3 Detroit Tigers players who need to vastly improve in May or face demotion

There's a lot to be happy about in 2024 for Tigers fans. But the team needs these three players to get on track soon.
Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers / Duane Burleson/GettyImages

The Detroit Tigers picked up 2024 right just as they finished up 2023: winning. They finished April with a 17-13 record after their first month-plus of baseball. For the first time in a long time, you can look at playoff chances and see Detroit above 1%. It was fun.

There was a lot to be happy about: the strength of the starting rotation, a mostly confidence-giving bullpen, solid fundamentals in the field and on the basepaths, eighth-inning comebacks. But there were frustrating times too, frequently the cause of a lineup that could completely disappear for lengthy portions of games.

So there's room for improvement. Which is good in a way. If this was the best the team was capable of, those playoff chances may be more of a distant dream than an attainable reality.

With that in mind, here are three players who really need to step up their game in May or give up their roster spot to someone a little more deserving.

2B Colt Keith

We've mentioned Colt Keith's name a lot lately, including in a story by MCB's Katrina Stebbins today. Keith was given a safety net before the season when the Tigers signed him to a deal that guarantees him $28.6 million over six years with the possibility of it escalating up to $82 million over nine.

The hope was for that to serve as the kind of deal that can keep the Tigers' young roster affordable for years to come while giving Keith the security of knowing he's got a great guarantee and shouldn't sweat the small stuff.

That doesn't innoculate him against struggles though, and those struggles may not be able to be worked out at the major league level. Batting .160 with an OPS+ of 19, he is bringing little to the team's lineup though at least his fielding at second has been a little better than expected.

It might be time for a stint with Triple-A Toledo to get the bat back on track.

1B/DH Spencer Torkelson

Do we think Spencer Torkelson is a candidate to head back to the minors to get back on track any time soon? Maybe not. But he probably should be to get the bat back on track.

Exected to bring a power threat to the middle of the Tigers' batting order, he is batting .219 with a slugging figure of just .298. He has nine doubles and no home runs. The Tigers need him to be that power threat that is lacking if they're going to be an AL Central contender for the long haul.

In his last seven games, he's actually gone backward, hitting .211 with .263 slugging. That's a sign that something more needs to be done, and soon.

RP Shelby Miller

Let's be clear from the start on this one: demotion doesn't necessarily mean Shelby Miller should be sent off the Tigers' roster. But his role as a reliable close-and-late reliever may need to be questioned a bit at this point.

Miller didn't give up either a hit or a run in his first five appearances of the year, and allowed baserunners in just one of those games. As a result he ran up a quick 3-0 record resulting from all the close games the Tigers found themselves in.

He has allowed runs in five of the seven games since then. He's given up 10 hits and a walk in those 7-1/3 innings. In those games, he has two blown saves and three losses. Most recently he was tagged with the L after giving up three hits and two runs to the Cardinals in the first game Tuesday after taking a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning following a gem of a start by Jack Flaherty.

The Tigers need to get Miller back on track or find some safer situations for him to appear in because it's hard to trust him on the monud now.

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