A few days ago we used Spencer Torkelson’s rough spring as an excuse to dig into some of the worst debuts from Detroit Tigers in history.
In the spirit of equal time, it only seems fair to use Akil Baddoo’s awesome spring as an excuse to look at the best debuts in Detroit Tigers history.
Spring training stats don’t count as debuts, of course, so we won’t be looking for other stellar exhibition performances like Baddoo’s. And we’ve decided to not count any Rookie of the Year winners, so no Harvey Keunn, Mark Fidrych, Lou Whitaker, Justin Verlander, and Michael Fulmer in this piece
But what we do have are some noteworthy debut games and seasons from Detroit Tigers players. Let’s begin just a little more than a decade ago.
Best Detroit Tigers Debut Number 1 – Austin Jackson
Austin Jackson came to the Detroit Tigers in one of Dave Dombrowski’s blockbuster trades, and he had the unenviable task of replacing All-Star and fan favorite in Curtis Granderson in center field. Jackson had been one of the New York Yankees’ top prospects for several years, but with no MLB experience, it was hard to imagine him having much success as a rookie.
And all Austin Jackson did was go out and put up the best rookie year by a position player in Detroit Tigers history (at least according to Baseball Reference’s version of WAR). Granderson was a true five-tool player, and while Jackson couldn’t measure up in the power department — he hit just 4 homers as a rookie — he more than made up for it in other areas. Jackson batted .293, stole 27 bases, and played spectacular defense.
Jackson is still just 34, but he hasn’t played in a game since 2018. He never won a Gold Glove, even though he posted the highest single-season defensive WAR (3.1) in Detroit Tigers history in 2011. He never made an All-Star team, despite posting a 134 wRC+ in 2012. And he finished second in the 2010 Rookie of the Year voting to Neftalí Feliz. But he’s the first name on our list.