One of the questions that has hovered over Brad Ausmus, Al Avila, and the rest of the Detroit Tigers like a storm cloud since the first day of spring training is who should be the Tigers’ fifth starter? The Tigers already have four guys who are a lock for the rotation, barring any injuries. Obviously, Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer will start on the big league squad, as will Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann, if they can stay healthy.
That means there is one spot remaining. If you were in charge, who would you want the Tigers to choose? We have three potential candidates: Matt Boyd, Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey. All of them have pitched at least 95 major league innings last year.
LHP Matt Boyd
26 years old, under team control until 2018 (arbitration 2019-21)
Matt Boyd was acquired from the Blue Jays along with Daniel Norris when the Tigers traded David Price to Toronto at the trade deadline in 2015. Boyd started the 2016 season in Triple-A Toledo before being called up to make a couple of spot starts at the end of April and May. He came back up in June to stay, making 20 starts in total. Apart from a terrible final outing at the end of September where he didn’t record an out, he had a solid final eight starts. He pitched at least six innings in all but two of those starts while giving up three runs or fewer in those six of them. He also didn’t walk more than two guys in any of those final eight starts, and had a total of 32 strikeouts during that stretch.
So far in spring training, it appears Boyd picked up right where he left off in 2016. He has kept his walks down and gotten plenty of strikeouts while only allowing a few runs. Really, the only thing he needs to work on going into the season is limiting the hits a little bit, as he is averaging just over a hit an inning so far in his career.
2016 Season Stats
RHP Anibal Sanchez
33 years old, 1 year remaining at $16.8 million ($16 million team option with $5 million buyout in 2018)
Anibal Sanchez has been in the Tigers’ rotation for the past four and a half years. In 2013, he was the American League’s Earned Run Average champion. Last year, he was one of the worst starters in baseball. In order for Anibal to earn the fifth starting spot, he has to land somewhere between those two. We don’t need the lights-out hard-thrower he used to be, we just need him to not be a liability in the rotation. He has shown flashes of his former self at times over the past two years, but has been a concern most of the time. This spring has been much of the same thus far.
However, Sanchez hasn’t allowed one walk or run in eight innings of work in his past two outings. He only gave up two hits in that stretch while racking up nine strikeouts. Hopefully he can continue down this path, as it’s something we haven’t consistently seen from Anibal in quite some time.
2017 Spring Training Stats
RHP Mike Pelfrey
33 years old, 1 year remaining at $8 million
Mike Pelfrey was signed by the Tigers during the offseason prior to the 2016 season. He had a rough first season with the Tigers, and was up and down most of the season. Mike didn’t seem to have any consistency and also was injured, so he has been a concern all around. Like Sanchez, Pelfrey has shown flashes of being the starter he once was. However, it doesn’t seem like he is making much progress from one start to the next. He has had a couple of solid outings in spring training but he seems to take one step forward and two steps back. Hopefully he is able to improve through this last week of spring training. Otherwise, it’s hard to make a case for him edging out Boyd or Sanchez for the final spot.
Who should be the Tigers’ fifth starter?
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