The MLB season is right around the corner and things are about to get interesting for the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers might be pretty bad again, but this team will be exciting, as they have lots of young players set to make their debuts or play out the rest of their rookie seasons.
They also have a few players who had break out years last summer and I’m wondering if they’ll be able to keep up that same production. Without further delay, here is my pre-spring lineup predictions.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos
The Tigers brought veteran catcher Wilson Ramos in on a cheap one-year deal to likely be the starting catcher. Jake Rogers or Greyson Greiner will be his backup. Rogers, once a big piece in the Justin Verlander trade is now a 25-year-old prospect yet to play a full season on a big-league club.
Rogers definitely has the defensive tools to be an everyday catcher in the bigs, but what’s holding him back right now is his hitting. The Tigers gave him a shot back in 2019 and he had a batting average of .125.
I think every Tiger fan has seen enough from Greyson Greiner, but he’ll be fighting for a roster spot this spring. He’s a big kid with a 6’6″ frame, but is yet to show any signs of power.
First Base: Renanto Nunez
The Tigers also brought in Nunez on a cheap one-year deal, but his position is still up in the air. Nunez hasn’t played a lot of first in his career, but he’s the closest thing they have to a major league first baseman on the Tigers roster.
Detroit’s manager, AJ Hinch, has brought up Miguel Cabrera playing first a couple times a week. This is a possibility, but don’t be surprised if he is strictly a DH.
Jeimer Candelario played a lot of first base last year after CJ Cron went down with a leg injury after taking a ground ball off the knee. Candelario is a very good defender at third, so it wouldn’t make any sense to play him at first where he was terrible a year ago.
Second Base: Jonathon Schoop
Jonathon Schoop had a decent year last year with the Tigers, so they brought him back on yet another 1-year deal. In 2020, Schoop was a gold glove finalist for his play at second base. I don’t see anyone challenging him for the starting second base position, but if he were to go down with an injury or something of that nature, you could expect Isaac Paredes to fill his role.
Paredes was called up last year to the Tigers near the end of the season. He wasn’t necessarily good, but he did show some flashes of what he is capable of doing offensively. Paredes will likely start in triple-A Toledo, but will eventually get called up this season.
Third Base: Jeimer Candelario
Jeimer Candelario had an incredible breakout season last year in which he hit .297 and had an OPS of .872. Candelario has always shown flashes of being great in his time with the Tigers, but had never fully broken out until last year.
If Candelario can keep this type of production up, saying that he will be an all-star isn’t a hot take. If for whatever reason Candelario would play first this season, Paredes would likely play third just like last year.
Short Stop: Willi Castro
Willi Castro had an amazing rookie season in 2020. Castro batted .349 and had an OPS of .932. Those stats are absolutely ridiculous for a rookie, and it was enough to get him 4th in Rookie of the Year voting.
Maybe this is my inner fan coming out, but Castro probably should have finished second for the award. Although Castro showed a lot of promise at the plate in his rookie season, he was an absolute dumpster fire at shortstop. He had a 0.6 defensive WAR in 2020.
Because of his terrible defense there have been talks about him moving to the outfield, but I’ll believe that when I see it. Castro’s back up will be Niko Goodrum. Goodrum is a really solid defensive short stop, so he’ll get a fair share of starts there this season.
Left Field: Robbie Grossman
Tigers general manager, Al Avila, finally signed a player to a multi-year deal, as he signed former Oakland Athletics left fielder Robbie Grossman to a 2-year, 10 million dollar deal.
If I’m being honest, there are way better options for you at 10 million a year, but I’m not going to freak out about it. I expect Grossman to be slightly above average and nothing more.
Defensively he’s not great, and has the potential to steal 10 bases a year. The Tigers don’t really have a traditional lead off hitter, but Grossman is the closest thing to it.
The backup left fielder will either be Victor Reyes, who had a nice 2020 season but isn’t an everyday starting outfielder, or Daz Cameron, who was pretty bad at the plate in his first few at bats at the major league level last season.
Center Field: Jacoby Jones
Jacoby Jones actually had a sneaky good season in 2020 before getting hurt late in the year. Jones batted .368 and had an OPS of .849, both being career highs by a long shot. Throughout his career his defense has been a rollercoster of good and bad.
He’s fully capable of being an elite defender, but just needs to stay healthy. Last year when Jones went down with an injury after being hit by a pitch, the Tigers called up Derek Hill.
Hill had 1 hit in 11 at bats in his first taste of the bigs. To be honest, I’m not sure what his ceiling is, but he’ll probably be at best a fourth outfielder on an average team. He’ll likely start in triple-A to begin the season.
Right Field: Nomar Mazara
Mazara was brought in on another cheap 1-year deal by Al Avila. A lot of Tigers fans were very excited about this signing because Mazara has somewhat of a name to himself, as he was once a top prospect. But the truth is… he’s really not that great. He’s never had an OPS above .800, and he’s basically either going to hit the ball in the upper deck, or strikeout. Defensively he’s not great at all. Victor Reyes will likely get some starts in right this season as the fourth outfielder.
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