3 struggling Tigers players who need to turn it around before drastic decisions arrive

The Detroit Tigers have fought for their winning record so far, but there are still some players who haven't been pulling their weight.
Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers / Duane Burleson/GettyImages

The 2024 Detroit Tigers have already had to prove time and time again this season that they're fighters — wins often come after a lot of struggle (six of them have been come-from-behind), but losses are also fought against, tooth and nail. Sure, we'd all prefer 10-run blowouts in early innings, but the Tigers are hanging onto a winning record, and a win is a win.

Their 10 victories have been thanks to some great timing and clutch hitting on the part of both core and bench guys (even Javy Báez has gotten in on the fun recently), but there are some players who haven't quite been pulling their weight for the team, and will need to heat up before the Tigers are forced to make changes.

3 struggling Tigers players who need to turn it around before drastic decisions arrive

Parker Meadows

During Wednesday's game against the Rangers, with the Tigers down 4-2, Meadows stepped up to the plate and belted a solo homer off Texas reliever Austin Pruitt to get Detroit within one in the seventh. It was his first bomb of the season, and the Tigers were hopeful that it would spark some life into him after a crawling start to the year. Through 55 plate appearances, he's hitting just .087 with a .432 OPS.

It's certainly not what the Tigers want from their No. 12 prospect in 2023, who showed promise in 30+ games in the majors last season and put up a 19 home run year in Triple-A before he was called up. The Tigers desperately need some pop in their lineup, and the biggest heavy hitters from last year (Spencer Torkelson, Kerry Carpenter, and Jake Rogers) are also only just starting to ramp up.

The Tigers are protective of their young players, so Meadows shouldn't have anything to worry about in terms of the team going out to look for a trade for another outfielder, but they also have a history of reaching into the minors and calling on Akil Baddoo, who they seem to have a lot of (maybe misplaced) faith in and has been hitting well in Triple-A. If Meadows can't shape up soon, a swap could be on the books.

Colt Keith

The very last thing the Tigers would want to do after giving Keith an eight-year extension is to send him back to Triple-A because of poor performance in the majors, but if he keeps playing like he's been playing, he may force their hand. Keith isn't doing quite so badly as Meadows — he's hitting .183 with a .444 OPS — and a first full season in the major leagues comes with an adjustment period, but he certainly hasn't gotten the MLB start anyone's wanted from him.

The extension came on the heels of a great 2023 season across Double- and Triple-A. Keith hit .306/.380/.552 with 38 doubles, 27 home runs, and 101 RBI. So far in the majors this year, he's collected only 13 hits, and just one for extra bases.

Though the Tigers' seeming opposition to slapping the 'everyday' label on any one player, there are some upsides to the constant rotation. If Keith needed to spend some more time in Triple-A to find his groove, there are at least two substitutes the Tigers could turn to for second base duties. It wouldn't be ideal by any means, and Keith has shown signs of stabilizing as the season's progressed, but it may have to happen if he doesn't pick it up.

Zach McKinstry

There's less riding on McKinstry than there is Meadows or Keith, but he could be fighting for his spot with the Tigers altogether if he doesn't improve. Of the Tigers three primary utilitymen, the team seem more enamored with Matt Vierling and Andy Ibáñez. Ibáñez has been out with injury since April 8, but Vierling has gotten 17 more at-bats than McKinstry is almost as many games (Vierling has appeared in 16, McKinstry 15).

McKinstry is batting .200, and has only been able to come up with one hit in five pinch-hit scenarios, whereas Vierling's pinch-hit single on Tuesday sparked an eighth-inning rally for the Tigers in a game they went on to win.

McKinstry's place on the team has seemed a little dubious since last season, when he played in over 140 games but only hit .231/.302/.351. As mostly a utility infielder for the Tigers, he could soon be facing competition from Jace Jung, who has an .746 OPS down in Triple-A to start the season.