Detroit Tigers: Observations from Lakeland

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Dixon Machado
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Dixon Machado /

Detroit Tiger fans descended upon Lakeland, Florida with high expectations for the upcoming season. After a few weeks of Spring Training in the Sunshine state, fans have been brought back to reality.

While it is readily apparent that there is a lot of enthusiasm around the Detroit Tigers this season, deficiencies exist. One such deficiency does not include the starting rotation.

To date, most of the starting pitchers have had good outings and have kept the team in a position to win.

Manager Ron Gardenhire has indicated that only Michael Fulmer and Francisco Liriano have secured a position in the rotation. The rest of the staff is in a “cat fight”.

In perhaps the biggest fight of all is Jordan Zimmermann. Inconsistency in Zimmermann’s outings is readily apparent.

While Zimmermann is clearly looking to perfect his pitches, he was hit hard in his March 8th game against the Pittsburg Pirates.  He looked every bit of the same pitcher as 2017.

As pitcher Daniel Norris still has options, his place on the 2018 opening day roster is not secured. It is clear, however, that he is still in the mix.

Although Norris has been used as starting pitcher his entire career, his last two outings have been in relief.  In relief games against the NY Mets and Atlanta Braves he pitched 3.0 innings without yielding a run.

Matthew Boyd has looked terrific and Buck Farmer has also looked good. Michael Fiers and Zimmermann are current concerns for the Tigers.


Offensively, the starting corps have all looked good with Nicholas Castellanos leading the way.  He currently has a batting average of .333 with four home runs and nine runs batted in.

Additionally, both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez appear to be healthy. Each player appears to be a good bet to overcome dismal 2017 seasons.

Jacoby Jones has also hit the ball very hard this spring and is in the running for the 25th spot on the roster.

Lack of Depth

It is apparent that this year’s Detroit Tigers have a clear deficiency when it comes to depth.

In every game this past week, the Tigers held their own until manager Ron Gardenhire began substituting players. Once that began, the Tigers fell apart. Offensive and defensive capabilities declined noticeably.

This fact was also true in away games. The Tigers, like many other teams, typically do not travel with their veteran players. Consequently, reserve and minor league players typically play in these away games.

Perhaps the most egregious afternoon was the play of highly touted Ronny Rodriguez. On Wednesday, March 7th, he looked out of his element while playing third base.

On multiple occasions he attempted to field to field ground balls that Jose Iglesias clearly could have made a play on. Each time, he booted the ball and failed to make any play at all.

Once the reserves were in, the team went from the Tigers to the Bad News Bears.

Balls were flying all over the diamond. There were bad throws missing the cutoff man or bouncing into foul territory. All the while opposing base runners were advancing on the base paths.

Too many players were trying to do too much.

Behind the plate

Manager Gardenhire has floated the idea of carrying three catchers. After watching Derek Norris behind the plate, it appears clear that he is not contemplating that thought for defensive reasons.

Bad throws to second base, passed balls and trouble transferring the ball from the glove to hand show a deficiency in Norris’ defensive abilities.

The Tigers have a clear power deficiency and Norris might provide help in that regard.

Trying to fill this power vacuum might also answer the troubling question of why the Tigers signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  In 2016 and in limited action Salty hit 12 home runs while batting a paltry .171.

Aside from depth and lack of power the relief pitching must also be shored up. Chris Bosio seems to be exactly what the team needs with respect thereto.

But it will take time. Players speak very highly of Bosio and his coaching abilities.

We have already seen positive results from Bosio’s coaching in adjusting the delivery of multiple pitchers. Magic will be needed. Bosio might be the man to provide it.

Next: Should the Tigers sign RP Tony Zych?

The next few weeks may provide answers to some of these big questions. Teams must reduce their roster down to the mandatory 25-man limit, in doing so, quality players will be available. The Tigers will certainly be shoppers.

What is your opinion of the Detroit Tigers current roster? What deficiencies need to be addressed?