Here are 3 Tigers storylines to watch this spring

Detroit Tigers

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Scott Harris officially took over day-to-day control of the Tigers’ baseball operations the day after the 2022 season ended. His fingerprints on Detroit’s roster have been left entirely during the offseason, from two major trades to a bevy of waiver claims. When Spring Training opens next week, he’ll have a chance to evaluate the roster and the system close up, in some cases for the first time since he was hired in September.

With lots of young talent in camp — some prospects, some with Major League experience — Harris should get a better idea about the Tigers’ road to contention. But while Harris is thinking about the long term, he and manager A.J. Hinch will have plenty of decisions to make for 2023 before Opening Day against Tampa Bay on March 30.

Here are three storylines to watch as the Tigers begin another Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla.

The Tigers have no shortage of candidates to replace the non-tendered Jeimer Candelario, but will anyone actually emerge from camp as an obvious choice?

Infield prospect Ryan Kreidler has prospect status and has enjoyed some Spring Training heroics the last few years, but he needs to show that he can hit for better contact. Non-roster invite Andy Ibáñez has a history of strong Spring Trainings from his days with the Rangers, but he struggled in Texas last season after winning the Opening Day job. Nick Maton, acquired from the Phillies in the Gregory Soto trade, has a solid chance to become the left-handed-hitting option but needs to prove himself. Even outfielder Matt Vierling, who also came over in the Soto trade, could be an option; he played five games at third for the Phillies last season.

Then there’s recently acquired prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy, who — barring anarchy — won’t win a starting job out of camp but can put himself in position for a potential midseason callup with a solid spring as a non-roster invite. The Braves had moved Malloy to left field last year, but the Tigers want to see if he can handle third base.

Is Tork ready for a bounceback?

Spencer Torkelson has had an up-and-down relationship with Spring Training, from lacerating a thumb trying to open a can with a knife two years ago to winning an Opening Day role last spring. He doesn’t need a Grapefruit League MVP campaign — figure of speech, there’s no such award — to show that last year’s struggles are behind him. He just needs to build on signs of progress he showed down the stretch last year following his September callup, from reducing his swing-and-miss rate to crushing more fastballs.

“I would say I lost my swing a little bit,” Torkelson told MLB Network Radio last month, “just because I felt like I was sped up, I wasn’t myself. So it was really just getting back to myself in the batter’s box and trusting that if I just get back to my swing [from] junior year of college, my 2021 Minor League campaign, if I just get more consistency with that swing, everything’s going to take care of itself.”

Other than moving Jonathan Schoop back from second base, or bringing Vierling in from the outfield, the Tigers don’t have a viable alternative. Miguel Cabrera, who turns 40 in April, hasn’t played first base since 2021.

“We have other options if we need to,” Hinch said, “but clearly our best team has Spencer Torkelson as a major contributor.”

Who’s at the back of the bullpen?

Not only is Soto gone, opening up the closer role, so is setup man Joe Jiménez, traded to Atlanta, and lefty Andrew Chafin, still a free agent after opting out of his contract in November. The result is a transition for Detroit’s bullpen with a young relief corps aside from José Cisnero, and big opportunities for relievers to step up.

Alex Lange is seen by some as a future closer, not just for his nasty arsenal but for his aggressive mentality. But Cisnero has four career saves, more than anyone on Detroit’s roster other than reliever-turned-starter Michael Lorenzen. Jason Foley’s elevated ERA overshadowed an impressive 24-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the second half of last season. Will Vest picked up an impressive save against the Orioles on May 13.

Don’t be surprised if Hinch mixes and matches his relievers.

“Those roles are going to have to sort themselves out,” Hinch said. “We’ve got any number of names that we can use. We’re probably going to get to the finish line a couple different ways this year until something evolves better. … But I can assure you we’ll feel good about the last three outs once we get the lead.”

That mix isn’t easy to test in Spring Training games, when many hitters don’t play all nine innings. Still, expect Hinch to find ways to experiment with some of his young relievers.

Articles You May Like

Javier Báez to the 10-day IL, Ryan Kreidler recalled from Toledo
Detroit Free Press Voice Briefing Friday June 14, 2024
Torkelson Talks in Toledo
Trei Cruz powers SeaWolves over Altoona
Tigers 7, Nationals 2: Let’s hear it for the boy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *