Detroit Tigers: Future is Now for Rotation

May 21, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer (32) warms up prior to the start of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer (32) warms up prior to the start of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Tigers pitchers have been hit and miss this season. Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann have pitched well, while others have struggled. Detroit’s young pitchers have been solid so far.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila did well to reshape the team in the offseason. Players like Francisco Rodriguez, Zimmermann, Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin were added at positions of need. One thing Avila didn’t do was deal the team’s brightest young pitchers.

The general manager was able to add big-name/impact talent without giving up anything. This obviously had a lot to do with signing Zimmermann and Upton in free agency, but Avila didn’t follow in predecessor Dave Dombrowski’s footsteps and overpay for an impact performer like Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman or Carlos Gonzalez in a trade.

In fact, of the trades Avila did make, he didn’t give up much. Deals to bring in Rodriguez, Maybin and Justin Wilson only cost the Tigers infielder Javier Betancourt, a player to be named later, Ian Krol, Gabe Speier, Chad Green and Luis Cessa.

Of the group, only Krol had played in the Majors, and none of the others were considered close to being in the upper echelon of Detroit prospects.

With top young talents like Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd staying in the organization, the Tigers now have a chance to build for the future while contending at present. 

In an ideal world, Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey would be dependable options in the rotation. However, the reality is that neither of them have been anything close to dependable. Sanchez has an unsightly 6.04 ERA in 10 starts, while Pelfrey’s FIP (entering Sunday) was an uninspiring 5.92.

Despite the struggles of the two, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Because of injuries to Zimmermann and Shane Greene, Boyd and Fulmer were thrust into the rotation.

Boyd has made just two appearances (one start) with the Tigers this year, but has a 2.79 in 9.2 brief innings. Not known for being a strikeout pitcher, the Washington native has nine strikeouts so far. It’s a small sample size, but it’s encouraging moving forward. The 25-year-old has seemingly turned a corner this season as he’s also excelled in Triple-A as well. Boyd’s ERA is a sparkling 2.06 in 48 innings for the Mud Hens.

Boyd stepped in for Zimmermann, but could stay in the rotation if Sanchez or Pelfrey continue to struggle.

Fellow rookie Fulmer has been excellent as of late. The right-hander has a solid 3.97 ERA on the season, he’s been tremendous in his last pair of starts. During those two appearances, Fulmer has a 0.61 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 14.2 innings pitched. What’s more, he’s only walked two batters and has posted a 17% swing strike rate. Lastly, the starter has four wins on the season, tying Verlander for second on the team.

Regardless of how the Tigers monitor his innings throughout the season, the former Met farmhand is in the Detroit rotation to stay.

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Boyd and Fulmer aren’t the only young pitchers who’ve shown well on the mound. Kyle Ryan has arguably been the team’s best reliever not named Rodriguez this season, with a 3.20 ERA in 19.2 innings pitched. Ryan’s success has been an extreme positive, especially if you consider how Drew VerHagen and Alex Wilson have struggled at times this season.

Buck Farmer has also done a solid job in relief, posting a 1.86 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 9.2 innings pitched.

This is all without mentioning Daniel Norris, who could also make an impact in either a starting or relieving role after he turns things around with Triple-A Toledo.

It probably wouldn’t have hurt for Boyd, Fulmer and Norris to spend the year developing with the Mud Hens, but Boyd and Fulmer are already with the Tigers. Both have been effective so far, and considering the struggles of others in the rotation, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the duo stay in the rotation all season.

Next: Could Be Worse

Where the starting rotation is concerned, the future is now for the Detroit Tigers. This can only be a good thing moving forward.