Detroit Tigers 40-Man Roster Preview: Tyler Alexander Grows in Role

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 13: Tyler Alexander #70 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Chicago White Sox on September 13, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 13: Tyler Alexander #70 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Chicago White Sox on September 13, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

It feels like Tyler Alexander’s historic nine-straight-strikeout performance on August 2, 2020, for the Detroit Tigers against the Cincinnati Reds was an eternity ago; but just six months prior, fans were wondering if the Detroit Tigers may have found a long-man bullpen arm.

Regarded for his command, Alexander’s finesse approach led to a 3.96 ERA in 2021 and a solid 0.6 bWAR. With a litany of arms ready, though, it remains to be seen if Alexander can elbow his way back into the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers this upcoming season.

The Detroit Tigers selected Tyler Alexander in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft–a move thought by many to be a reach on draft night. The Tigers had an affection for Alexander before 2015, however, selecting him also in the 23rd round of the 2013 draft out of high school. Alexander would pass on the offer, expectedly, to pitch at Texas Christian University.

Across two college seasons, Alexander pitched to a 2.71 ERA; throwing 192.2 innings and striking out 131 while walking just 21 for the Horned Frogs. After getting drafted, he would pitch in the New York Penn League for the remainder of the year–starring across 12 starts: 0.97 ERA in 37 innings. In 2016, he was challenged by skipping the Midwest League and went straight to High-A Lakeland, where he pitched to a 2.21 ERA across 18 starts before getting promoted to Erie that same year.

Erie and Toledo proved challenging for Alexander, however. In 2017, he spent the whole year in Double-A; starting 26 games but yielding a 5.07 ERA and averaging well over one hit per inning pitched. In 2018, he earned a promotion to Toledo but struggled there as well, giving the Mud Hens a 4.79 ERA across 15 starts there. 2019 was more of the same in Triple-A: 5.13 ERA before an MLB call-up, in which he’d start eight games for the Detroit Tigers.

Across two seasons, Alexander owns a 4.50 ERA for Detroit while averaging 10.7 hits per nine innings, 1.6 walks per nine innings, and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Tyler Alexander’s Contract Status With the Detroit Tigers

According to Spotrac, in 2021, Alexander will be on the MLB minimum for his age-26 season and is under team control thru 2025.

Tyler Alexander’s Game

As we alluded to earlier, Alexander fits the bill of the crafty, command-oriented left-hander that we have traditionally seen across the league. If a Detroit Tiger fan is up for a trip down memory lane, they can reminisce about the days of Kyle Ryan, Kyle Lobstein, or even Mike Maroth. Alexander fits that bill as someone whose stuff does not jump off the screen, but the culmination of work ethic, feel, and handedness makes him effective.

His pitch mix is lengthy: fastball, changeup, slider, cutter, curveball. He shows the ability to throw all for strikes and move them around the zone as he pleases. Each offering is about equally fringy; showcasing below average movement with each. Add to that his fastball velocity sits comfortably in the 91-92 range and it makes his command even more paramount to consistently get outs.

Because he doesn’t walk batters, a starter or long-relief role will always be an option compared to some of the more high-octane, effectively-wild colleagues. However, it is fair to question if Alexander is around the zone too much given his stuff, as evidenced by his 9.7 hits per nine innings in 2020.

ZiPS Projections

My Take

I have to believe the days of Tyler Alexander, starting pitcher are over unless AJ Hinch gets into some type of creative opener situation. I do understand the season is long and anything could certainly happen, but between Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Jose Urena, Matt Manning, Julio Teheran, and maybe even Franklin Perez or Joey Wentz, it could be difficult for Alexander to find himself starting that many games.

Getting a full WAR out of Alexander in 2021 would be a huge win, but I don’t believe it is realistic. Depending on the construction of the roster, I see Alexander most-likely as an up-and-down long reliever this season, especially since he has two options left.