Detroit Tigers: Where does Sawyer Gipson-Long fit going forward?

Will Sawyer Gipson-Long make the Opening Day starting rotation in 2024?
Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics
Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics / Kavin Mistry/GettyImages

Much like 2022, the Detroit Tigers ran through a lot of starting pitchers this season. They used 17 in 2022, but didn't use quite as many this year. They opted to use an opener on several occasions, but also gave quite a few youngsters an opportunity.

One of those youngsters was Reese Olson, who had an outstanding final month of the season to the tune of a 1.44 ERA — the fourth-lowest in baseball over that span. But we're not here to talk about Olson. We gave him his time in the sun already.

Instead, we're going to devote some time to another young arm in Sawyer Gipson-Long.

The 25-year-old only started four games, but he was pretty darn good in those four starts. He had a 2.70 ERA, a 3.16 FIP, and a 11.70 K/9 in 20 innings pitched. He looked very, very promising for a guy that was considered a fringe big leaguer at the time of his call-up.

SGL was acquired from the Twins in the Michael Fulmer trade at the 2022 trade deadline. It was Al Avila's last trade. The Tigers have done a ton of work with him ($$$) since they acquired him.

The first thing they did was have him throw his changeup more often and change his grip on the pitch, and that worked out great. Its serves as a nice compliment to his sinker.

Next, they had him add that sinker, as well as cutter to his arsenal. He barely threw the cutter in the big leagues, but it is there. There were some good rumblings about it in the minors.

The last thing they did was the Chris Fetter special — they taught him how to mix his pitches effectively. He had a solid four-pitch mix with his four-seam fastball, his sinker, the changeup, and the slider, which was the pitch he threw most often. Combine all of these things, and you get the four starts we saw in September.

This has been a heck of a project for the Tigers development team, and the early results have been outstanding. But what will his role be going forward? Will he be in the starting rotation on Opening Day 2024?

The thing is, he's still largely unproven. I'm not sure the Tigers can rely on him as a full-time member of the rotation just yet. The Tigers will likely have to replace several members of their starting rotation, so while there may be a spot for him, they'd be better finding a more proven option outside the organization.

So I would stash him in Triple-A to start the season. However, in the event of an injury, he's the first guy to get the call. He'll pitch for the Detroit Tigers in 2024, but likely won't be on the Opening Day roster.

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