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Detroit Tigers 2022: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Javier Baez, Detroit Tigers

After an aggressive offseason that included signing free-agent shortstop Javier Baez to a big contract, the Tigers are hoping to take the next step towards contention

A rebuild that sometimes seemed interminable finally appeared to have turned a corner in 2021, when the Tigers, following an 8–19 April, went 69–66 the rest of the way, fueled by a young core constructed out of the wreckage of 2017-20. The Tigers, at long last, appeared ready to make their move in 2022. Less than 24 hours after the end of the World Series, the Tigers traded for esteemed catcher Tucker Barnhart, then flung $217 million at free agent pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez and infielder Javier Báez — the latter of whom, at six years and $140 million, represented Detroit's biggest free agent expenditure since Prince Fielder a decade earlier. If the Tigers are going to challenge the White Sox for supremacy in the AL Central this year, those newcomers are likely to play huge roles.

But this roster is built around homegrown talent — highlighted by a rotation featuring young-arms-on-the-rise Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal. This season also will feature the arrivals of first baseman Spencer Torkelson (made Opening Day roster) and center fielder Riley Greene (should get the call after healing from a broken foot sustained during spring training), consensus top-10 prospects in all of baseball. If all goes as planned, they will help try and push the Tigers to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Tigers

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"They need another year of growth from their starters before we can take them seriously as contenders, although they showed they're serious about taking the next step by signing Eduardo Rodríguez right away. Their lineup just doesn't scare you, but they do have some guys who really grind out at-bats. They're good enough to give you a tough series, but they're not at that 90-win level yet, and I don't think Javy Báez is the guy to lead them there. He's a safe bet to lead the league in strikeouts again. I like the addition of Tucker Barnhart as the catcher, and Jonathan Schoop coming back is a really good sign. Akil Baddoo is a real-deal guy. Casey Mize is gonna be the ace they need, Tarik Skubal has tremendous stuff, and there's a lot to like about Matt Manning, though he gave up too much hard contact last year. Gregory Soto is the most disgusting closer nobody knows. He's old school — here it is, try to hit it — and it just feels like everything takes off. He throws 98 anyway, but the way his stuff plays, it's almost like he's throwing 105."

Beyond the Box Score

Swing and a miss Prior to the Javier Báez signing, the Tigers were frequently linked to free agent shortstop Carlos Correa, primarily due to the strong relationship he formed with A.J. Hinch during their time in Houston. ESPN reported in December that the Tigers offered Correa a 10-year, $275 million deal, only to see Correa reject it.

Detroit Tigers 2022 Baseball Cover

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Worth the risk Báez doesn't come without some baggage. A free-swinger with a career .307 OBP, "El Mago" ("The Magician") led the NL in strikeouts (184) and chase rate (44.5 percent) in 2021, and he also gave the infamous thumbs-down gesture that alienated Mets players from fans. Still, he could be worth four extra wins in 2022, given his 3.6 fWAR in 2021 and Detroit's figure of -0.1 from their shortstops.

Impact lefthander Catcher Tucker Barnhart is a former switch-hitter who gave up hitting from the right side in 2019 and now bats exclusively as a lefty. Still, he rarely faced left-handed pitching in Cincinnati. This sets up a perfect platoon situation in Detroit, since backup Eric Haase has crushed lefties (.263/.301/.555). The Tigers only control Barnhart's rights for one season, and his long-term future in Detroit could depend on the status of Jake Rogers, who had elbow surgery last summer.

Catching on Haase's hitting ability (22 homers, .745 OPS in 2021) and positional versatility (he can also play left field and first base) make the Tigers a candidate to carry three catchers in 2022 — in which case the likely third is veteran Dustin Garneau, who played 20 games for the Tigers in 2021.

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Projected Lineup

LINEUP

CF    Akil Baddoo (L)
RF    Robbie Grossman (S)
SS    Javier Báez (R)
3B    Jeimer Candelario (S)
DH   Miguel Cabrera (R)
LF    Austin Meadows (L)
2B    Jonathan Schoop (R)
1B    Spencer Torkelson (R)
C      Tucker Barnhart (L)

BENCH

UT   Willi Castro (S)
C     Eric Haase (R)
OF   Derek Hill (R)
OF   Víctor Reyes (S)

ROTATION

LHP    Eduardo Rodríguez
RHP    Casey Mize
LHP    Tarik Skubal
RHP    Michael Pineda
RHP    Matt Manning

BULLPEN

LHP    Gregory Soto (C)
RHP    Michael Fulmer
LHP    Andrew Chafin
RHP    Kyle Funkhouser
RHP    José Cisnero
RHP    Joe Jiménez
RHP    Alex Lange
LHP    Miguel Del Pozo

2022 Prediction: 3rd in AL Central