Detroit Tigers: 2020 Starting Pitching Rotation Projection

DETROIT, MI - JULY 04: Casey Mize #74 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts at Comerica Park on July 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JULY 04: Casey Mize #74 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts at Comerica Park on July 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Detroit Tigers starting rotation is just about locked in but could we see a spot start or two from one of the young prospects before the end of August?

The Detroit Tigers projected starting pitchers, according to Fangraphs, are Matt Boyd, Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris, Ivan Nova, Spencer Turnbull, and Michael Fulmer. When Fulmer is activated from the injured list, another player would have to be pulled from the 40 man roster.  That leaves Boyd, Turnbull, Nova, and Norris as your starters. You would assume that Fulmer would be the fifth starter, and Zimmermann as the team’s sixth starter or long man out of the bullpen.

What should we expect out of the starting rotation for the Tigers?  Before we look at the 2020 predictions of the rotation, let’s look at 2019. If the stars line up correctly, the rotation should be a little better than expected with the core of Boyd, Turnbull, and Norris. The average FIP between the three of them in 2019 was 4.30, which would put them in the “average” range according to Fangraphs. The starting rotation as a whole finished 13th in the league in K/9, just ahead of the Twins in 2019. If we take last year’s rotation, remove the 188.1 IP from Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, and Ryan Carpenter, and replace them with the 187 IP from Ivan Nova, the rotation WAR goes from 10.6 to 11.8, and their ERA drops to around 4.80.

The starting rotation had the biggest gap between their ERA (5.51) and their FIP (4.66) in baseball last year. That suggests defense was a big issue. With Niko Goodrum at shortstop, and the additions of CJ Cron, Jonathan Schoop, and Austin Romine, the defense should be greatly improved in 2020.

Stability is key for the Tigers to be competitive long term, and we can associate that with good fortune for the Tigers. Detroit used 13 different starting pitchers in the last two seasons. Now, let’s take a look at 2011-2016 run with the qualifier they had to make at least 3 starts in the rotation.

2011-7 (95-67)

2012-8 (88-74)

2013- 6 (93-69)

2014-8 (90-72)

2015-11 (74-87)

2016-8 (86-75)

While yes, it is a 60-game schedule that is scheduled to happen, if the Tigers put the best arms out there and can stay healthy, you could look at a rotation that could keep Detroit competitive. But with injuries and the threat of the virus, how deep should the depth go for the rotation? Here are some predictions.

Prediction: Shao-Ching Chiang and Dario Agrazal will get at least 3 starts between the two of them.

Al Avila has said one of the younger prospects will get some time this season but that was before the coronavirus fully kicked in. Agrazal and Chiang were brought in to give some depth in Toledo. If a starter goes down, expect either one to get the call-up.

While both are not on the 40-man roster meaning they would have to release a player to make this happen, both pitchers were having good camps before it was shut down. See what you have with both. Agrazal is primary a sinkerball pitcher that he throws around 91 MPH so that would play strongly into the Tigers’ new defensive infield. Chiang could be used in the bullpen.

Predicting Michael Fulmer

Detroit Tigers Starting Pitching Rotation
DETROIT, MI – JULY 03:  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Just looking at the image above from Friday, Michael Fulmer looks like he has slimmed down a bit. Coming off surgery, the Tigers will proceed with caution on what he throws. He said was losing velocity back in 2019 after coming back from knee surgery.

This marked the second time he has surgery on him as you recall in 2017, he had work done on his ulnar nerve.  His slider in 2018 held batters to just a .214 batting average so fans of Fulmer should expect that wipeout pitch to come back to go with his four-seamer, sinker, and change.  With a shortened season, this provides a good opportunity for Fulmer to slowly get back into pitching health.  Having 5 to 6 starts with no pain and at least 30 innings to what we saw back before the surgery could provide Detroit enough to keep them in ballgames.

2020 Detroit Tigers Starting Rotation Depth Chart Final Predictions

  1. Matt Boyd
  2. Spencer Turnbull
  3. Daniel Norris
  4. Ivan Nova
  5. Michael Fulmer
  6. Jordan Zimmermann
  7. Dario Agrazal
  8. Casey Mize
  9. Matt Manning

The predictions providing there is a season, factor in injuries, and where the Tigers are in the standings.  If Mize is healthy, have him make a start in September to see how he stacks on the next level with his splitter. Same for Manning. The more I think about it, the more based on depth at the moment, Chiang could be used out of the bullpen more effectively. The Tigers have good starting pitching potential, which could make things interesting in a shortened season.