Three Detroit Tigers players not getting enough national attention

DETROIT, MI - MAY 25: Akil Baddoo #60 of the Detroit Tigers bats against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park on May 25, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - MAY 25: Akil Baddoo #60 of the Detroit Tigers bats against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park on May 25, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

These Detroit Tigers players remain under the radar, and we might be to blame

Covering the entire game is tough. Heck, just covering the Detroit Tigers from top-to-bottom proves challenging at times. It is understandable why unicorns like Shohei Ohtani and Jacob deGrom get so much hype and dominate headlines. They deserve it.

Ohtani sports a 3.60 ERA and leads the league in home runs. deGrom might finish the season with an ERA under 1 as a starter. deGrom’s 0.69 ERA would be the lowest in history; with the next lowest starter being Tim Keefe, who put up a 0.86 ERA in 1880 according to Baseball Almanac. Appreciating greatness and watching history happen in front of our eyes is fun, but in some ways, these talents are simply delivering on the hype they came in with.

There are three Detroit Tigers who stick out that are more a story of redemption and surprise; less predictable, perhaps even more fun. No, they aren’t necessarily in line for any major awards and they may not even make an all-star appearance. Griping that these players are not getting their due nationally is inexcusable if I am not willing to write about them locally. So here we are.

1) Detroit Tigers SP Casey Mize

He’s on the fringes of some of the Rookie of the Year discussions in the American League, but he may deserve to be higher. Mize ranks 8th among all pitchers in bWAR (2.7) and leads the team in the category and it’s not really close. He leads the team in innings (88.1 IP) and trails only Luis Garcia from Houston for AL rookies in terms of ERA (min 10 starts).

Keeping Mize out of the ROY talks may ultimately prove prudent, considering he’s likely destined for limitation as the season moves along. Nevertheless, 2021 has been a renaissance season compared to his debut year. His ERA has been cut in half to this point, he’s walking a batter and a half less per nine innings, and allowing nearly two fewer hits per nine innings.

It is convenient to say he was the number one pick and blow off the small sample from 2020, but it was evident Mize’s mix was not working. I try to avoid being too reactionary, but it was evident Mize needed some big changes for his stuff to play in the bigs long-term. Enter Chris Fetter and Co and his revamped pitch mix reinvigorated command has improved his results immensely.

2) Detroit Tigers OF Akil Baddoo

His performance is nice, but his story is even more amazing. Baddoo has shaped up to be a Rule 5 steal–a feat that has proved challenging historically. Baddoo had never played above High-A but it was fascinating to see the narrative around Baddoo morph over time. First, Baddoo was a roster-stash. Someone who they could work in when games got out of hand or they gave a regular an off day. After spring and an opening day roster crunch, many were lobbying the Detroit Tigers trade for Baddoo’s rights so he could have some more time to marinate in the minors.

Fast forward and Baddoo has proved his sizzling start wasn’t some flash-in-the-pan. He now

ranks first in the league in OPS among rookies

(min. 35 games) with a .858 and is the first Detroit Tiger with double-digit steals since 2015 (now-pitcher Anthony Gose). He’s slashing just .143/.242/.143 against lefties in 33 ABs (compared to .306/.395/.556 against righties), but his lengthy at-bats and good eye suggest that may not always be the case for the 22-year-old. It remains a longshot, but Baddoo will likely get some ROY votes at this pace; especially considering he’s likely to play at full-go through the end of the season.

3) Detroit Tigers SP Matthew Boyd

He is on the injured list now, but the national media has ironically cannibalized itself as it pertains to left-handed starter Matthew Boyd. Every summer, Boyd would get some hype as a trade target that could net a significant haul back for the Detroit Tigers, but inevitably Boyd would struggle down the stretch, the Tigers would ask for too much, and nothing would ever happen. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This year has been different for Boyd, though, who has seemed to put his homerun issues behind them and has managed to put up 1.7 bWAR across his 13 starts in 2021. Last season, Boyd allowed a league-worst 15 home runs across his 12 starts. This year, by comparison, just

6 home runs total

in 10 more innings pitched.

It is time to stop thinking of Boyd as a blue chip that is destined to land a top prospect or two. As his control dwindles, so does his value. He’s 30 and only under contract for

one more season after this year

according to Spotrac, so the Detroit Tigers will have to face the tough decision of extending him or letting him test the free-agent waters after 2022.

Honorable Mention: Detroit Tigers C Jake Rogers

It is tough to blame folks locally or nationally for not jumping on the Jake Rogers train. His sample is much smaller than these first three names and he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with his figures, but Jake Rogers is slowly turning into the catcher the Detroit Tigers thought they were trading for when they acquired him as part of the package that sent Justin Verlander to Houston in 2017.

Rogers has already amassed 0.8 bWAR in his 28 games; batting .224/.283/.447 with four home runs. Defensively, Rogers has a .996 fielding percentage, has made some smart plays in the field, and has thrown out 6 of 10 would-be base stealers this season (league average is 24 percent). His 37 strikeouts in 85 at-bats remains an issue, but even if his offense stays where it is, his defense will keep him in Detroit long-term.