Detroit Tigers: Who Should Be In the Rotation and the Bullpen
The Detroit Tigers pitchers have been nothing short of disappointing during spring training. Their sub-par performances could make some 25-man roster decisions difficult to make.
Instead of repeating the 2016 season, the Detroit Tigers decision makers should pick based on the quality of the pitchers and the amounts of their contracts.
But, those should not be the only factors that impact their decisions. The front office staff should also look at their recent history, too.
There are currently 24 pitchers on the 40-man roster according to the Tigers MLB website. There are also 10 men on the non-roster-invitees list.
Throughout the 2016 season, according to Baseball Reference, 23 men threw pitches in at least one inning including Andrew Romine. But, at any one point in the season, the Tigers had up to six men available to pitch as starters along with Francisco Rodriguez as the closing pitcher. That left room for five relief pitchers. With Jordan Zimmermann out for much of the 2016 season, the starting rotation went through several forms as Daniel Norris frequently moved up and down from Triple-A Toledo to Detroit.
The Starting Rotation
Even though Opening Day is one month away, there are already clear signs about the starting rotation. Of course, Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann should take two spots. With his rookie-of-the-year award, Michael Fulmer should also have a reserved spot. But, two veteran pitchers, Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez should not. The remaining two rotational spots should be gladly given to Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris. Both have shown considerable growth in their abilities, both mental and physical.
If Pelfrey or Sanchez were put back in the rotation, Boyd and Norris would be forced to return to Toledo where they are currently overqualified. These two young pitchers are more than deserving, as they have both performed significantly better than the veterans. Norris has yet to give up a run in a spring training game. In his 4.2 innings, he has given up two hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Boyd has pitched in 3.2 innings and has given up eight hits and four runs, but with three strikeouts.
On the flip side, the veterans have pitched in a combined 8.2 innings. They have given up 21 hits, 16 runs, and walked 6 batters. Sanchez has also given up two home runs.
So the rotation should be: Verlander, Zimmermann, Fulmer, Norris, Boyd – which the final three pitching in no particular order.
Selecting the closing pitcher should be a simple task, too. Rodriguez proved his worth in 2016 and in his previous season, too. He had one appearance in spring training and it did not go well. However, he will spend the next few weeks closing games for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. As his past has shown, he will get his pitches under control and will be ready for Opening Day.
The relief spots will be slightly more difficult to fill. Because Anibal Sanchez has such a large contract of $16.8 million for 2017, he cannot simply be let go by the Tigers. The Tigers can put Sanchez in the bullpen where he can be called upon in decidedly hopeful or hopeless situations. He cannot be trusted to pitch in high-stakes situations. Unless the Tigers can find a team that is desperate enough to offer something reasonable in trade, he will be a Tiger for one more year.
The decision makers should consider Warwick Saupold for the bullpen. The Australian has pitched solidly in spring training and has yet to give up a run. Alex Wilson, with his consistency, has also proven himself each season and he has not been horrible in spring training. Bruce Rondon showed growth in 2016, especially when compared to 2015. But, according to Chris McCosky with The Detroit News, Rondon did not fair so well in his last outing on March 5. According to McCosky, Rondon did not throw any pitches over 95 MPH. Brad Ausmus said about Rondon:
"“Honestly, I don’t know. We’ll find out. He’s leaving now to pitch for Venezuela. He’s got it in him to throw 100. Maybe he’s just easing himself into it right now and doesn’t want to let the air out of it too early.”"
Despite the questions about Rondon’s velocity, he has been a valuable addition to the bullpen and he could become the heir to K-Rod’s closing spot.
This leaves the bullpen with one more spot and it should go to Kyle Ryan. He has been a reliable left-handed pitcher who has not fallen apart in the 2017 spring training.
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This leaves several well-known names out of the mix. They include Shane Greene and Mark Lowe, who have been nothing short of disappointing. Mike Pelfrey will leave spring training without a spot on the roster and so will Blaine Hardy and Justin Wilson. I also believe that Daniel Stumpf and Victor Alcantara will not be offered spots in Detroit.
Several pitchers will be kept close by in Toledo so fans will be able to get a few glimpses of the future. Joe Jimenez, Alcantara, Sandy Baez, Angel Nesbitt, Myles Jaye, Dustin Molleken, A.J. Achter, and Buck Farmer will be regulars in Toledo, but will be treated with kindness when they make occasional appearances in Detroit.
Next: Pelfrey Should Be Let Go by the Tigers
If the mindsets are set to win, then the front office staff needs to make good decisions about the pitching rotation.