Detroit Tigers: Five Breakout Candidates to Watch in 2017

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Detroit Tigers
Aug 24, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) celebrates the win with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Detroit Tigers beat the Minnesota Twins 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

Bruce Rondon

Age: 26

Position: Relief Pitcher

Joe Jimenez will rightly get significant attention, but it’s easy to forget just how good Bruce Rondon was last season.

The flame-throwing reliever led Detroit relievers in strikeouts per nine innings with 11.15 punch outs for every nine frames.

Rondon also led the way in WHIP (1.06), batting average against (.178) and SIERA (2.10). He finished second to Alex Wilson in ERA.

Normally, a player who paces a team in these stats has already broken out as it were. However, Rondon only appeared in 37 games, totaling 36.1 innings pitched.

It isn’t hard to imagine the right-hander thriving with a heavier work load in 2017.

Considering the struggles of Justin Wilson and Shane Greene last season, Rondon could step in as Francisco Rodriguez’ prominent setup reliever next year.

Given the 26-year-old’s power fastball and potentially wipe-out slider, there’s reason to believe he can thrive in the eighth inning.

In 12 appearances in the eighth last season, Rondon logged a minuscule 0.84 ERA while striking out more than a third (13) of the 38 batters he faced.

Long term, the Detroit Tigers will be spoiled for choice with Rondon and Jimenez as potential closing options. However, for 2017, Bruce Rondon seems like an excellent bet to thrive as a setup reliever.