Detroit Tigers: Spring Training’s Spiciest Takes Explained

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: JaCoby Jones #21 of the Detroit Tigers bats against the New York Yankees in a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 05, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: JaCoby Jones #21 of the Detroit Tigers bats against the New York Yankees in a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 05, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

We have all done it. It might be in a bar aided by some brews, maybe some itchy Twitter thumbs, a live lament after a bad play, a private conversation we aren’t quite comfortable enough to make public. But if one has watched Detroit Tigers baseball long enough, we have all had the hot take we have uttered at one time or another.

Heck, co-expert Chris Brown has this 2014 tweet pinned to the top of his own profile:

Admittedly, we get asked for this as opinion-givers. After all, is it truly entertaining and worth engaging about if there isn’t some sense of boldness to it? Spring Training, surprisingly, has offered no shortage of such declarations–shocking considering that many of the games to this point have been pinned to outside markets or radio-exclusive broadcasts; leaving fans like fiends, hoping to find the latest highlight clip from a local’s iPhone.

Here, we’ll examine some of the most prominent opinions to lend some context to as well as examine the likelihood that each comes to fruition. To be transparent, my goal is not to chastise or demean these people; in fact, all of these individuals offer insight I personally esteem. Pleasantries aside, let us dive in.

1) Akil Baddoo over JaCoby Jones–Today

A retiree that can’t quite keep away, Lynn Henning is covering the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida once again for the Detroit News this spring. Fans have gotten limited looks at the newly-acquired Akil Baddoo, but Henning puts all his chips in on him here:

It remains unclear if this is even a really either/or scenario for the Detroit Tigers, but they will undoubtedly have a decision to make in the outfield. As of now, Grossman, Jones, and Mazara figure to be the starters, but they also have Daz Cameron, Derek Hill, Victor Reyes, Akil Baddoo, Christin Stewart, and Harold Castro that can play the outfield and have each seen big league time. I discussed this logjam at length here.  And this doesn’t include Goodrum, who can stand at any spot in the grass as well.

Going back to the specific tweet, though, I could see where Henning was going. Baddoo has shown a more well-rounded approach, he’s a left-handed bat, he can (legitimately) handle center field, and there is more power potential with his bat. This was where I left his march:

Lynn has had more eyes on Baddoo than myself and many Tigers fans, but this certainly qualifies as bold nevertheless. Jones, prone to freak injuries over the past couple of seasons, made some recent swing adjustments that have propelled him into a second-division regular role. Baddoo, meanwhile, has yet to make it out of A-ball, and while there were some high on him even before the Rule 5 Draft, jumping three levels and jumping the current starter might be ambitious.

Long-term, this take may very well hold up. Not only is Jones entering the later side of his prime, but Baddoo will continue to get repetitions to learn the rigors of the major leagues. Beyond anything Baddoo can do, though, history tells us a Jones-like outcome for the Rule 5 selection is not likely.

2) Zack Short Over Harold Castro

While the Detroit Tigers have coveted players that can move around the diamond in recent years, this year, they particularly have versatility on the roster with a slew of talent to fill the utility role. Goodrum is expected to move around as well as perhaps Jeimer Candelario, but two non-starters are making their respective case this spring.

Zack Short was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Cameron Maybin at the deadline last season and is known for his ability to play at any spot in the infield. Meanwhile, “Hittin'” Harold Castro has filled a similar role for the Detroit Tigers recently.

This is bold, but not out of the question. First, let us be clear: the consequences to one over the other are minimal. These names would represent the 25th or 26th roster spots and are not likely destined for any type of meaningful role with the club, regardless.

Harold Castro’s appeal is his experience; he has over 400 ABs in the major leagues to this point and has played at exactly replacement level; posting .8 oWAR and -.8 dWAR over this time thus far. His value defensively more than anything is the fact that he can move around, not necessarily that he can be a defensive difference-maker. Offensively, he’s posted a semi-hollow .298 average; hitting just five home runs and slugging .387 over three seasons.

Zack Short meanwhile has never reached the big leagues. Short is a couple of years younger and has gotten kudos early in camp for his defensive prowess in the dirt. He has also displayed two offensive skills that Castro has yet to display at any level: hit for power and take walks. Short has a career .377 on-base percentage across all levels compared to Castro’s .314. Then there’s this crazy stat: between 2018 and 2019, Zack Short hit 23 home runs across 649 ABs. Harold Castro has hit 24 home runs his entire professional career, over 3,500 ABs.

This take sounded spicy from the start given the familiarity we have with Castro as well as Short’s inexperience, but I am not sure I can name something that Harold Castro does better than Zack Short. Of note: it was recently reported that Zack Short has not been playing due to COVID protocols.

3) A Spencer Torkelson Swing Change?

Listen around 58:10 for the previously-mentioned co-expert Chris Brown’s suggestion for Spencer Torkelson to change his swing in hopes for a quicker bat in the pros.  Chris’s rationale makes sense; Torkelson has scuffled thus far in spring and Chris seems to think he may be having trouble catching up to more premium velocity.

Ironically, Torkelson gets high marks for his ability to drive the ball despite his toe-tap front foot; a Miguel Cabrera special that helps prevent hitters from ever being off-balance in the box.

What makes Spencer special is his ability to drive the ball in despite that lack of engagement in the legs. However, it is fair to ask if a more-involved lower half would lead to better bat speed and thus, fix his ability to catch up. Torkelson is regarded as a consensus top-20 prospect in the game mostly for his bat, so any suggestions to change are going to be met with skepticism.

I’d personally tap the brakes on any of those changes. Not only is it spring and hitters notoriously struggle to get their timing down to begin with, but it is also very early for him developmentally and there could even still be some tinkering to be done as it relates to his adjustment to wood bats in the pros.

What are your Detroit Tigers Spring Training hot takes? Let us know @MCB_Tigers on Twitter!