Detroit Tigers: 8 internal starting pitching candidates

Infielder Harold Castro pitches in the ninth inning. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Infielder Harold Castro pitches in the ninth inning. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Detroit Tigers haven’t wasted any time addressing their needs this offseason.

The Tucker Barnhart trade and the Eduardo Rodriguez signing both served notice to fans, and other teams, that the Tigers are serious about contending again. But there’s plenty more work to be done.

Everyone is rightfully looking to shortstop, but the Detroit Tigers still need more help in the pitching department. With Rodriguez in the fold, it’s unlikely the Tigers go after any of the other upper-tier starters we’ve previewed.

But they will definitely need more starting pitching. In 2021 the average MLB team used 14 different starters, and 14 teams, including the Detroit Tigers, had at least seven pitchers make ten or more starts.

Right now Detroit’s opening day rotation probably looks like this: Eduardo Rodriguez, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Tyler Alexander, and Matt Manning. That could be a decent staff, but in modern baseball depth is nearly as important as talent.

So let’s take a look as some internal candidates to make a spot start or ten for the Detroit Tigers in 2022, beginning with those already on the 40-man roster.

Detroit Tigers Starting Pitching Option: Alex Faedo

Detroit Tigers
Alex Faedo throws a pitch. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Projected 2022 MLB Starts: 4

It’s hard to know what to expect in 2022 from Alex Faedo. Detroit’s first-round selection in 2017, Faedo underwent Tommy John surgery 11 months ago. He should be physically ready to go for the start of the season, but there were questions about his future even when he was healthy. Now 26, Faedo has a strong track record of throwing strikes, but 35 home runs allowed in 236 pro innings suggests he might find the heart of the plate a bit too often. He probably fits best in the bullpen, but given Detroit’s lack of depth and Faedo’s status as a former first-rounder, it seems likely the organization will continue to develop him as a starter.

Detroit Tigers Starting Pitching Option: Rony García

Detroit Tigers
Rony Garcia delivers a pitch in the fourth inning. Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports /

Projected 2022 MLB Starts: 2

Stylistically, Rony García isn’t all that different from Alex Faedo. He’s a control-over-command righty who uses his changeup sparingly. García was the first pick in the 2019 Rule 5 draft and made a few short starts for the Tigers in 2020, but his 2021 season was cut short after a freak knee injury he suffered while warming up in the outfield. There’s no guarantee García stays on the 40-man roster this offseason, but if he does he’ll likely spend much of the season starting in Toledo. If he does spend time with the Tigers it will probably be as a bulk reliever, but the projection here is he gets a pair of opener-style starts that last no more than a handful of batters.

Detroit Tigers Starting Pitching Option: Elvin Rodriguez

Detroit Tigers
Erie SeaWolves pitcher Elvin Rodriguez throws against the Somerset Patriots on June 11, 2021, at UPMC Park in Erie. /

Projected 2022 MLB Starts: 2

Elvin Rodriguez was 19 when the Tigers acquired him in the 2017 Justin Upton trade, and he has made steady progress through the system since then. He was a bit of a surprise addition to the 40-man roster a few weeks ago, but he has the 2nd most innings and starts of any pitcher in Detroit’s system since 2018. Rodriguez’s stuff is a bit light, with a fastball in the low-90s, a changeup that flashes average, and a below-average curveball, but he throws strikes and he has proven durable despite his thin frame.

Detroit Tigers Starting Pitching Option: Joey Wentz

Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers pitcher Joey Wentz throws in the bullpen. /

Projected 2022 MLB Starts: 12

Of all the starting pitchers in Detroit’s system, Joey Wentz has the best mix of experience, pedigree, and stuff. A first-round pick for Atlanta in 2016, Wentz flirted with top-100 status as a prospect, and he was spectacular for five Double-A starts in 2019 after he came to the Detroit organization in the Shane Greene trade. But Wentz went down with Tommy John surgery in March 2020, and his return to action last season was a little bumpy. Wentz made 18 starts overall, and posted a solid 3.71 ERA in 13 Double-A outings, but he averaged just four innings per start as he struggled to throw strikes and finish batters. The bet here is that his struggles were largely post-surgery rust, and in 2022 he’ll show signs of being a solid back-end starter again.

Detroit Tigers Non 40-man Starting Pitching Options

Detroit Tigers
Erie SeaWolves pitcher Garrett Hill throws against the Harrisburg Senators at UPMC Park in Erie. /

Projected 2022 MLB Starts: 20+

Odds are the 2022 Detroit Tigers will get a few dozen starts from pitchers who aren’t currently on the team’s 40-man roster. They could be veteran types, like Drew Hutchison and Wily Peralta, or they could be pitching prospects who get promoted. If it’s the latter category, the best bets are probably Beau Brieske, Garrett Hill, Reese Olson, and Paul Richan.

Brieske was named Detroit’s minor-league pitcher of the year after posting a 3.12 ERA across 106.2 innings in High-A and Double-A, while Hill produced an identical ERA in just under 90 innings (including the Arizona Fall League). They are similar pitchers, too, with low-90s fastballs, above-average changeups, and good command. Reese Olson is the youngest of the group, but probably the most talented, with a fastball that can reach the mid-90s and three secondary offerings that all flash above-average or better. Paul Richan came to the organization in the Nick Castellanos trade, but he threw just 29 innings this year, and his fringy stuff likely makes him an emergency option only.

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