Detroit Tigers 2024 Opening Day Roster Projection 2.0: Is a six-man rotation possible?

Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels
Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

We've already reached the halfway point of spring training, which is crazy to think about. It feels like pitchers and catchers reported just last week. But we're about two and a half weeks away from Opening Day now. Real baseball games will be played sooner rather than later.

Now that we've seen about 15 games worth of spring reps, it's time to see how the Tigers 26-man roster is shaping out. We've seen plenty of players have really good springs up to this point, and plenty more who have struggled — and potentially played their way off the roster.

Some things have cleared up, others are still a bit murky. Let's check in on things. Here's our second Opening Day roster projection of the spring, going position by position.

Catcher: Jake Rogers, Carson Kelly

Not much to say here, other than Kelly has cemented himself as the frontrunner for the backup job. He's had a great spring, going 7-for-18 as of this writing and slashing .438/.500/.688 with a home run and a double.

Kelly has cleared any doubts people had about whether he was the shoe-in for the backup catcher job. Hopefully his hot hitting will carry over into the regular season.

First base: Spencer Torkelson

It hasn't been the greatest of springs for Tork. He's just 3-for-15 with two doubles as of this writing. But there's still a couple weeks left, and he'll get more ABs as the spring progresses. Hopefully he can get into a rhythm.

Second base: Colt Keith

Keith hasn't had an amazing spring, but it would be a shock if he didn't come north with the team. He's still got a couple weeks to prove himself, but the second base job should still be his job to lose.

Third base: Gio Urshela, Andy Ibanez

I originally penned Ibanez as a bench bat, but with the spring he's had, he might just earn a starting role. He's currently battng .364 (8-for-22) and slugging 1.000. He leads the team with four home runs this spring, and most of them have been no-doubters.

If this is the Andy Ibanez we get in the regular season, uh, all that complaining I did about not addressing third base this offseason might have been for nothing.

Urshela, meanwhile, has five hits so far this spring, but they are all singles. He's yet to tap into his power yet. Hopefully that comes sooner rather than later.

Shortstop: Javier Baez

It's time to address the elephant in the room. Yes, Javy Baez has had an abysmal spring. He has just one hit in 18 at-bats. He's struck out in half of those ABs. But if you think the Tigers aren't going to trot him out there with how much he's being paid, you're sorely mistaken.

The Tigers are stuck with him. All we can do is hope he turns it around. The sooner people realize that, the better.

Outfield: Mark Canha, Parker Meadows, Riley Greene

Canha and Meadows are no surprises, but Greene is a slight surprise just because he underwent Tommy John surgery last September. That's only about seven months ago. He's already been getting a lot of reps in the outfield. It sure looks like the thought of him having to DH for the first part of the season might be a thing of the past.

Designated hitter: Kerry Carpenter

I think this is what the Tigers wanted all along. Carpenter got better defensively as the season went on last year, but I think they feel more comfortable with him as the DH.

Carpenter is working his way back from an early-spring hamstring injury, so that is something to monitor. He played his first game last Tuesday. That's a step in the right direction.

Utility/bench: Matt Vierling, Zach McKinstry

With the addition of Gio Urshela, that leaves Matt Vierling to be more of a superutility guy, which is a much better role for him anyway. He's the kind of player that should only get 300-350 ABs a year.

The same goes for McKinstry. He should get a spot because of the need for a lefty off the bench.

One player that is getting left off that was previously on the roster for us is Akil Baddoo. He's had a really, really bad spring. Since he has a minor league option remaining, he'll probably start the year in Triple-A barring an injury.

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

That's right, folks. I think, as of right now, the Tigers are going to start the season with a six-man rotation. With Mize coming off Tommy John surgery, it only makes sense to ease him back into things. He can piggyback with someone in the bullpen, which we'll get to in a bit.

Skubal is the Opening Day starter. That much we know. The rest of the order is very much up in the air. Maeda's stats have been fine this spring, but the fastball velocity has been a concern. Flaherty, Olson, and Manning have all had up-and-down springs to this point. The order of the rotation is going to be interesting. One thing is for sure: a six-man rotation is very much in the cards, and we think they'll go with one.

One thing to note: the six-man rotation will NOT be permanent. It'll just be used to get Mize in the swing of things and to help manage the innings of all the young starters.

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

This was probably the toughest group to come up with. There's been some strong competition in the bullpen so far this spring, and that's a good thing.

Foley is hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. Beau Brieske appears to have added some spin to his slider, which would be a great development.

Chafin has had a rocky spring to this point, but it's probably not much to worry about. He's likely just working through some things. Miller has had three scoreless appearances so far.

Lastly, I don't think A.J. Hinch will have a set closer to begin the year. I think it'll very much be a closer-by-committee type of situation, especially with Alex Lange's continued strike-throwing issues. He'll probably just choose the best matchup for the hitters due up in the ninth inning.