We’re into a new era with the Detroit Tigers now, and it may be a while before there’s a whole lot to cheer about. Meanwhile, former Tigers talent is now seeded all throughout the major leagues. So while Opening Weekend—yes it’s a thing—continues, I thought it would be cool to check-in on some old friends, some that were with the team just recently and others that have been gone for some time.
Justin Verlander is coming off one hell of a year in which he won ALCS MVP, and collected his long awaited first World Series ring. Verlander started the 10th Opening Day of his career for the Houston Astros. He went six innings allowing zero runs on four hits and two walks versus five strikeouts. He featured four of his five pitches, his four-seam, slider, curve and the recently added cutter. Missing was a changeup that has steadily gone by the way-side even to left-handed batters who normally would see at least a few. The fastball was typical JV ranging from 93.3 to 97.1 mph and averaging 95 mph. He split 11 whiffs with six coming from the four-seamer and five coming from his slider. Verlander’s next start is slated for Tuesday, April 2nd when the Astros host the Orioles in the second of a three-game home opening series in Houston. In every way he looks like a legit Cy Young contender in 2018.
Losing JD Martinez was one of the toughest pills to swallow in quite some time when you consider how he erupted in Detroit. After three and a half spectacular seasons full of incredible memories, JD rightfully moved on to greener pastures by signing with the Boston Red Sox this offseason for a well-earned, and quite substantial, sum. Martinez opened up the 2018 season hitting clean-up for the Red Sox. He went one for three with a single, a walk and two strikeouts.
Justin Wilson is still with the Chicago Cubs and with some recent changes to their bullpen roster his role in 2018 will likely be even bigger, especially as the Cubs are primed to be a top contender in the NL Central. On Opening Day Wilson tallied a clean inning with a strikeout. He threw 11 four-seamers ranging between 94.1 and 95.6 mph with an average of 94.8. He also showcased his cutter and slider, landing two swinging strikes out of four cutters.
Ian Kinsler did not appear in the Opening Day of 2018 due to a groin issue. The Angels haven’t put him on the disabled list, and the injury is minor, so we may see him back on the field within days rather than weeks. Although he will no doubt be a focal point in the Los Angeles Angels infield this season, we’ll have to wait a few more games to see him in action.
Justin Upton remained under contact with the Angels for the 2018 season. He really lit it up in 2017 with the Tigers which no doubt aided in convincing the Angels to extend him for four seasons. Now protecting some guy named Mike Trout on a team many pundits are picking as surprise Wild Card favorites, Upton batted third for the Angels on Opening Day, but unfortunately went 0-for-5.
Camron Maybin was signed by the Miami Marlins in free agency this year. Although he didn’t earn a starting role out of spring training, he landed the fourth outfielder position which should give him ample opportunity both at the plate and in the outfield since he’s on a National League team. Like Rajai Davis, he’s a veteran in his 30’s who retains the ability to nab a base at any time.
Anibal Sanchez got a quick look from the Minnesota Twins this spring, and then was signed by the Atlanta Braves to a minor league deal late in spring training. He appeared in several games for the Atlanta Braves and although his numbers weren’t quite enough to nab a spot on the Opening Day roster, injuries in the Braves’ rotation have Sanchez slated to be called upon April 10th as fifth starter.
Francisco Rodriguez took a somewhat predictable dive in 2017. His performance collapsed to a point that forced the Tigers to release him. He signed with the Nationals and appeared in a few minor league games sporadically. He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies to a minor league deal, but due to a unsatisfactory performance he was cut by the Phillies.
Yoenis Cespedes had a short stint in Detroit that lasted half a season. Since then he’s been on the New York Mets after the trade that landed us Michael Fulmer. Cespedes batted second on Opening Day and hit two singles in five at bats with three RBI and two strikeouts. Cespedes will no doubt be a focal point of the Mets this season. As he goes, so does their offense.
David Price really excited the fans though he was only in Detroit for parts of two seasons. it felt like he was here for several seasons longer than that. Price landed in Boston after playing a rental in a trade that landed the Tigers Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd. After a rocky 2016 campaign, and a forearm issue early last season, Price returned to form in the second half of 2017, and looks to remind everyone why he is an elite starter.
Rajai Davis rejoins the Cleveland Indians in 2018. He made the 25-man roster out of Spring Training but is mostly going to assume the fourth outfielder spot. Presumably he’ll start against lefties and do an awful lot of pinch running, as he did on Thursday night against the Mariners. Now 37 years old, the speedy Davis remains one of the better thieves in the game and should continue to wreak some havoc on the basepaths this season.
Despite a career in Detroit that spanned less than a decade, Max Scherzer will be remembered as one of the more dominant starters in Tigers history. He’s only improved with the Washington Nationals, creating even more memorable moments including two no-hitters and a 20 strikeout game which came against the Tigers in 2016. He was named the Nats Opening Day starter for the 2018 season, and showed typically dominant stuff on Friday, punching out 10 Reds in six innings of shutout work. Scherzer is coming off back-to-back Cy Young awards so expect him to be among the top pitchers in the game again in 2018.
Rick Porcello developed and honed his craft coming up through the minors with the Tigers organization. He blossomed quite well given the tools he had and definitely gave fans numerous good memories. Porcello was used to land Yoenis Cespedes from the Red Sox following the 2014 offseason. Porcello has been up and down ever since, riding the waves of his batted ball luck despite consistently solid peripherals. You can probably expect a bounceback in 2018 after he struggled to back up his controversial 2016 Cy Young award last year.
Eugenio Suarez was unfortunately simply not given enough time in Detroit to grow and develop. This is evident because he’s developed into quite a fine hitting third baseman since being traded to the Cincinnati Reds. You’ll recall the Tigers moved him after a fine rookie season in 2014, in the deal which landed the Tigers Alfredo Simon. So yeah, that didn’t turn out so well. Suarez continues to be the Reds’ starting third basemen, and is flashing legitimate home run power these days so no doubt we’ll be seeing highlights of him throughout the season.