Every September, the active rosters of the teams of Major League Baseball expand to include some of the minor leaguers on the 40-man roster. A handful of those players are top prospects getting their first taste of the big leagues.
However, the majority of players that will likely be joining the Detroit Tigers in the next few days fall into a second group. These are players who have seen time on Detroit’s roster in the past, but weren't good enough to stick. The few who are worth getting excited about will make this September interesting — one of the few pleasant things about an otherwise forgettable Tigers season.
While some see Triple-A standouts Bryan Garcia and Artie Lewicki as natural fits for this roster, it is unlikely that they will join the major league club. The same goes for outfielders Christin Stewart and Mike Gerber, who have dominated in their time in Double-A. The reason? Roster expansion is limited to players on the 40-man roster, and it’s unlikely that changes will be made to accommodate players who are not yet included -- especially if they aren’t eligible for the Rule 5 draft during December’s Winter Meetings.
Here are some of the players we might see in Detroit next month.
Jeimer Candelario is the best position prospect acquired to date by the Al Avila regime. While Candelario is somewhat lacking in speed or quickness on the field, he is a solid defender with an above-average arm that suits him at the hot corner. If nothing else, he will be a major defensive upgrade over Nicholas Castellanos.
Candelario’s real value is in the batter’s box, though. A natural hitter from either side of the plate, Candelario has earned plus grades on his hit tool. He also projects to have average power. Having only played one game with the Tigers, the front office really hasn't had time to form a complete opinion of him yet. How he performs down the stretch will likely be a determining factor in how he will split playing time with Castellanos in 2018.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. By all accounts, Norris’ stuff is above-average to plus across the board. He has bounced back from cancer and a broken back. We still haven’t seen the best he has to offer. With the exception of part of the 2016 season, he has either been hurt or struggling with his command. Relegated to the minors after a subpar 2017 season, he will probably get another shot when rosters expand.
Recently rated the No. 13 prospect in the Tigers' farm system by the BYB community, Labourt's 2017 season has been one big surprise. He came to the Tigers as the third piece in the July 2015 trade that sent David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays. Always tantalizing evaluators with his powerful stuff, Labourt’s results were decidedly unexciting. The culprit? Ridiculously high walk numbers were savaging his otherwise solid performances.
However, a move to the bullpen seems to have straightened him out. Batters in High-A wilted in the face of his plus fastball/slider combo, and he cut his 17.2 percent walk rate in 2016 to just 5.9 percent. He also mastered Double-A with similar ease, but has hit a bump in Triple-A, walking 22 batters n 21 innings. But with an ailing bullpen at the major league level, the Tigers may look at Labourt’s otherwise shiny Triple-A ERA and call him up anyway.
On a team that is full of fireballers and has many more stockpiled in the minors, it takes quite a lot to become established as Detroit's most hated high-heat pitcher. That's exactly what Rondon has done, though. Labeled the Tigers' closer of the future for years, Rondon has had but one decent season in their bullpen. He pitched well enough in 2013, but missed the next season due to Tommy John surgery. Upon his return in 2015, he proceeded to walk 5.52 batters per nine innings and was sent to the minors.
He finally showed some of what had prospect hounds excited in the 2016 season, pitching to a 2.97 ERA and cutting his walks to a mere 8.3 percent. This season, Rondon has been back to his regular schtick, with copious walks and too few strikeouts. Pair that with his history of behavioral problems, and he is on his way to being a September call-up for the rest of his tenure with Detroit.
It's shocking that Adduci has even reached the majors. The fact that he has been worth 0.5 WAR in under 100 plate appearances this year is even more stunning. He has become valuable depth to the Tigers and will see action from their bench this September, though his future is still uncertain.
A starter-turned-reliever who has failed to impress in either role, Ryan will be given another chance to crack the Tigers' weak bullpen. His stuff is fringe-average, but his decent control and ground ball ability have gotten him to the majors in the past. He has a 6'5 frame, and throws from the left side, so there’s always a chance he finds work as a situational pitcher.
Jaye is one of the players sent to the Tigers in the shuffle of trades that sent Bryan Holaday to the Rangers. A 25-year-old righthander, Jaye has a four-pitch mix that he is able to control passably. He lives in the bottom of the zone, surviving more on grounders than on over-powering hitters with his stuff. MLB.com says that the slider flashes plus occasionally and notes good life on the fastball. If he can find more consistent control of his repertoire, he could be a back-end starter, something the Tigers desperately need.