INF Andre Lipcius
Lipcius is the first player we’re protecting simply because we think he has the best shot of playing in Detroit next year. With his on-base skills, and Jeimer Candelario likely to be non-tendered, the Tigers will have a hole at third base this offseason. The free agent options to fill the position aren’t great, as we’ve gone into detail about in the past.
Lipcius slashed .277/.391/.435 with 12 homers and a 127 wRC+ between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. He only struck out three more times (89) than he walked (86).
Lipcius has always been a high on-base guy, but this year it looked like he was starting to put it all together, as he showed more power than he had in the past. We think the 24-year-old will get every chance to make the roster out of spring training.
With Lipcius being added to the 40-man, someone has to go. This first cut will be reliever Miguel Diaz. He was signed to a minor league deal in March after spending the last few years in San Diego. He has decent stuff, but struggles with his control. The Tigers have plenty of guys like that, so he becomes the first casuality of this piece.
OF Parker Meadows
Meadows finally started to hit his stride in 2022 after looking like a draft bust for the first few years of his career. He slashed .275/.354/.466 with a 123 wRC+ at Double-A this season. The Tigers sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he was unfortunately struggled to the tune of a .583 OPS in 19 games.
While it is slighltly discouraging to see him struggle in the AFL, this year was a huge step forward for Meadows, who just turned 23. He’ll probably start next year in Triple-A, and he’s got an outside shot to make it to Detroit at some point in 2023.
With Meadows being protected, we’re going to make a somewhat controversial cut: Harold Castro. Hittin’ Harold may have some crazy bat-to-ball skills, but he hit for almost no power and never walks. Plus, his defense is pretty shotty wherever he plays. I could easily see him clearing waivers and the Tigers bringing him back on a minor league deal, but I don’t think he’ll survive this round of cuts.
SP Reese Olson
Olson is the last of the prospects that the Detroit Tigers absolutley have to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. He’s got some serious swing-and-miss stuff, averaging 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings in Double-A last season. He got off to a tremendous start, with some, myself included, thinking he was deserving of a promotion. But I guess that’s why I’m not a scout or a GM, as he struggled mighitily for a while. He just seemed to lose command of his fastball, which he really needs to succeed since he doesn’t throw all that hard.
All in all, Olson ended up with a 4.14 ERA in 119.2 IP this season, although his 3.31 FIP and 3.08 xFIP suggest that he pitched better than his numbers would indicate.
There’s been some thought that he could make the shift to the bullpen, which would certainly be interesting. It could allow his fastball to play up. Either way, Olson needs to be protected.
Minor-league journeyman Luis Castillo will be the one to get cut in this scenario. He has a funky delivery that can throw hitters off, and he pitched 3.2 scoreless innings for the Tigers this season, but it would pretty surprising to see him survive all these 40-man roster moves.
INF Wenceel Perez
Perez is the last prospect we’re going to be protecting. He, like Meadows, finally broke out in 2022 after seeming like a bust. He slashed .295/.369/.534 with 14 homers and a 144 wRC+ between High-A and Double-A.
He’s never been a high-strikeouts guy, which has been nice, but he could never drive the ball before last year. His power production jumped up big time, putting up a .238 ISO. He actually might have a higher chance of being protected than Lipcius since he’s still only 22.
As a corresponding move for protecting Perez, we’re going to say the Detroit Tigers will offically be Castro-less. That’s right, we’re non-tendering Willi Castro. It’s not yet clear if the Tigers will actually do it, but they should. He’s just not a good player.