For seemingly the past year, all anyone has talked about was how the Detroit Tigers needed to find a shortstop. Al Avila has done just that, selecting Javier Báez over other (potentially more popular) options such as Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Marcus Semien. The former Cub and Met comes to the American League with intentions of sliding right into the center of the Tigers rebuild.
While this club might still be a year or two away from seriously competing, adding Báez does set the wheels in motion. The starting rotation features one of the best trios of young arms in the game, and has added at least Eduardo Rodriguez, if not more later this offseason. Meanwhile, a couple of big-name prospects should get their first taste of major league action next season.
All of these changes, as well as how well Detroit played for the final four months of the season, suddenly add up to some serious potential for 2022. What exactly does that look like on paper? Below is a stab at what a midseason lineup could look like with the addition of Báez, as well as the assumed promotion of both Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson sometime during the season.
1. Riley Greene, CF
Batting a rookie atop the order is ambitious, but might as well have some fun here. The phenom posted a .400 OBP with Triple-A Toledo last season and swiped 16 total bases across both levels. Greene would bring a ton of excitement leading off and could grow into the role.
2. Robbie Grossman, RF
Grossman would certainly be very capable of leading off as well, but his combination of power and speed makes him just as good of an option in the No. 2 spot. 2021 was another great season for the corner outfielder, and his 23 homers and 20 steals were both career highs.
3. Javier Báez, SS
The Tigers are paying Báez to be both the center of their offense and defense, and that is what he is going to do. There are plenty of concerns about his career .307 OBP, but Báez has averaged 31.6 homers per 162 games over the past five seasons, which is exactly what this lineup needs at its core.
4. Miguel Cabrera, DH
It is getting a little awkward with the future Hall of Famer, as he really has no business batting clean-up with his 15 home runs and 92 wRC+ in 2021. Maybe he will slide down a bit if Torkelson seems really ready or if the team is actually trending toward the playoffs and A.J. Hinch can no longer afford to worry about people’s feelings, but that would be the less likely scenario.
5. Spencer Torkelson, 1B
The former first-overall pick will someday take the spot away from Cabrera, and that how quickly that happens will depend on his consistency at the plate. The power bat launched 11 homers in 40 games in Triple-A, but hit just .238. He did record a .350 OBP with the Mud Hens (and .383 OBP across all levels), so hopefully, his patience will translate into hits when he gets to the majors.
6. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
Schoop has been a pleasant surprise in Detroit, and it will be really fun watching him and Baez up the middle. His 22 home runs in 2021 give him five straight seasons (excluding 2020) notching at least 20 dingers. Batting him sixth seems a little disrespectful, but it feels great having enough talent to force him down the lineup.
7. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
No one simply goes out and does their job better than Candelario, who has now won back-to-back Tiger of the Year awards. He followed up a 138 wRC+ in 2020 with a 119 wRC+ last season, and he has solidified his spot in a lineup full of flashier players. Like Schoop, Candelario could easily bat higher as well.
8. Tucker Barnhart, C
The Tigers wasted no time adding the steady Barnhart via trade, locking him into the catching position. His value definitely comes from the other side of the ball, however. In this hypothetical lineup, batting him eighth allows for an additional pseudo-leadoff hitter before the order turns over.
9. Akil Baddoo, LF
Baddoo was a fun story in 2021, though he did cool off a bit in the second half (121 wRC+ vs. 95 wRC+). His spot in the lineup is probably the least secure with four months to go before the season begins, but he is not a bad option in the No. 9 spot given his speed and .330 OBP last year.