Detroit Tigers: Predicting the 2018 bullpen
There are a lot of names that could compete for the final spot in the Tigers bullpen.
First, the Tigers could add a veteran free agent to compete for a spot. We even highlighted a few options a month ago.
If the Tigers choose to stay in-house with their final bullpen spot, here are the likeliest candidates:
Victor Alcantara – Alcantara was acquired for Cameron Maybin last offseason. He went from Double-A to Triple-A and got a small cup of coffee with the Tigers at the end of the year. His numbers in the minors were solid, but his walk numbers are scary. He needs more time in the minors to work on his control.
Phillippe Aumont – Aumont was the 11th overall pick by the Seattle Mariners back in the 2007 draft. The 28-year-old struggled in his brief taste of the major leagues, but saw some success in Canada last year as a starter. The Tigers could certainly convert him back into a reliever and see if he can find some success. His 6.80 career ERA across 43.2 big league innings does not inspire much hope, however.
Chad Bell – Bell threw 62.1 innings for the Tigers last year, which on paper makes him look like a lock for a spot in 2018. However, his 6.93 ERA and 1.97 WHIP make his spot much more murky. Bell did see more success as a reliever than a starter however, so the left-hander certainly has a chance to steal a spot in the bullpen. Though with fellow left-handers Daniel Stumpf and Blaine Hardy already in, he will likely either be in Triple-A or released from the organization.
Enrique Burgos – We profiled Burgos here, but the 27-year-old right-hander saw time in the big leagues in 2016 with Arizona. He struck out 82 batters in 68.1 innings and could force his way into the Tigers bullpen in 2018.
Kevin Comer – Comer has been in the Houston farm system since 2012. The 25-year-old finally reached Triple-A last season, posting a 3.68 ERA and a 10.5 K/9 in 63.2 innings. His 4.0 BB/9 and 1.51 WHIP are concerning, but if Comer pitches well in the Spring he could win the job outright. If he does not, look for him to get a chance during the season.
Jairo Labourt – Labourt absolutely dominated in High-A and Double-A last season. However, he walked 23 in 22 innings at Triple-A Toledo before pitching six innings for the Tigers. He walked seven and struck out four. Labourt needs more time in the minors before he is ready for a big league role, but his big frame and powerful arm will be a part of the Tigers bullpen in the future.
Mark Montgomery – Montgomery was a Yankees farmhand for the longest time before the Cardinals acquired him prior to the 2017 season. Montgomery dominated in Triple-A Memphis last year. He posted a 5-1 record, a 2.43 ERA and a very nice 73/15 K/BB ratio. If he continues to pitch like that, he will be in the major leagues in no time.
Drew VerHagen – VerHagen made 19 starts at Triple-A Toledo last season and two more with the Tigers. He also made 22 appearances out of the bullpen, so it is unclear exactly what the Tigers are planning to do with the 27-year-old out of Vanderbilt. Regardless, his results have not been great (5.77 ERA) so there is a good chance he starts the season out in the minors again.
Next: Tigers should trade Shane Greene for a 2B
There is still a lot of offseason left, so there is a chance one (or more) of these pieces change before the season starts.
As it stands now, this is a snapshot of the Tigers bullpen heading into the rebuilding 2018 season.