9 Detroit Tigers trapped in spring training limbo

Daz Cameron bats against the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Daz Cameron bats against the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Tigers will not be starting spring training on time.

Missing the start of spring training isn’t a big deal on its own. But it is the first in a series of delays that could eventually push back the beginning of the regular season, or even cause the Detroit Tigers to miss real games.

The lockout could end tomorrow, of course, if the obstinate owners would actually make a real attempt to negotiate. But they reneged on their pledge to counter the players’ latest offer and then tried to get the federal government involved, so that doesn’t seem like a realistic outcome.

And for their part the players remain united in their belief that the owners are not negotiating in good faith, and they are steadfast in their resolve to land an equitable Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Major League Baseball is in trouble right now, and fans can hardly be blamed if they turn their attention elsewhere. Maybe toward the minor leagues?

As we mentioned in our depth chart piece last week, minor league baseball is not affected by the work stoppage. Most minor leaguers aren’t on their team’s 40-man roster, and therefore they aren’t yet members of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

So top Detroit Tigers prospects like Riley Greene, Jackson Jobe, and Spencer Torkelson will still filter into Lakeland in the coming weeks, if they aren’t already there. And minor-league spring training is set to begin in mid-March.

Meanwhile, MLB veterans like Javier Báez, Robbie Grossman, and Eduardo Rodriguez won’t really be affected by missed games. If anything, more time off will help them stay fresh when the season does begin.

But a subset of Detroit Tigers may suffer real harm from this lockout.

There are prospects on the 40-man roster who have never reached the majors, and another handful of young players battling for roster spots. Both groups would benefit from working directly with Detroit’s new player development staff.

Instead, they’ll wait on the sidelines.

So let’s take a look at these players stuck in baseball limbo, and discuss why missing even a month of spring training could hurt them.

Detroit Tigers Trapped in Spring Training Limbo – Starting Pitchers

Detroit Tigers
Tigers pitching prospect Alex Faedo warms up during spring training. /

Alex Faedo

Alex Faedo’s story is typical of many players on this list. The canceled 2020 minor-league season sent Faedo to Detroit’s alternate site, but a bout of COVID kept him out of action until August, and he was quickly shut down with a forearm strain that eventually led to Tommy John surgery in December.

The last time Alex Faedo threw a pitch in a real game was September 1st, 2019, and he hasn’t seen the Triple-A level yet. Most pitchers recover from Tommy John surgery, but their first year back tends to be bumpy. It wouldn’t be shocking if Faedo doesn’t return to full strength until 2023, at which point he’ll be 27. It would be nice if he could start working out the kinks as soon as possible.

Elvin Rodriguez

Elvin Rodriguez was a bit of a surprise add to Detroit’s 40-man roster back in early November, but the Detroit Tigers lack starting pitching depth in their upper levels, and he otherwise would have been a free agent. Rodriguez was battered to the tune of a 5.83 ERA in Double-A Erie last year, and he did miss a handful of starts, but he has generally been an effective workhorse since joining Detroit’s system in the 2017 Justin Upton trade.

Nothing Rodriguez does really stands out, but he has enough ingredients to potentially profile as a fifth starter or swingman. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can touch 95 MPH with good life at the top of the zone, and his mid-80s changeup can miss bats when he locates it well. He also shows an 11-7 curveball with good depth, but it’s a bit slow, so he began toying with a slider last year. Rodriguez has a repeatable delivery and throws plenty of strikes, but his command within the zone is lacking. In short, he’s exactly the sort of hurler who would benefit from extended time honing his pitches and command with Chris Fetter and Tigers player development staff.

Joey Wentz

Joey Wentz is a pretty good example of the lengthy Tommy John recovery process we mentioned above. Wentz was outstanding after he came to the organization in the 2019 Shane Greene trade, but he injured his arm in spring training the next season. It was actually decent timing, as the 2020 minor league season was canceled anyway. Wentz returned for 72 innings in 2021, but he still didn’t look quite right, and he finished the season with a 4.50 ERA and the highest walk rate of his career.

Wentz’s stuff was mostly back last season. His fastball was generally in the 89-93 MPH range, but he could run it up to 95, and he mixed in three different secondary offerings. From a purely subjective standpoint, Wentz looked hesitant to throw his changeup, and just didn’t seem terribly comfortable letting loose — similar to the way Michael Fulmer looked in 2020. As a result, he struggled to put batters away and racked up big pitch counts. He would certainly benefit from more in-game action against quality competition.