I had a Twitter follower ask me what I thought the 2022 Detroit Tigers pitching staff might look like. I thought it was a very interesting question. Granted, a lot can and will change between now and Opening Day 2022 for the Detroit Tigers roster. I thought it would be fun to take a look and project what their rotation and bullpen might entail.
#1 – Matthew Boyd
I think it would be unfair to expect Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, etc. to be the ace of this staff by Opening Day 2022. I believe that Mize and Manning will have pitched past their prospect status by then. It is entirely possible that Skubal may as well.
Matthew Boyd had every bit of a breakout in the first half of 2019. In the second half, he came back down to earth. However, overall his numbers finished better than expected heading into the season. He relied a lot on a 4-seam FB that sits around 92 mph and a slider that comes in around 80 mph. While most people attribute his 4-seamer to his success because he has a spin rate on it that ranks in the 76th percentile, I think his slider was a more dominant pitch. In 2019 opponents only hit .192 against the slider while recording a .269 average against the 4-seamer. Across the board all metrics lined up the same with XBA, SGL, XSLG, WOBA, XWBOA, whiff % and Put Away % all significantly better on his slider.
Long story short, it is hard to put anyone as the ace of this staff on Opening Day 2022 until someone takes the spot away from Boyd.
#2 – Casey Mize (currently #1 DET prospect)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I slot Case Mize in the #2 spot of their rotation. I have him as the Detroit Tigers #1 prospect and he should have over 100 IP under his belt but this time. He has every chance to become a stud in the big leagues. Mize has all the makings you are looking for to be the ace of your staff. Whether you like a mid 90’s FB that is easily controlled with excellent life, a mid 80’s slider that he varies in speed as necessary, or a devastating splitter that is a signature strikeout pitch, Mize has you covered. My concern for him is quite simply health. Every Tigers fan held their breath when Mize left a game with what appeared to be an arm injury last year.
#3 – Matt Manning (currently #2 DET prospect)
Matt Manning should be a name you expected to see here. Some people have Manning ahead of Mize after the 2019 season in which Manning continued his upward trajectory while Mize continued to battle through injuries. At this point for me, I still have Mize ahead of Manning. Depending on what happens in 2020, if anything at all, that could change for me as well.
Manning’s delivery and command have seen steady improvements. He has the stuff to be a front-line starter in the big leagues. Manning boasts a low 90’s fastball that he can bump up to 95-96 as needed. His change-up lags behind the FB but his curveball is a legitimate strikeout pitch and has the chance to be plus plus.
#4 – Tarik Skubal (currently #5 DET prospect)
Detroit Tigers fans would be thrilled if the top 3 pitchers held their spot and pushed the fast-rising Tarik Skubal to the 4th option in the rotation for the 2022 season. It is still possible that Skubal will not be ready for the Opening Day rotation. I think the Detroit Tigers would be wise to give him every opportunity to earn this spot. If this is how their rotation breaks you can expect them to be competitive again, even if solely due to their starting rotation.
In 2019, across 80.1 innings in A ball and 42.1 innings in AA, he posted a 2.42 ERA, 1.01 WHIP while striking out 179 guys for 13.1 SO/9 and following it up with a 2.7 BB/9. Skubal throws his fastball between 93-95 mph but has the ability to reach back for 97. He complements that excellent fastball with a progressing changeup, a curveball that he has a solid feel for but is still refining and a plus slider that could prove to be dominant.
#5 – Spencer Turnbull
Spencer Turnbull was the second most effective starter for the Detroit Tigers in 2019. But, he is going to find himself battling for a spot in the rotation come 2022. I think he is the best bet to fill out their rotation but it won’t be easy. Turnbull was hit pretty hard in 2019 with his exit velocity and hard-hit % in the bottom 20% of the league. He was reasonably successful at striking out batters though as he finished league average in K% and Whiff %. At only age 27 it is possible that Turnbull has more to offer come 2022 but it is more likely that he gets outpitched by others.
Long Reliever – Franklin Perez (currently #12 DET prospect)
I am still a believer in Franklin Perez but not to the level I was in the past. If, and this is a big if, he can stay healthy then there is almost no chance that Perez is not part of the Detroit Tigers in 2022. With so much competition for a rotation spot, I think it is more likely that he finds himself in the bullpen.
Long Reliever – Anthony Castro (currently #13 DET prospect)
I am a bit higher on Castro than most after he turned in a respectable 2019 season for Erie. I still think his stats are a little deceiving because his stuff is better than the numbers he is producing. In 2019 he has threw 102.1 innings in AA as both a starter and reliever. He produced a 4.40 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 1.78 SO/W. Those numbers aren’t great, as I said. However, I like his above-average FB that can reach 96 and his slider has really turned into a weapon. Castro would have an extremely difficult time cracking this rotation. Though, his stuff would play up really well in a full-time bullpen role.
Middle Reliever – Alex Faedo (currently #8 DET prospect)
In a perfect world the Detroit Tigers either Franklin Perez or Alex Faedo would find their way into the rotation. Unfortunately, I just do not think it is going to happen. In 2019 he did show some promise after falling out of favor with a lot of analysts and fans. I was happy to see him come back to life with incredible command. He finished 2019 with a 5.36 SO/W rate which is nothing to sneeze at with when you consider he stuck out 134 guys in 115.1 innings.
Middle Reliever – Elvin Rodriguez (currently #26 DET prospect)
This is probably the first name that you’re seeing that you may not recognize. I have been higher on Elvin than most but people are starting to catch up. His arsenal consists of a mid 90’s fastball with nice movement, a terrific hard curveball that is his out pitch, and a quickly developing changeup.
Middle Reliever – Zack Hess (currently #49 DET prospect)
The Detroit Tigers selected the LSU Pitcher in the 7th round of the 2019 draft. At 6’9″ 219 lbs. Hess is an imposing figure on the mound. He features a mid 90’s FB with some run, a mid 80’s slider with nice movement when he has a good feel for it, and a low 80’s change which is still a work in progress. The Tigers are deploying Hess exclusively as a reliever. So, he could make a quick rise through their system.
Middle Reliever – Bryan Garcia (currently #23 DET prospect)
I hold Garcia in a higher regard than most in the industry. Armed with a sinker that sits in the low 90’s, a plus slider, and an evolving changeup he has the arsenal to be a closer down the road. For right now I still slot him in as a middle reliever. I think he would be the next man up for the setup role as it sits right now.
Setup Man – Joe Jimenez
I have the current Detroit Tigers closer pegged as the setup man in 2022. His numbers in 2019 aren’t terrible but there is room for improvement. In fact, he has the data to suggest it is entirely possible. Let’s quickly take a peek at this statcast data from worst to best to show you why.
Barrel% 5th percentile, exit velocity 45th percentile, xSLG 53rd percentile, xwOBA 63rd percentile, Hard Hit% 76th percentile, xBA 83rd percentile, Whiff% 85th percentile, K% 89th percentile, Fastball Spin 95th percentile.
Looking at those numbers he gave up a lot of barreled balls. However, everything else was at least league average, and a lot of metrics he as in the top 20th percentile in the league. His 4.37 ERA and 1.32 WHIP are misleading to me as his ceiling is much higher than this and there is data to back it up. Jimenez could develop into a premier setup man in the league. He still has the potential to be a well above average closer in the league.
Closer – Michael Fulmer
This is a name that most of you have been wondering where it would fall. You also might have been wondering why I have Jimenez as the setup man instead of the closer. Well, here he is and this is why! I am not sure the reaction slotting Fulmer here will get. For me, it perfectly ties everything together. Fulmer could absolutely be anywhere in their rotation, including the ace to open 2022. I think what makes the most sense for this team would to have him as their closer.
As Tigers fans know, after his brilliant 2016 season in which he was American League Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer has seen his performance progressively drop. While his numbers in 2017 and 2018 regressed his statcast data remained the same. As an optimistic Tigers fan I am going to blindly desire that his injury went back to 2017, and hope it is what caused his performance to continue to fall off a cliff. In 2018 he was in the bottom 30 percentile of most categories. But, with the eye test you could see his stuff wasn’t lacking. I think this is exactly why a move to the closers role is a win-win for everyone.
Again, a move to the pen will help his stuff play up even more than it already does. This could well make him an elite closer given his arsenal as a starter. He brings a sinker that comes in at 95 mph and he pairs that with a 4-seamer. The 4-seamer provides the same velocity but has better control and was being hit at a clip under .200 during 2017-2018. His slider is also a solid pitch for him. He throws slightly less than the other two pitches but still with good results. His slider is hit at around a .210 clip with a Whiff% over 30%, the highest of any of his pitches.
If the rotation plays outright and the Tigers can afford to slide Fulmer into this role I think is will be a huge difference-maker. It could what pushes their pitching staff as a whole from above-average to elite.
I hope that you have enjoyed this article and that I have explained by logic well. What are your thoughts about the 2022 pitching staff? What is an article that you would be interested in reading? Please hit me up on Twitter Corporal Eddy and let me know!