Okay, fine. It's my fault. Shortly after I wrote an article titled "Spring training is here and nobody got hurt yet," people started getting hurt. Anibal Sanchez's triceps got angry. Ditto Alex Wilson's shoulder. Montreal Robertson subluxed* his shoulder during a workout, and Cameron Maybin hurt his while being a good father.
Then Luis Severino happened. An errant fastball from the Yankees' young flamethrower hit Maybin in the left wrist, resulting in a hairline fracture that will keep the Tigers' center fielder sidelined for four to six weeks. Odds are he won't be out too long after that -- bones heal quickly relative to other structures, and it doesn't sound like a bad break -- but he may still miss some regular season action.
The Tigers will likely replace Maybin with an internal candidate, but fans are already interested in who takes his place. Manager Brad Ausmus mentioned Andrew Romine and Mike Aviles as possibilities, but both are natural infielders. Tyler Collins is also in the mix, but is more of a corner outfielder. Wynton Bernard is a natural center fielder, but hasn't played above Double-A. Luckily, it seems like this decision will be short-lived at the start of the year.
*A subluxation is essentially a partial dislocation of a joint in which the bone pops out slightly and then pops back in. Soft tissue surrounding the joint gets injured, and treatment typically consists of rest and rehabilitation.
Besides Bobby Parnell, which non-roster invitee has the biggest shot of breaking camp with the team?
Last week, Bobby Parnell was the only non-roster invitee with a non-zero chance of making the Tigers' Opening Day roster. However, with Cameron Maybin now on the shelf for four to six weeks, John Mayberry's chances of grabbing a roster spot just perked up. Mayberry is a 32-year-old righty with a career .833 OPS against left-handed pitching. His offensive numbers fell off last season, but he is just one year removed from hitting .243/.341/.571 in limited action against southpaws.
Defensively, Mayberry is a more versatile Maybin replacement than someone like Wynton Bernard. The 25-year-old Bernard might be a better center fielder, but Mayberry has spent time in both corner outfield spots, and can play first base as well. Bernard (who is on the 40-man roster) might be a better short-term replacement, but Mayberry could weasel his way into the mix if Maybin has any sort of setback.
Say Greene, Boyd, Parnell, Rondon, VerHagen, and Fulmer all look good in spring training and Sanchez is healthy again. Who do the Tigers take north and in what roles (i.e. does someone bump Pelfrey or Norris)?
It was going to take an extenuating set of circumstances for either Mike Pelfrey or Daniel Norris to get bumped from the Opening Day starting rotation, and early spring training results have only cemented their status. They will be in the rotation, and the only question is whether Daniel Norris gets the nod for the team's home opener on April 8.
If everyone else goes bananas and has a monster spring, I'd like to see the Tigers select Parnell and Bruce Rondon as their final two relievers. I went into detail last week on why Parnell forcing his way onto the roster is good for the Tigers, so here's the cliff notes version: he has a spot on the 40-man roster waiting for him and you can't get him back if you cut him. Parnell also has a higher ceiling than anyone on that list, and could be a major bargain for the Tigers if he regains his prior form.
As for Rondon, it comes down to two things: options and potential. Rondon only has one option year remaining, and the Tigers would do well to preserve that for as long as possible. Greene and VerHagen are in the same boat, but Rondon has the highest potential in one-inning stints of the three. If he turns into yet another late inning option, the Tigers could ultimately have one of the better bullpens in the league.
What are the chances that JaCoby Jones makes an appearance on the Tigers roster after his suspension? What position does he profile at: shortstop or outfield?
While Jones has impressed so far in spring training, he probably won't see any playing time in Detroit before September. Jones only played 40 games at the Double-A level last season, and a six-week vacation following spring training won't make for a quick transition to a higher level. Jones will probably return to Erie for most of the season, and could force his way onto Toledo's roster with another strong performance. If all goes well, we may see more of Jones in 2017.
Assuming a scenario where Sanchez is out injured for more than 3/4 of the season, how much do you think it would impact the Tigers' playoff chances?
Forget 3/4 -- if Anibal Sanchez is out for more than one quarter of the Tigers' season, it has a significant impact on the Tigers' playoff chances. When healthy, Sanchez is a legitimate mid-rotation starter who has looked like an ace for large parts of his Tigers' career. His replacements, while young and improving, had the following ERAs in major league action in 2015.
Shane Greene: 6.88
Matt Boyd: 6.57
Buck Farmer: 7.36
Michael Fulmer: Did not appear in MLB games
There's good reason to believe that all of these pitchers will get better, but we're still a long way from the type of numbers Sanchez has put up over a sustained period of time. Odds are all four of those pitchers will start a game for the Tigers at some point, but if those come at the expense of a hobbled Anibal Sanchez, the team could be in trouble.
Which team that everyone expects to get to the World Series, or at least the Championship Series, doesn’t, and which team (Tigers excluded) surprise and get further than expected?
The easy answer to that first question is the Chicago Cubs. They're going to win a lot of games, but they play in a brutal division and are relying on players like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell to not run into that dreaded sophomore slump. Everyone seems to love Ben Zobrist (while hating the Tigers' veteran players), and they're relying on an aging John Lackey to stabilize their rotation.
Plus, it's an even year so the San Francisco Giants will be back in the postseason.
Picking a surprise team is a very easy way for me to look stupid -- after all, I picked the Seattle Mariners to get to the World Series last year. Plus, with the amount of parity in today's game, it's tough to call many teams a real "surprise."
That said, I wouldn't sleep on the Washington Nationals. They battled a slew of injuries last season, relied almost entirely on Bryce Harper to carry their offense, and still won 83 games. Their defense should improve with Trea Turner at shortstop, and a healthy Anthony Rendon is a huge boost for their offense. Plus, their rotation is still spearheaded by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, with a fair amount of rotation depth behind them and the top pitching prospect in baseball lurking in the minors. Don't crown the New York Mets just yet.