a much needed boost, and Jake Higginbotham, a throw-in reliever who hasn’t played well post-COVID.

The second trade was one that I really didn’t expect to happen until at least the Deadline. Gregory Soto, a lefty closer with two additional years of control coming off of an All Star appearance, was shipped to Philadelphia along with Kody Clemens. Clemens was also a player that I expected to get one more year with Detroit because of the organization’s lack of quality left-handed infielders.

The return assuaged my fear of being fleeced. Nick Maton is a better version of Kody Clemens. Matt Vierling gives Detroit the righty outfielder they desperately needed. Donny Sands isn’t a great prospect by any means, but he offers some amount of youth to the Tigers’ catching depth. Overall, it was a trade that improved the Tigers’ position player depth immensely, something that is a rarity when it comes to the movement of relievers.

These two trades, in combination with the loss of Chafin, may have shattered the bullpen, but the reallocation of assets to more valuable areas of the team deserves commendation. This team is gonna lose, like, 90 games. Why do we need a bullpen?

2023 Regular Season Preview:

The Lineup

Hometown hero Eric Haase is back to take a majority of the plate appearances at catcher. As arguably the team’s best full-time hitter last season (115 OPS+), we’ll see if he can pick it up. He outperformed his xSLG of .396 by nearly 50 points last season. For a player whose game is predicated on power, we’ll see what 2023 looks like.

The last man standing from the Justin Verlander trade, Jake Rogers, returns to the lineup following Tommy John surgery that took away the entirety of the 2022 season. While Rogers is better suited to be a full-time catcher than Haase, his framing numbers in 2021 are actually worse than what Haase did in 2022. Both of these catchers aren’t sure things offensively, and they certainly will hurt the team on D.

First baseman Spencer Torkelson’s profile can be found further down in the Players to Watch section.

Jonathan Schoop will man the keystone once again for the Tigers. Schoop’s Year Three performance in Detroit was a far cry from the numbers that secured him a two-year extension from 2020 and 2021. While he registered the highest OOA total of all players in MLB (26), he was one of the worst qualified hitters in MLB (62 OPS+).

In the World Baseball Classic, competing for The Netherlands, Schoop didn’t hit well. In his brief appearances for Detroit in this year’s Spring Training, he didn’t hit well. It seems that Schoop’s bat speed has hit the post-30s wall. He’s whiffing more and making less hard contact. With his kind of glove, he’d be a very valuable player if he could just hit like he did in his first two seasons with Detroit.

The move to sign Javier Baez might be a decision that haunts this franchise for the next few years. At the time, it was a no-brainer. Although, it was a move accelerated by the Tigers’ selection of prep pitcher Jackson Jobe over a number of prep shortstops. Detroit had zero organizational depth at the position, and Baez was one of many quality shortstops on the open market.

Javy registered the worst full-time season of his career in 2022. Even with a near-9% reduction in strikeout rate, his all-or-nothing approach predictably did not seem to work well at Comerica Park. His new home ballpark killed his power ability; no park suppressed his expected home runs more. The lowering of the right field wall may help him out a bit this season, though, with most of his deep fly balls barely ending up short of the yellow line.

The fact that he’s no longer hitting the ball as hard as he used to won’t help, either, falling from a 74th percentile HardHit% finish to 39th. He has also slipped defensively. El Mago (2) was closer in 2022 shortstop OOA to converted-catcher Kyle Farmer (-4) than he was to 34 year old Miguel Rojas (10). It seems that he’s left his prime 2018 and 2019 seasons in the rearview mirror and he may have already entered his decline. 

Even if Jeimer Candelario had returned, the true future of third base for the Tigers would have remained in question. This season, Detroit will roll out a platoon of Nick Maton and Ryan Kreidler. Both players have received some time in the big leagues, but Maton is the only one out of the pair to show any kind of promise. He’s registered a 109 OPS+ across 216 PAs, while Kreidler struggled to a .477 OPS in his cup of coffee this past September.

With so little information on which to base expectations, the hot corner is the biggest question mark for the Tigers’ offense. We have no idea how either of these players will fare over an entire season. Maton is the lefty and Kreidler is the righty, so we know that both players will play predictable splits. We also know that they are both capable defenders. We’ll see if either player’s bat is MLB-ready.

Detroit’s situation in left field is also questionable. Matt Vierling (who will be discussed in the Players to Watch section) will be the righty to supplement Akil Baddoo’s production from the left side. If neither player improves on what was a poor showing in 2022, Detroit will be strapped to find a replacement. Baseball Savant didn’t like Baddoo after his breakout 2021, but we’ll see if another year of seasoning will benefit a player who made the jump to MLB from A-ball following his Rule 5 selection two years ago.

Riley Greene was a competent major leaguer in his age-21 debut season. It’s not often that you see that. The kid is special. He patrolled center field better than most, and he was one of the few Tigers to register an OBP above .300. Beginning the season with a broken foot, Greene spent some time in AAA before being promoted in the middle of June. It didn’t take long for him to get acclimated.

Having only played what amounts to three professional season’s worth of games, more time to work on his game is really all Greene needs to take it to the next level. If he can cut down on the 28.7% strikeout rate, and stop pulling balls so much, he should look even better. Greene will be the biggest source of excitement when watching Tiger baseball this summer.

Having Austin Meadows recovered from his battle with mental health struggles is great for him and great for the club. He didn’t play much last year as a result of it, but I’m confident enough with his track record as a heavy-hitting corner outfielder that he’ll bounce back. Even if Isaac Paredes has played well for Tampa so far, I hesitate to say they’ve fleeced once again.

The absence of Meadows did allow Detroit to see what they had in Kerry Carpenter. Carpenter burst onto the scene in 2022, leading the organization in home runs with 42. Even with how he’s hit in an, albeit limited, Spring Training sample this year, however, and with the Tigers’ lack of power, there’s rumors that he may start the season in the minors once again in lieu of Akil Baddoo. Given the Tigers’ glut of lefty outfielders, I’m excited to see what Carpenter can do to separate himself from the pack. 

I love Miguel Cabrera, obviously, but I do not need to see him get a full season of ABs. He’s done. Everyone knows. Whoever thinks he can turn in a final season like Albert Pujols is dead wrong. The Machine was still putting up All Star-level numbers against lefties by the time he started playing like a stiff dinosaur. In 2022, Miguel wasn’t even an average hitter (97 OPS+) when facing left-handed pitchers. Feels bad, man.

So, that’s the offense. It can’t be worse than last year, can it? I don’t think so. If Miggy plays less, Schoop and Tork improve from being the worst in MLB, and the outfielders hit their weight, we should see something that is rated, at-worst, PG-13.

The Starting Rotation

Similarly to Meadows, Eduardo Rodriguez took a leave of absence from the team for a good portion of the season. As with the rest of the team, the production he looked to carry over from 2021 fell off a cliff. Even with the marital issues he had to face, there are aspects of his game that have gotten worse over the past few years, not just in 2022.

Worryingly, Rodriguez’s fastball velocity has fallen every season since his rookie year, dropping from around 94 MPH to 91. He was largely able to maintain a top-third strikeout rate during this time, but in his first season in Detroit, it fell to the 21st percentile. Furthermore, the bats that E-Rod wasn’t able to miss hit him harder than ever before. As with Baez, I’m worried about Rodriguez’s long-term contract on the books.

As mentioned previously, Matthew Boyd is back like he never left. In my 2022 Season Preview of the San Francisco Giants, I picked Boyd as a dark horse Cy Young contender in the very pitcher-friendly Oracle Park. He never played there due to injury, and was traded to Seattle, where he was activated for the stretch run.

Even with the frustrations we all had with Boyd while he was a Tiger, I’ll argue that he’ll be Detroit’s best starter this season, barring injury. Even though he pitched sparingly out of the bullpen for Seattle in 2022, the retooled spin on his fastball was ranked in the 94th percentile, by far a career-high. Comerica Park should still be pitcher-friendly enough to limit the long ball for him, too. I’m happy he’s back.

Michael Lorenzen is the other free agent starter Detroit signed this offseason. He’s a remarkably average player, possessing a career xERA slightly below four for his career. He’s not great at striking out batters, and poor with his control, but hopefully he munches enough quality innings on a one-year deal to be shopped at the Deadline, and subsequently be replaced by a rejuvenated Tarik Skubal.

If there is a Tiger pitcher more frustrating than Matt Boyd was, it could be Matt Manning. For a pitcher that doesn’t rely on top-tier velocity or strikeout artistry, he sure gets those nagging arm injuries a bunch. When at the top of his game, inducing soft contact and working quickly, his game is tantalizing. I’m just not sure we get it enough between the missed time and blow-up starts. It could be a make-or-break year.

While we’re on the topic of the Tigers top starters that seem to be perpetually injured, neither Casey Mize or Tarik Skubal will be in the Opening Day rotation. Mize’s Tommy John surgery will keep him out until next year, but Skubal should be able to return by midseason. For how much these young pitchers have been babied throughout their time in the organization, I wish we’d see it be paid off.

As one pitcher goes down with a UCL injury, one returns. Spencer Turnbull will be back after missing the entirety of 2022. Red Bull has been solid for Detroit since his first full season at age-26 in 2019, however with COVID and the aforementioned injury, we’ve barely seen him play. As such, even with the achievement of a no-hitter early in 2021, I’m not sure what to expect.

Turnbull is a stable veteran who’s improved in each of his abbreviated seasons since his rookie year, Boyd is capable of being a quality starter, and the expectations for Lorenzen should be higher than Michael Pineda’s were last season. The wild cards to the rotation are the young guys and E-Rod. If they pitch well, Detroit will be in a good spot, if they don’t, Detroit’s future at the position will be precarious.

The Bullpen

Following a mass exodus of arms from one of Detroit’s best bullpens in recent memory, Alex Lange is now the headliner. In what was his first full season in the bigs at age-26, Lange was as shutdown as it gets before hitting a wall in August, having maintained an ERA well below three until then. Apart from poor control that was overshadowed by Greg Soto’s complete lack of it, Lange had near-elite peripherals, too.

Jason Foley might be one of the weirdest pitchers in MLB. Undrafted as a starter out of Sacred Heart University, Foley transitioned to the bullpen and worked his way through the minors to The Show. Often, those who come from uncommon places produce uncommon results. Foley’s fastball sits at 96 MPH, which is in the 88th percentile of the league, but what you wouldn’t expect, though, is that he struck batters out at a similar rate to 39 year old Anibal Sanchez in 2022. 

Conversely, he doesn’t walk anyone! Somehow, his heater is served up like a meatball, too, with batters hitting it with an average exit velocity consistent with the bottom 5% of the league. Although, somehow, probably because of its velocity, Foley rarely allows batters to make quality contact with his pitches, sitting in the top ten percent of Barrel%. I don’t know how he keeps getting away with it, but I hope he continues to do so.

I talked more about veteran relievers Chasen Shreve and Matt Wisler in the offseason review portion. I think they’ll pitch well for Detroit, pairing with Jose Cisnero to form a 30+ year old trio in the middle of the pen. Cisnero troublingly posted a career-worst strikeout and walk rate, albeit having only pitched 25 innings.

The back end of the pen features some players that could be in-line to start due to injury, or could see an uptick in their production with a full-time move to relief.

Beau Brieske and Garrett Hill are two right-handed pitchers that saw starts in a rotation ravaged by injuries in 2022. Both of their results, ERAs close to four, are deceiving. The two are very similar to each other in that neither can barely do anything at even an average level. Brieske limits walks around the league average clip, but that’s it. Their xERAs wind up being closer to six because of this.

Lefties Joey Wentz and Tyler Alexander will have an easier time carving out roles, both by their quality of pitching and the nature of their handedness. Alexander has seemingly been made of Teflon, sticking around for longer than anyone, though. This will probably be his last chance to prove he’s nothing more than a quad-A lefty swingman. Wentz, on the other hand, pitched well in seven starts interspersed throughout the year. Sometimes still being ranked in Detroit’s top 30 prospects, the youngster shows promise.

Mason Englert is the final starter-type player that may wind up throwing relief innings. A Rule 5 pick from the Rangers, Englert has only made three starts above A-ball, and is presently still battling for a spot in camp. If he sticks around, the 23 year old could audition for a long term spot, possibly in the rotation, with a career average of 10.2 K/9 over his two seasons in the minors.

Two more traditional relievers round out the pen. Will Vest ended up back with the Detroit organization after a season with Seattle. In 2022, he was a passable reliever, finishing with an ERA of 4.00 and an xERA of 3.94. 

Due to a combination of Tommy John surgery and the COVID-shortened season, Trey Wingenter hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2019. His peripherals numbers looked good in his 70 innings thrown with San Diego over two seasons.

Detroit’s bullpen certainly has less talent than it did to start last season (I wish we brought back Michael Fulmer). However, there are enough unique skill sets to cobble something together that represents a competent bullpen. If anything in this current era of Tiger baseball is dependable, it seems to be Chris Fetter’s ability to extract a little extra something out of relief arms.

Player to Watch #1: 1B Spencer Torkelson

I may or may not be on-record calling Torkelson a bust (I’m definitely on-record about Mize, though), however if such a statement was made, it must have been while I was severely emotionally distressed. If you play both sides, you always come out on top.

Seriously, though, Tork’s rookie season was an immense disappointment. I understand those with the point of view that he was rushed to the bigs, but a former first overall pick that’s raked at every level of the minors isn’t going to debut at 25.

Watching him from the ballpark at different points in the year, it seemed that Tork was at first letting too many pitches go, but later, when the balls weren’t bouncing the right way, he seemed to press. Strikeouts are inherent to his profile, so if he can keep walking at a rate similar to the top third of the league, he should have a consistent floor as he continues to grow.

The biggest thing that needs to change with Tork’s game, and what I hope will be accomplished following the hiring of new hitting coach Michael Brdar, is that he begins to lift the ball more. With an average exit velocity in the top quartile of MLB, it was far too frequent that one would see a ball get smoked by Spenny T only to be gloved in the infield.

Torkelson’s 40.7 GB% has him sharing an approach with 2022 Dominic Smith and 2022 Andrew McCutchen. Not good. A veteran with a ceiling similar to Tork’s is someone like Kyle Schwarber. Following a disappointing 2020 season, Schwarber reduced what was a 51.2 GB% to a 39.4% in 2021 and 34.3% in 2022, with both numbers being well below league average. He led the NL in homers this past year!

Spencer won’t become the current version of Kyle Schwarber overnight, that’s for sure. However, if he can use his already above average rate at which he barrels the ball, and uses the gaps and corner fences of Comerica Park, Torkelson should be able to make that first season be memory wiped away like if Will Smith used the Neuralyzer on us.

Player to Watch #2: OF Matt Vierling

Matt Vierling is a player that I thought about individually profiling before he ended up on my team, so I’m glad he’s here. Matt Vierling was one of the unluckiest players in baseball in 2022, but he can become a quality player for Detroit in 2023.

The former Golden Domer saw his .327 xwOBA projection realized on the field as an almost unplayable .285. A 52 point swing in either direction was only bested by four other lucky/unlucky qualified hitters. Combine this with poor center field defense, and you see why the Phillies made the move midseason to acquire Brandon Marsh as Vierling’s replacement.

While Vierling’s on-field results may not have been as desired (.246/.297/.351), his peripherals are very promising. Although his 24th percentile Barrel% means that he’s in the bottom quartile of MLB in terms of quality contact, his high-80’s percentile Exit Velocity and HardHit% means that he’ll slap the ball no matter where it ends up on the bat.

This is a player that doesn’t walk much and strikes out at a below average clip, so he loves putting those lasers in play often. With an expected batting average of .277, Vierling was in the top ten percent of MLB in that category. What that means for him as a Tiger is that he can use the expansive outfield dimensions of Comerica Park to his advantage, rather than playing for power at the shallow Citizens Bank Park.

As a right-handed outfielder, and the lone with big league experience for Detroit, Vierling has a pre-carved niche available for him to fill. Even with his struggles in his first extended big league season last year, he still hit for a .760 OPS against lefties.

Given the defensive struggles of Austin Meadows, along with the inexperience of Akil Baddoo and Kerry Carpenter, it’s not hard to imagine Vierling being the Tigers’ second most valuable outfielder next season behind Riley Greene.

Player to Watch #3: INF Andre Lipcius

I was getting ready to talk about Mr. Lipcius like he’d be up with the big league club to start the year, but instead he’ll be down in Toledo. He slashed .290/.290/.605 in Spring Training (38 PAs), so he should become one of the few Avila-era draft picks to eventually play for the Tigers.

Quick aside on Al Avila draft picks. Only 22 draft picks (since 2015) made by Avila have played for Detroit if you include the 2022 season. That number drops to 12 if you don’t. Of those players, I would say only John Schreiber, Manning, Mize, Skubal, Tork, and Greene have shown they can be competent. Only two of those players were drafted outside of the first half of the first round.

The rest of those original 12 include: Matt Hall, Christin Stewart, Tyler Alexander, Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser, Jacob Robson, and Drew Carlton.

Before this past season, the former third round pick Lipcius had steadily advanced through the minor leagues to little fanfare. Posting a 90 wRC+ in AA Erie during his age-23 season, it looked like Andre would be another classic Al Avila unremarkable draft pick.

In 2022, however, Lipcius posted a 130 wRC+ after another two-thirds of a season in Erie. There was no noticeable drop-off in production upon a promotion to AAA on August 3, with Lipcius maintaining a 124 wRC+. The kid who studied nuclear engineering credits a newfound analytical calmness, especially helpful for a high-minor jump, to his experience in that discipline.

While his plate discipline numbers and isolated power stayed relatively the same, an area for concern about Lipcius’ immediate success in his first season in AAA would be his near 60 point rise in BABIP from .295 to .354. However, I’m confident that his profile as a hitter won’t massively swing his outcomes one way or another.

Throughout his time in the minors, Lipcius has never been a big power threat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. He does a good job with walks and strikeouts (86 BB/89 K in 2022), and he prioritizes contact. He’s at about a 50/50 split between ground ball and flyball outcomes, while hitting line drives in about a quarter of his ABs.

The right handed infield vets in Detroit’s lineup will receive playing time to start the year, and if Schoop and Cesar can’t play, they can be easily let loose. As a defensively average infielder everywhere but shortstop, Lipcius would need to show in Toledo that he can sustain the caliber of offensive play seen in 2022 to jump over other righties Ryan Kreidler and Tyler Nevin.

2023 Record Prediction: 68-94

The new schedule isn’t going to do Detroit many favors. Instead of playing a bulk of their games against the AL Central, they’ll play the rest of the American League more often. Instead of having to face their “rival” Pirates most often in interleague play, they’ll be subject to the rest of the NL.

It’s a poor situation to deal with given that the team is already at a huge disadvantage due to their talent deficit in comparison to the rest of MLB.

Offensively, the Tigers cut ties with many of the black hole hitters they trotted out in 2022. However, I think the ones that have returned, like Torkelson and Schoop, shouldn’t be worst-in-the-league bad with the bat. Additionally, the evolution of younger players, along with a full season from Austin Meadows, should buoy a previously anemic offense.

In terms of the team’s pitching, which was nearly average last season, I’m not as optimistic. I think that the injuries that have ravaged the rotation are really going to show up this season without those pitchers affected playing. The bullpen got worse, too. I’m not sure who Detroit is able to rely on throughout the season unless someone like Matt Manning makes a leap.

We’re going to see a season in which the offense improves from being “unwatchable” to “sometimes palatable”. The pitching staff, on the other hand, is probably going to suffer from a talent drain and fall back in line with the rest of the bottom feeders.

I’ve already said elsewhere in this article that Detroit is going to lose 90 games this year, but I don’t think they’ll be awful. Vegas has set Detroit’s win total at around 67.5, depending on where you go. Being cautiously optimistic, I’ll take the over by half of a win. I also think that Kansas City will again finish below Detroit in the AL Central standings. 

At least I won’t be tricked into believing this year’s team could sneak into a Wild Card spot like last season.

Categories: 2023 Season Preview, Articles, Season Analysis

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1 reply

  1. Very impressive article !

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