Tigers minor-league signing’s velocity increase could earn Opening Day roster nod

Detroit Tigers pitcher Drew Anderson throws during spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla. on
Detroit Tigers pitcher Drew Anderson throws during spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla. on / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Detroit Tigers pitchers have given fans a lot to look forward to throughout spring training. Reliever Beau Brieske, who's had two okay but not fantastic seasons with Detroit so far, is throwing 98 MPH in spring; Kenta Maeda looks excellent as the team's most veteran player; and Alex Faedo has been mowing down batters over eight innings. The cherry on top was No. 3 prospect Jackson Jobe's spring debut against the Twins on Tuesday, when he pitched a hitless inning with two strikeouts and hit 102 MPH on his fastball.

Jobe is still in High-A, so we won't see him in the majors for a while, but all of this is to say that things are looking hopeful not only for the next season, but for the near future as well, as the Tigers look to wrestle the AL Central away from the Twins.

An unlikely candidate who could get in on the fun is reliever Drew Anderson, a minor league signing and non-roster invitee to Tigers camp this year. Per Evan Petzold of The Detroit Free Press, Anderson has seen a 6 MPH increase on his fastball over the last few weeks of spring training, turning heads his way as Opening Day approaches.

Detroit Tigers non-roster invitee Drew Anderson could be a surprise candidate for the bullpen in 2024

The Tigers are Anderson's fourth major league organization, but he also spent two seasons in Japan with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp (also Maeda's NPB club from 2018-2015), where he pitched 67 innings in 2023 for a 1.88 ERA. He was last in MLB with the Rangers in 2021 and only made nine major league starts before they released him so he could sign in Japan. When he left Texas, his fastball was sitting at 92.5 MPH.

Anderson credited the Tigers' pitching staff — Chris Fetter, Robin Lund, Juan Nieves, and Gabe Ribas — with adjusting his mechanics in Lakeland, to clearly stunning effect. In 5 2/3 innings during spring, Anderson's fastball is averaging 97.2 MPH, and it topped out at 98.5 in a February game against the Blue Jays.

Even if Anderson starts the season in Triple-A, he seems like a call-up option the Tigers will keep a close eye on throughout the year. He's made most of the minor league appearances in his career as a starter, but he could be a very useful reliever with a diverse pitch mix at the major league level for the Tigers.