Detroit Tigers: Prospects That May Make Their MLB Debut in 2021

DETROIT, MI - JULY 18: Riley Greene #31 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts at Comerica Park on July 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JULY 18: Riley Greene #31 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts at Comerica Park on July 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Detroit Tigers are starting to see their young talent reach the big leagues; there is another wave that could reach the MLB in 2021

The 2020 season was one that featured plenty of pivots for the Detroit Tigers; they had stated publicly their goal was the playoffs before a nasty rash of injuries exposed the clubs’ lack of depth at several key positions. There was a silver lining to losing, though, as we were finally able to see some of the team’s top prospects reach the big league club.

Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Isaac Paredes, Kyle Funkhouser, Beau Burrows, Derek Hill, Rony Garcia, Daz Cameron, Sergio Alcantara, and Anthony Castro all made their debuts in 2020 despite the shortened season, at least in part thanks to expanded active rosters but also due to injuries they encountered to players like Ivan Nova, Dario Agrazal, and CJ Cron among others.

Believe it or not, teams like the Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins, both of which were playoff teams, beat this total. However, it does not appear the Tigers are done with their MLB debuts, as another round of talent is primed for a debut at some point in 2021. Here are some of the possibilities:

Matt Manning

Manning may have been on track to make his debut in 2020, however, a forearm strain ended up resulting in a shutdown and ending his bid to crack the big leagues.  For Manning, the key to his success with the big league club is the progression of his change-up, which has flashed plus but has shown inconsistencies throughout his minor league career.

Assuming health as well as a normal MLB 2021 season (which may be unrealistic at this point), he has an outside shot at breaking camp with the big league club, but a more likely outcome is for him to begin the year in Toledo and eventually get the call toward the middle of the season.

Alex Faedo

See above. Kidding, but in reality, the situations are very similar. Faedo was on track to potentially reach the big leagues this season before a forearm strain ended up sidelining him. The injuries were announced simultaneously, but due to the lack of access to the alternate training site last season, it is unclear whether the injuries occurred parallel to each other.

The organization called the strains minor, but I am convicted to believe there is no such thing, especially for prospects like these who are so highly-regarded. Like Manning, a third pitch will be vital to Faedo’s development to pair with his fastball and slider. Regardless, a big league debut in 2021 is all-but-certain in some capacity assuming health and reasonable performance in Toledo.

Zack Short

Short was acquired at the 2020 trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs in a deal that sent outfielder Cameron Maybin to the windy city. Not a bad trade for a guy brought in on a last-minute one-year deal. Short can play all around the dirt and his type of versatility is something that the Detroit Tigers have been known to value.

He played 41 games at the Triple-A level in 2019 as well as the Arizona Fall League; couple that with the fact he will be 26 years-old in May and it is plausible that Short will begin 2021 with the big league club. The challenge with where Short fits in is the clubs’ bevy of utility-types–Niko Goodrum, Harold Castro, and Willi Castro all feature some infield versatility up-the-middle and Candelario can play both corners.

Riley Greene

Perhaps the crown jewel and most-hyped of the bunch, It is possible that Greene starts in Double-A for 2021 considering his experience at the alternate training site in 2020. Traditionally a hitters launchpad (assuming the Tigers are still affiliated with Erie in 2021), a hot start, and subsequent promotion may be in the cards.

Co-site expert Rogelio Castillo called for the Detroit Tigers to get aggressive with Greene in his piece that can be found here, but the Tigers have traditionally conservative with the promotions of their prospects, especially highly-regarded high school draftees. The Tigers need corner outfield help desperately, so depending on how the club addresses those needs in the off-season, Greene may have a clear shot to the big leagues; although it is difficult to imagine much beyond a September call-up at this point.

Spencer Torkelson

Not to be forgotten, the 2020 1st overall pick Spencer Torkelson also spent time at the alternate training site last season as he underwent the move from his first base collegiate home to third base, where the organization feels he can maximize his value and athleticism.

How the club intends to address the third base and first base spots for 2021 will ultimately influence Torkelson’s path; particularly, what the organization decides to do with Jeimer Candelario, who caught fire offensively and made steady improvements at first base as the season went on but already profiles as an above-average defensive third baseman. If Candy moves back to third and Paredes is squeezed out of the picture at least temporarily, Torkelson’s path as a first baseman becomes apparent, assuming they don’t make a free-agent splash.

Outside Shots

Several players may have an outside chance to crack the Detroit Tigers’ big league roster throughout the season. These players become more likely for a role if there is an injury or poor performances that result in demotions.

The bullpen is likely to see some movement and there is a wealth of options waiting there. Wladimir Pinto, Will Vest, Nolan Blackwood, Jason Foley, and Gerson Moreno could all see time with the club, depending on the need and construction of the bullpen.

Alex Lange and Paul Richan could pose as spot starter or long relief options; similar to what we’ve seen with Tyler Alexander most recently.

For position players, the only other potential option would be someone like Kody Clemens, who has had an inconsistent minor league career thus far but will be 25 in May. Due to the club’s depth and versatility at the position, a Clemens promotion is likely to come from his own surge as opposed to an injury or another players’ regression.