One of the Detroit Tigers’ Achilles heels since their 21st century Golden Age has been the reliability of its bullpen (or lack thereof) and recent years have been no different. However, coming into the first season of the new decade, the organization continues to take fliers on fringy major leaguers, minor leaguers, Rule 5 selections and washed out veterans, as well as a few budding prospects that are the mix. This makes for a compelling storyline, as up to 14 guys duke it out on the mound for a chance to go north with the team.
Currently, six bullpen spots are presumably up for grabs, as no one relief pitcher outside of Buck Farmer and Joe Jiménez is guaranteed a job in Detroit — and frankly, none of them have earned it yet. Starting with the fringy vets, Hector Santiago, Zack Godley and old friend Alex Wilson are a trio of hurlers on the wrong side of 30 (Godley turns 30 in April) looking to squeeze a bit more out of their big league careers. Santiago is four years removed from his career high water mark, while Godley looks to recapture the success he saw in Arizona and Wilson sports a new arm slot attempting to bounce back into the majors. All three are non-roster invitees to spring training camp, so they have a steep hill ahead of them.
The next cohort consists of the hard-throwing late-inning guys: Jose Cisnero, Gregory Soto, and David McKay. Cisnero is the veteran of the group, while Soto and McKay are young, live arms; one of these guys will likely head north at the end of spring training. Then there are the middle inning men consisting of John Schreiber and Bryan Garcia, both low-level prospects looking to make their marks in the majors, as well as Rule 5 Draft selection Rony Garcia who must remain on the 26-man roster all season or be returned to his former team.
Nick Ramirez and Tyler Alexander represent the southpaws with a major league track record, and at least one of the two stand to get promoted at the end of March. Right-handed prospects Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser are looking to finally make the leap into the majors. Lastly, there is Dario Agrazal, who did a couple rounds of the waiver wire dance after getting his cup of coffee with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 before settling into the Tigers system.
While the names are not flashy and only a few arms elicit any level of excitement, this is what the 2020 Tigers have to work with. Hopefully, this story ends on a good note and the team begins building its bullpen in hopes of bringing the rebuild to fruition.
Austin Romine brings veteran leadership
One of the most important things a pitcher needs to be successful is a good catcher receiving, and newcomer Austin Romine appears to be bringing some much-needed veteran leadership to the clubhouse and behind the dish.
Last year, the Tigers suffered a brutal 114-loss season with a pair of greenhorn catchers getting most of the playing time behind the plate, which is never an optimal situation to be in. Romine is expected to bring intangibles this season that only a veteran player can offer to better keep the battery on the same page.
More importantly, an experienced presence behind the dish is critical when cultivating young pitching prospects, which the Tigers have put a great deal of focus on during its rebuild. Romine has already begun making his mark in spring training, providing critiques from bullpen sessions and live games alike.
With the possibility of seeing some of the top-rated young arms in the system sometime this year, as well as pitchers like Daniel Norris who are still trying to put the finishing touches on their development, having the sage experience of Romine receiving their throws will likely help give them all a bit of a much-needed boost.
Gotta get JaCoby goin’
JaCoby Jones was having a weird 2019 season when he fractured his wrist last August — his bat had started to heat up, but his glove had gone cold according to advanced defensive metrics. And then the calamity occurred when he was hit by a 95 mph Jorge Lopez fastball.
Now, Jones is looking to get back on track this spring, stating that his injured left wrist is “100%.” He resumed baseball activities in November and has been shaking the rust off since, focusing on his timing in the batting cage and in the outfield.
Hopefully, Jones makes a full recovery and returns to his patrol in center field this summer. If he can wield a decent bat and recapture his previous defensive wizardry, he will a much needed presence in Comerica Park’s vast outfield.
Remembering Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson came through the #Tigers farm system before playing six years in Detroit. He set career highs in hits, doubles and triples with the team and was named an All Star in 2009.#BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/wXW0FABdiK— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) February 27, 2020
You never go full Bauer
Daniel Norris is going full Trevor Bauer. Throwing long toss to the third-base line from here pic.twitter.com/gWMv79cZXc— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) February 26, 2020
- 2020 BYB Tigers Prospects #4: Tarik Skubal has entered the chat. Skubal was the biggest breakout prospect in all of baseball in 2019.
- Tigers 2020 player preview: C.J. Cron will provide a big improvement at first base. Even an average 2020 season from Cron will be a significant upgrade for the Tigers.
- Which Tigers prospect are you keeping an eye on this spring? Riley Greene’s hot start has the Tigers fanbase abuzz, but who are you watching closely?
- Tigers land 4 players among Keith Law’s top 50 prospects. Law also dropped his team rankings, which put lefthander Tarik Skubal second in the Tigers’ system.
- Thursday open thread: What is the best case scenario for the Tigers in 2020? Save for shocking the world and winning a World Series, what does an ideal 2020 look like for the Tigers?
Around the horn
The Atlanta Braves are owned by a publicly-traded company so we get a glimpse into how an MLB club is actually performing. MLB’s winning and losing efforts to conquer TV, Part I: The Strike. New pickoff rule coming to MiLB after independent league success in 2019. “Are we supposed to give up?”: O’s prospect Steve Bechler’s family still grieves. Are the baseballs back to pre-2019 form? A deeper look at minor league baseball’s 2019 attendance numbers.