Former first overall pick could start 2024 in Detroit Tigers bullpen

The Detroit Tigers are hoping that Casey Mize can come all the way back as he returns from Tommy John surgery, but a bullpen role may be reality in the near future.

Pitcher Casey Mize poses during Detroit Tigers Photo Day.
Pitcher Casey Mize poses during Detroit Tigers Photo Day. / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Back in 2018, the Detroit Tigers took their chances with Casey Mize, selecting him with the first overall pick in the draft. This came after a standout career for the Auburn Tigers, where he looked the part before jumping into the Tigers organization and catching all the buzz.

He was a heralded prospect on his road to Detroit, getting plenty of attention from the Detroit Tigers organization and league-wide. He debuted in 2020 during the COVID-19-shortened season, finding his way to Comerica Park to make some starts for the Tigers.

In his debut performance, he made seven starts for the Tigers before returning in 2021 and making 30 starts. He looked the part, throwing 150.1 innings, getting his feet wet with the big leagues as he pitched to a 3.71 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, and walked 41 while striking out 118 opposing hitters.

In 2022, Mize threw in two starts, totaling just 10.0 innings, before things went south. He sustained an injury and had to undergo Tommy John Surgery. He's been on the road to recovery since then. While he was nearly ready to get back on the mound for the Tigers in 2023, some setbacks and a cautious approach kept him off the mound until 2024.

Former first-overall pick Casey Mize may end up in the Detroit Tigers bullpen.

He has had his struggles as he's worked back up to speed. Between setbacks last year and some struggles this spring, things may not be all sunshine and rainbows for the former Tigers' top prospect. Mize has been looking to show that he can return to 100% for the Tigers this spring.

Mize has thrown two games with a 3.2 innings under his belt in game-action. He's allowed two hits and surrendered two runs. Perhaps the more problematic part is the four walks with just three strikeouts. Things could be going better for Mize.

There's been some optimism that he can get back into the team's rotation in 2024, and that is likely, but to me, there's a chance he starts in the bullpen. Rather than bumping him to Triple-A, bringing him north with the team and getting him some work out of the bullpen is worth it.

This is not to say that Mize cannot start, but time in the bullpen could allow him to find that command once again, which is an issue for the right-hander this spring. I'll be honest--the future outlook for Mize has grown dimmer over the years, and the lengthy recovery process for Mize is concerning for what the future could hold. But a move to the bullpen is not a damning one, not yet.

Mize will get chances to start in 2024, but the former first-overall pick might have to start the 2024 season with some time in the bullpen to find his footwork again.