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Detroit Tigers: Previewing every player in big-league camp

jmarkle
Detroit Tigers RHP Ivan Nova, indicating how many Tigers players you'll recognize without seeing the name on their jersey.
Detroit Tigers RHP Ivan Nova, indicating how many Tigers players you'll recognize without seeing the name on their jersey. /
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The offseason is officially behind us, so let’s take a look at the 69 players in big league camp with the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers were more active last offseason than many may have expected. While the organization isn’t primed to win anything significant in 2020, it does feature a number of players who were with other teams last season. The Tigers brought a number of those players, as well as ones who have developed from within, to the big league camp in Lakeland.

A recent rule change that will allow a 26th man on the MLB roster will change the fortunes of 30 players across the sport. Even with that extra roster sport, though, the team has far more players in camp than it will carry throughout the season. You may be unfamiliar with all 69 of them, so let’s dive in together and take a quick look at each guy with the big league team this spring.

The players are listed alphabetically, not by preference. Each snapshot is no more than one or two sentences long, but this should give you an idea of the players in camp with the Tigers this spring.

RHP Tim Adleman doesn’t look like a candidate to land a roster spot, but he was good in the Toledo rotation in 2019 and has played in the majors in the past.

RHP Dario Agrazal is a former Pirates starter who doesn’t strike guys out, but he has an interesting sinker and outstanding control.

SS Sergio Alcantara could still squeak out a utility role someday thanks to strong defensive chops, but he’s the clear 40th man on the roster because his offensive tools leave a great deal to be desired.

LHP Tyler Alexander will probably start in the minor leagues as insurance for the Tigers’ rotation, but he could also make his way into the MLB bullpen in light of his solid 13-game stint in 2019.

OF Jose Azocar is a tooled-up 23-year-old who has bounced all over the organization due to underperformance. He crystalized somewhat in 2019 and is essentially Derek Hill’s less well-known counterpart.

RHP Sandy Baez has had a rough go of things the last few years and likely isn’t a candidate for MLB playing time unless things go very right for him or catastrophically wrong for everyone else.

RHP Nolan Blackwood throws from a wonky angle and has a nice sinker, but his outlandish Double-A results aren’t his true talent and he will face stiffer competition in 2020.

OF Jorge Bonifacio is a former top prospect with the Royals but he ran out of chances in that organization and came to the Tigers on a minor league deal.

Detroit Tigers LHP Matthew Boyd (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers LHP Matthew Boyd (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

LHP Matthew Boyd is the Tigers’ best player at this point and looked like a frontline starter for the first half of 2019.

RHP Beau Burrows didn’t make much progress last year, but he’s still young and was dealing with injuries. He’ll have to make up for lost ground in 2020, though, or else be overwhelmed by the horde of pitching prospects at his heels.

1B/DH Miguel Cabrera is the face of the franchise and is working hard to overcome a down year.

OF Daz Cameron didn’t wow with the bat in the best offensive environment in baseball, but he’s still a good prospect because of his youth and defense. He’ll almost assuredly start in Toledo.

3B Jeimer Candelario has reached a tipping point in his career – he has to hit this year or he’ll likely be supplanted despite his mature approach to the game.

RHP Anthony Castro is a reliever now and will probably thrive in that role, but he needs to prove it.

UTIL Harold Castro has the potential to hit for an empty .300 average and play decent defense. Not terrible for a bench player, I suppose.

SS Willi Castro was unimpressive in his MLB debut and will probably be Toledo’s everyday shortstop in 2020. He’s not far from snagging a long-term MLB role.

RHP Shao-Ching Chiang was picked up as a minor league free agent and will probably be a cushion to prevent any of the Tigers’ prize prospect from being overly hurried.

RHP Jose Cisnero averages 96.4 miles per hour on his fastball and will probably find a middle relief role with the team with a decent spring.

LAKELAND, FL – Detroit Tigers 1B C.J. Cron  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL – Detroit Tigers 1B C.J. Cron  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

1B C.J. Cron would have led the Tigers in home runs last year, and is the easy favorite to do so in 2020.

OF Travis Demeritte finally got his chance after being acquired by the Tigers at the trade deadline, but he didn’t do much worth mentioning and will have to be a force in camp to get onto the big-league roster again.

UTIL Brandon Dixon led the team in home runs in 2019 and was promptly designated for assignment because he’s not especially good at anything else.

RHP Alex Faedo has done a great deal of work to clean up his delivery and resharpen his slider, but his fastball is too hittable to be a major league starter yet.

RHP Buck Farmer was stealthily the best reliever on the team in 2019 and could usurp the closer’s role if he continues his momentum.

RHP Michael Fulmer is on the 60-day injured list, but he’ll probably be back in action in July.

RHP Kyle Funkhouser has a taken a long and weird road to where he’s at, but he will likely see time in Detroit at some point because he is 26 years old and already on the 40-man roster.

RHP Rony Garcia added a cutter last year and it served him well in Double-A. As a Rule 5 pick, the Tigers need to keep him on the 26-man roster in order to keep him in the organization.

RHP Bryan Garcia has been outstanding in the minor leagues and he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, so it’s time for him to show what he’s worth in the majors.

Detroit Tigers RHP Zack Godley, then of the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers RHP Zack Godley, then of the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

RHP Zack Godley came unglued after a pair of good seasons in the D-Backs rotation and has a chance to make the Tigers’ bullpen if a number of players fall flat in spring – a far from unimaginable outcome.

SS Niko Goodrum has been anointed as the team’s shortstop and will almost certainly benefit from more consistency that comes along with a set role.

C Grayson Greiner has solid odds of being the backup catcher, but if he lands it, the Tigers will probably be quick to yank him from the role if he fails to perform.

C Eric Haase has monster power, monster strikeout rates, and a monster beard. He’s a hometown kid who is in contention for the backup catching job.

OF Derek Hill still offers dazzling defense and speed, and he parlayed his healthiest season into his best offensive one, earning a 40-man spot.

RHP Joe Jimenez strikes out tons of guys, so he’ll be with the team, but he gets hit hard and hasn’t quite reached his potential as a genuine closer.

C Cooper Johnson was a 2019 draft pick with concerns about his offense who was invited to camp to help handle the great number of pitchers.

OF JaCoby Jones is a fine defender and looked like he may have finally found his solution at the plate last year, but he was injured multiple times.

UTIL Dawel Lugo seems to be a favorite of the Tigers front office, and he will probably get another chance in the bigs at some point despite a lack of success because he kills Triple-A pitching.

RHP Matt Manning has a spectacular frame that has filled out well. His excellent stuff, improving command, and unimpeachable results point to a 2020 MLB debut.

OF Cameron Maybin returns to the Tigers for a third go-around and will offer positional flexibility. The Tigers are also hoping he’ll be a good mentor for their younger talent.

RHP David McKay was a waiver wire pickup from Seattle who looked excellent in his brief time with the club last year and could be a setup man in 2020 with a strong showing in camp.

UTIL Jordy Mercer is returning to the Tigers on a minor league deal and provides infield depth.

LAKELAND, FL – Detroit Tigers RHP Casey Mize and C Grayson Greiner. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL – Detroit Tigers RHP Casey Mize and C Grayson Greiner. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

RHP Casey Mize was the obvious top talent in the 2018 draft and Detroit will likely see him blossom into an MLB starter this year, but it probably won’t be until the summertime.

RHP Gerson Moreno is 25 years old and hasn’t seen a healthy, productive stretch in a long time.

LHP Daniel Norris has been a breakout candidate since the moment he entered the organization, but he’s finally healthy this time and has a real chance to throw 170 innings.

RHP Ivan Nova is durable and came to the Tigers cheap. He gives up too much contact, but he should be fine as a backend starter.

C Jhon Nunez was acquired this winter. He’s small-bodied, noted for his fearsome arm, and enjoyed a bit of a Double-A breakout last year.

3B Isaac Paredes will probably start the year in Toledo, but he has a big-league future and it’s not impossible that he could force his way onto the roster now.

RHP Franklin Perez was the gem of the Justin Verlander trade, but he’s been hurt for an outrageous amount of time and the Tigers don’t seem to be quite sure what to make of it.

INF Daniel Pinero isn’t oozing with tools and has always been viewed org fodder, but he always performs and opportunities sometimes come to those who stick around.

RHP Wladimir Pinto played in Double-A and has a knack for striking batters out when he can find the zone. He’s a middle relief candidate down the road.

UTIL Brady Policelli can catch and play up the middle; an overperformer who did very well in the offense-starved Florida State League last year.

LHP Nick Ramirez served in a long relief/mop up role in 2019 and could potentially do the same next year, but he’s not on the 40-man anymore and will have to prove his worth to get the spot back.

OF Victor Reyes is two years separated from being the top Rule 5 draft selection and he has the inside track on a big-league job, although it’s not impossible he’s unseated.

OF Jacob Robson was unprotected and unselected in the Rule 5 draft, probably because of is lack of thump and defensive instincts that fall short of his raw speed. He may get some time as a fourth outfielder.

C Jake Rogers will almost certainly begin in Toledo, but he’s the future behind the plate. He showed up to camp with a revamped swing, cutting out his signature mammoth leg kick in an effort to improve timing.

Detroit Tigers C Austin Romine and LHP Matthew Boyd (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers C Austin Romine and LHP Matthew Boyd (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

C Austin Romine has spent his career as a capable Yankees backup, but the Tigers brought him in to hold the starting job.

LHP Hector Santiago serves as veteran minor league depth and could make a run at a roster spot thanks to somewhat soft present competition.

2B Jonathan Schoop is dealing with a visa issue in Curacao right now, but he should be the second baseman on Opening Day. He will be a massive upgrade from the half-assembled Frankenstien the Tigers put there last season.

RHP John Schreiber is a fan favorite because of his underdog story and quality slider, but the new 3-batter minimum may make it more difficult to lay claim to a place on the big-league team.

1B Frank Schwindel is probably hopelessly blocked at the major league level for now, but he’s a good player to have around as emergency depth.

C Kade Scivicque is on his second stint with the organization. The former fourth rounder will likely split time in Erie and serves as depth for Toledo in case of a string of injuries.

LHP Tarik Skubal was a ninth-round find that has become one of the crowning gems of the farm system 18 months later.

LHP Gregory Soto is the second-best player called “Soto” who got major league action last season.

OF Christin Stewart has a long track record of hitting in the minors, but he stalled out last year. He’ll get another chance in 2020, but it may be as a bench piece.

OF Troy Stokes Jr. was a waiver wire pickup early in the offseason and has survived so far, but he’s not a frontrunner for an MLB job on Opening Day.

RHP Spencer Turnbull needs more consistency but at his finest he strikes out a lot of guys and was mentioned as a Rookie of the Year dark horse at times last year. He’ll be in the starting rotation.

Detroit Tigers LHP Joey Wentz (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers LHP Joey Wentz (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

LHP Joey Wentz is a strong candidate to surge up prospects lists, and he could make his MLB debut as early as mid-summer.

RHP Alex Wilson is making his reunion tour with the Tigers organization as a sidearmer and has designs on a future coaching job.

OF Danny Woodrow hits for average and takes walks, but he is 25 and has no power, even with the juiced Triple-A ball. Really, though, the Tigers’ glut of outfielders will offer very soft resistance to anyone who hits.

RHP Jordan Zimmermann is in the final year of his now-reviled contract. A string of injuries has ruined his career, but he’ll probably be in the rotation thanks to his guaranteed $25 million.

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