I write this fine Monday morning as a happy man, for this is the last Monday until October without real baseball. As we move closer to Opening Day, the final pieces of what will be this year’s Detroit Tigers team are falling into place.
The same can be said for every team across Major League Baseball. A lot of things are happening. While some young players are realizing their lifelong dream of playing in the show, there are others out there facing the hard truth that their career may very well be over (pouring one out for Ryan Raburn). You may have been too busy watching some collegiate squad from Ann Arbor this weekend to pay attention to baseball, so let me help you catch up with what’s going on.
Cuts like a knife
The tigers released infielder Alexi Amarista on Saturday in a move that basically solidified the roster for position players. Namely, infielder Niko Goodrum appears to be your new Don Kelly. On the pitching side of things, the picture is also becoming clearer. The team placed reliever Blaine Hardy on waivers over the weekend. He cleared, and has been assigned to Triple-A Toledo. After dealing with a shoulder injury most of the spring, Hardy finally got himself back into pitching shape, but not quite soon enough to prove himself worthy of a spot in Detroit.
General manager Al Avila spoke a bit about the decision to place Hardy on waivers and some of the other choices the team made for this year’s Opening Day roster. Avila made some positive comments on JaCoby Jones and rule 5 pick-up Victor Reyes, saying that they are impressed with him. Avila also lauded Reyes’ power and ability in batting practice. Yes, batting practice.
Now, Reyes didn’t come without some measure of promise, but let’s not forget there’s a reason why guys are made available in the rule 5 draft. Reyes is a player who carries a career .726 OPS as a minor leaguer, and is hitting .250 with a .579 OPS through spring training. But to listen to Al Avila, you might think differently. The rave reviews on Reyes’ batting cage prowess don’t exactly get me fired up. A lot of guys could dazzle you in BP (see: Moya, Steven). It’s a little different when velocity and movement enter the picture in game situations.
Opening Day starter Jordan Zimmermann got hit around a little bit in his final spring training start. He cited his slider not getting where he wanted it to as part of the problem, and while admitting his curve was more effective, he said he didn’t rely on it as much because he was working on the slider. Knowing what pitches are effective on any given day is nice, and if the slider shows the promise it did in the few starts prior to the most recent one, Zimmermann could have his best season in a Tigers uniform. The recognition of what is and isn’t working is nice to hear from Zimmermann. I hope he can find a way to stick with what’s working during the regular season.
The Tigers might not be terrible?
Carlos Monarrez or the Detroit Free Press offers up 9 reasons why the Tigers might not be terrible in 2018. The Tigers are going to be terrible, and what I think he was getting at instead of saying they might not be terrible, is that there are things that might not be terrible about this team. Many of his reasons have merit, like Miguel Cabrera, Michael Fulmer, and Nick Castellanos. Some of his reasons don’t.
And then there’s this comment on Justin Verlander:
“What I am saying is Verlander had a strong personality, which sometimes can hamper the personalities and the cohesion among younger players who will largely make up the Tigers’ roster this year. Sometimes the right mix of veterans encourages young players in just the right way. But sometimes young players need to find their own way and grow together as a group.”
I’m not quite sure what he was driving at here, but I can see it being interpreted as Verlander not being a great influence in the locker room.
When your team has the No. 1 pick and they’re in the first season of a rebuild, it’s never too early to start getting excited about the MLB draft. George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press gives us 10 guys to consider. Number three on that list, a pitcher out of Auburn named Casey Mize, is an early favorite among many.
Casey Mize (@AuburnBaseball) strikes out his 12th Wildcat on an 89 mph split-change and he’s pretty excited about it. Day is done. 7IP, 5H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, 12K. Now has 63 Ks & just 3 BB on the season. #MLBDraft @2080ball pic.twitter.com/ovbp5bxbps— Burke Granger (@burkegranger) March 24, 2018
When will I see you again?
If you have an interest in the youth movement in the organization and when we might expect some of the young players to make their debuts (and you should), then you should check out the preview of the top 20 prospects according to the Free Press and when they may make their way to the Motor City. They have quite a few guys slated to show up this year or next, so it’s a good list to be familiar with.
Around the horn
The maturation of Byron Buxton. Two-way prospect Brendan McKay looks to balance hitting and pitching. Baseball America makes their bold predictions for 2018, and Miguel Cabrera makes an appearance as a bounce-back player candidate.