Detroit Tigers 2024 Opening Day roster projection 1.0

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers
Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers / Mark Cunningham/GettyImages

Pitchers and catchers have officially reported. Spring training has officially begun. Starting next Monday, when everyone else reports to camp, 58 players will start to compete for 26 spots on the Detroit Tigers' Opening Day roster.

What better way to kick off our spring training coverage than with our first Opening Day roster projection. The plan is to do three of these — this first one, one around the midpoint of spring training, and one last one around final cuts.

There are some guarenteed spots, but others aren't so clear. Some of the spots at the backend of the roster will be interesting to watch play out. But we're going to try our best to predict these things without having watched a single rep of spring training.

Why don't we get started with one of the easier positions to predict?

Catcher: Jake Rogers, Carson Kelly (backup)

The starting catcher job is Jake Rogers' to lose. Nobody is going to refute that. He deserves it. He was quietly one of the best catchers in the American League last year.

The question is here in the backup job. It's a pretty good bet that it'll go to Carson Kelly, since the team picked up his $3.5 million option this offseason, but is it really? Could one of the catchers they brought in as non-roster invitees snag the job from underneath? Or perhaps Dillon Dingler has a monster spring and makes the team?

Really, all Kelly has to do is play good defense and hit just a little bit, which is exactly what he did in his short stint with the Tigers last season. It should be his job, but you never know.

First base: Spencer Torkelson

Not much to say here. This is a lock. It would be nice to see Tork's defense improve, since he graded out pretty poorly last year other than scooping up low throws from Javy Baez. Since we're not really banking on that, just keep hitting homers, Tork.

Second base: Colt Keith

While technically not a lock, it really should be. Keith's bat is ready, and clearly the Tigers have a ton of faith in him, or they wouldn't have given him a six-year extension before taking an at-bat in the majors. Scott Harris definitely made it sound like second base is where he'll spend the majority of his time defensively. We'll see what happens.

Third base: Matt Vierling, Andy Ibanez

Since the Tigers failed to address third base for the second straight offseason, we're stuck with Matt Vierling and Andy Ibanez. Zach McKinstry could techincally fit into the rotation as well, but we're going with these two as third baseman for now. This could easily change as spring training goes along.

Shortstop: Javier Baez

This is a also a lock, whether Tigers fans like it or not. All we can hope for is that Baez is able to catch up to fastballs again and he becomes a serviceable hitter.

Outfield: Mark Canha, Parker Meadows, Kerry Carpenter

This will likely be the outfield for the first month or two of the season. Having Canha as that veteran prescence will be nice. Meadows could be in for a breakout season, and Carpenter slowly got better defensively as the season went on last year.

Now you might be wondering, where's Riley Greene? Well...

Designated hitter: Riley Greene

This will likely be his role as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. Though it was on his non-throwing arm, allowing to focus on hitting for the time-being should help him his recovery process.

Bench/Utility players: Zach McKinstry, Akil Baddoo

You can throw Ibanez into this group too if you wanted to. McKinstry plays good defense and runs the bases well, so despite his shortcomings at the plate, he could get a spot.

We went with Baddoo for the last bench spot for a similar reason, though it does give the Tigers one too many lefties. Justyn-Henry Malloy, or even someone like Eddys Leonard might make more sense for that reason, but they both have some question marks on defense. Baddoo has gotten much better in that department since his rookie year. He gets the last spot for a position player for now.

Starting rotation: Tarik Skubal, Kenta Maeda, Matt Manning, Jack Flaherty, Reese Olson

Not necessarily in that order, but this is the five we have to start out with. Maeda and Flaherty are guarenteed spots, as is Skubal, so that leaves two spots with four or five pitchers vying for those spots. We went with Manning and Olson.

Olson showed so much promise at the end of last year that you have to give him a chance. Manning has struggled with health and inconsistency, but this should be his last year to prove himself.

Then there's Casey Mize. He starts the year in Triple-A for us for now. It gives some more time to ramp up after coming off two major surgeries. He gets the first call in the event of an injury.

Bullpen: Alex Lange, Jason Foley, Will Vest, Shelby Miller, Tyler Holton, Andrew Chafin, Beau Brieske, Joey Wentz

Man, that looks a heck of a lot better than last year at this time. It was a lot easier, too. Trying to mix and match bullpen arms last season was like trying to solve the world's hardest puzzle.

Given Lange's struggles last year, we don't believe A.J. Hinch will go into the year with a set closer. It will likely be a closer by committe type of thing. Having Holton and Chafin now as situational lefties is a big boost.

The real question here was the last spot — the long man/mop-up guy. We gave it to Joey Wentz, and there two main reasons behind that. For starters, he's out of minor league options, and we don't think the Tigers want to risk putting him through waivers and having him get claimed.

The other reason is that it gives the Tigers a third lefty in the 'pen, which is always nice to have. The other option we considered here is Alex Faedo, but since he does have an option left, the Tigers can just stash him in Toledo to start the year.

There you have it. The first Opening Day roster projection of 2024. We think it'll look a bit different come early-to-mid March, but this is what we have to start with.