Detroit Tigers: 5 Things We Learned During Summer Camp

DETROIT, MI - Riley Greene of the Detroit Tigers looks on and smiles. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - Riley Greene of the Detroit Tigers looks on and smiles. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

In a year which has been anything but normal, the Detroit Tigers were gifted a unique opportunity to pair their major league players and top prospects

Summer camps typically result in some type of learning or skill acquisition. Some religious, some practical, others social–but for the Detroit Tigers, Summer Camp has afforded a chance both to allow their major league players re-prepare for the upcoming season as well as give their top talent a taste of the experience and competition that the major leagues coerces.

The learning experience has trickled down to the fans as well, though, as the Tigers have been streaming many of their intrasquad games over their website–allowing us to learn about the new faces with the team and also gracing us with seeing many of the players that only get heard and talked about before they reach the big leagues.

Over the last two and a half weeks of games and workouts, there are five takeaways that stand out:

1) Riley Greene is a better athlete than we thought

We have seen the swift defensive plays in West Michigan in 2019 from Riley Greene, but perhaps the most impressive part of Greene in 2020 was nothing he did on the field. Rather, it was his ability to transform his body in just a few short months. From Spring Training to Summer Camp, Greene showed a noticeably different physique; filling out more and adding considerable muscle to his arms.

Although Greene feels destined for a corner outfield spot considering his average running ability and the likelihood of him continuing to add bulk as he matures, Summer Camp has showed us there is certainly an argument to be made for Greene to be the second or third-best prospect in the organization.

2) Jake Rogers has improved offensively

I detailed in a piece how Rogers made some changes that were giving him some rewards thus far in 2020. A load change made both with his hands and his leg kick have been beneficial to Rogers, who is having the best Summer Camp among the catching corps.

He has had the defensive chops to plant himself behind the plate on a major league club; the question was always if he would hit enough to play regularly. If this Summer Camp were off of merit alone, Rogers would certainly be their catcher. It remains to be seen, however, if Detroit was so convinced by Rogers’ camp, if they would have the audacity to play Rogers over the recently-signed Austin Romine, who has struggled thus far.

3) Jordan Zimmermann is likely done

Site expert Roger Castillo detailed in a piece all the angles to the news that Zimmermann was headed to the 45-day IL due to forearm tightness. With the season approaching shortly and only lasting 66 calendar days, this would only leave about three weeks maximum for Zimmermann to return.

DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 26: Jordan Zimmermann #27 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the game. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 26: Jordan Zimmermann #27 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the game. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Add to that he would likely need some rehab time in Toledo, make that two weeks maximum. Call it 12 games–that would only leave Zimmermann two starts in a best-case scenario to re-enter the rotation. I understand and appreciate his willingness to work toward a return in 2020, but at this point, it might be best for all parties to shut him down and allow him to prepare for an opportunity in 2021.

4) Left field will likely be served by committee

On our most recent Motor City Bengals round table discussion, I detailed why I was not excited for many of the position battles outside of left field. There are storylines to follow with each option–Christin Stewart is in a make-or-break season and has had a solid offensive camp, Travis Demeritte has been dealing with a groin injury in which he is just returning from, and Victor Reyes showed small spurts of success in 2019.

There is no outfielder whose ability stood clear and above the others, so playing the match-ups throughout the season will likely be the route for manager Ron Gardenhire and the Detroit Tigers. There have been some legitimately hoping for Riley Greene to make the club, but at just 19 years old, he needs more time in the minors.

5) The bullpen might be better than we thought

Sample sizes are tiny for bullpen arms and it is important to remember that these pitchers are throwing against a team which helped yield the club first overall pick Spencer Torkelson last season, but with all those disclaimers in mind, the bullpen has looked better than imagined in Summer Camp.

Joe Jimenez and Buck Farmer were perhaps the only locks to enter the bullpen heading into the season, but strong showings by Gregory Soto, Bryan Garcia, Rony Garcia, Nick Ramirez, David McKay, and Beau Burrows have given some hope to a group that struggled last season.

Summer Camp has lacked a big enough sample size for us to draw too many conclusions about players thus far, but then again, the entire season will be a small sample size relative to what we are accustomed to. It will be important for the Detroit Tigers and fans alike to avoid any overreactions in a short 2020 to a game that is largely about streaky runs and momentum.