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2023 MLB Season Preview: Detroit Tigers

The Tigers badly need rebound years from their top players.

Texas Rangers v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Between Javier Báez and Eduardo Rodriguez, the Al Avila regime spent north of $200 million on two established big leaguers last winter, to bolster a young nucleus of exciting pieces in the Tigers’ organization. Both players delivered below-league-average performances in 2023, and that was before personal issues cut E-Rod’s season short.

In many ways, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, causing ownership to move on from Ávila, and hire the now former GM of the Giants, one Scott Harris, as its president of baseball operations. 2022 was a major step back for Detroit, as a season that was supposed to be a culmination of years of rebuilding was instead a massive disappointment.

Now Detroit enters a new period, hoping to take steps forward with its young core, and get back on track toward contention. What should we expect out of this team in 2023?

Detroit Tigers
2022 record: 66-96 (4th, AL Central)
2023 FanGraphs projection: 72-90 (5th, AL Central)

There is only so much a new regime can accomplish in one offseason, and in many ways before making major alterations to the roster, the first order of business for Harris was revitalizing many of the underperforming pieces.

Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, the two prized hitting talents of this organization, both had rookie campaigns to forget. Greene hurt his back in the spring of 2022, and only played roughly half a season in the big leagues, flashing a promising 45.2 hard-hit rate, but failing to find the results you’d want, with an OPS of .682.

Torkelson was downright bad in 2022, and failed to live up to the massive hype as one of the better college bats of the last decade. Tork is crushing the ball this spring, but getting unlucky as most have found the glove of defenders. Regardless, the expectation is for both of these players to bounce back this year, due to their pedigree and underlying stats.

Báez actually cut down his strikeout rate in 2022, but failed to maximize his free-swinging skill set with a season reminiscent of his pitiful 2020 campaign. He’ll look to get back his dynamic ways during his second year with the Tigers. Akil Baddoo is another name that gets a new shot after a massive sophomore slump last year. Baddoo posted a solid 112 OPS+ in 2021 as a rookie.

Whether the Tigers bounce back this season will come down to those players approaching their ceilings, as the Tigers will return virtually the same squad this season. The only significant addition to the lineup is in do-it-all utility man, Matt Vierling, who came over from Philadelphia in the Gregory Soto deal.

Another name to keep an eye for is Kerry Carpenter, who tore his way through the minors last season after a swing change revitalized his career, and should get a chance to establish himself as an everyday bat for the Tigers.

On the pitching side of things, after a season away, old friend Matthew Boyd returns to the Motor City looking to re-establish himself as a starter. He’ll enter a rotation with Rodriguez at the top, and rounded out by Matt Manning, Spencer Turnbull, who returns from Tommy John, and free agent pickup Michael Lorenzen, brought in to be an innings eater of sorts.

One of the areas in which you can already see the hand of Scott Harris is the bullpen, as he shipped off any reliever he could get value for, sending Soto to the Phillies, and Joe Jiménez to the Braves, while also letting Andrew Chafin go via free agency. Alex Lange is the favorite for the closer role, as this ‘pen lost the majority of its name recognition.

It all adds up to what looks to be yet another transition year for the Tigers. New leadership may yet find a compelling direction for this group, but even if they do, it won’t likely result in great baseball being played in Detroit this year. Look for the Tigers to spend 2023 again shuffling around in the back end of the AL Central.

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