When you review the success of the bullpen in 2021 it's easy to forget that there are several great stories that just started to be uncovered. The Tigers gave tryouts to a slew of young slingers that could prove to be really special in the years ahead. The number of pitchers that will compete for spots next season is really quite remarkable.
Alphabetically, let's run through the pitchers, or at least try to:
Drew Carlton - shows poise and uncanny control - incomplete grade for now, but very good potential
Jose Cisnero - outstanding ability and stamina, definitely played beyond expectations - merits an A
Miguel Del Pozo - brief call up and look - incomplete grade for now, but may be a dark horse to be around in 22
Jason Foley - power pitcher that probably can't be graded more than incomplete, for now
Michael Fulmer - overall excellent, but had some bumps along the way, solid B+
Kyle Funkhouser - overcome disappointments and became a staple of the pen - grade A
Bryan Garcia - lots of potential but injured once again, incomplete seems fair
Rony Garcia - also injured, and has a lot of potential, incomplete again is appropriate
Derek Holland - closed out the year well, but was shaky early on - I'd give him a C-
Drew Hutchison - surprisingly good - limited action but deserves a B
Joe Jimenez - stats didn't look as good as you'd like, but also pitched quite well - grade C+
Ian Krol - surprise return and sneaky good - grade C
Alex Lange - really started to come into his own with new pitches - grade B-
Nivaldo Rodriguez - incomplete and unknown
Gregory Soto - a star in the making - grade A
There's likely more to come from the farm system. There were a lot of names at the AAA and AA that would be surprising not to show up in 2022.
This is becoming a strength of the Tigers and one that likely holds the real key to their future success as much or more than their starters. The Tigers have had some great starting pitchers but without the back-end protecting the close out of games, it was tough to get past 85 wins or to finish out the playoffs. I'm hopeful that this weakness won't be repeated.