Detroit Tigers President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris spoke to the media yesterday during the winter meetings in San Diego. Judging by his quotes, it sounds like the Tigers will see a lot of their minor-league players in 2023.
Another statement that stood out was Harris’ comments about the team’s catching situation. He said he was comfortable with Eric Haase and Jake Rogers as the catching duo to start the season in 2023.
There were a lot of statements to absorb and translate for the fans. To most, it sounds as though the Detroit Tigers will not be very active on the free agent market.
Do the Detroit Tigers have a youth movement in place?
If you look at the Detroit Lions as a recent example, General Manager Brad Holmes has several players who have been contributing from their recent draft classes. Granted, baseball drafting and football drafting are two different sciences. But the farm system Scott Harris inherited, while it has seen progress, is still top heavy. The last two Lions draft classes have been a big reason behind their recent winning ways, with Aidan Hutchison, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Penei Sewell, Alim McNeill, Malcolm Rodriguez, Kerby Joseph and James Houston all contributing.
Next up is the Detroit Pistons. Our Woodward Pistons beat report Brandon Dent believes the Pistons under GM Troy Weaver are on the right path to building a contender. With Cade Cunningham as Batman and Jaden Ivey as Superman, he says, you have two players who are 1a and 1B. While the Pistons win/loss record does not paint a rosy picture, there is at least an exciting brand of basketball being played.
Last, our Woodward Red Wings reporter, Michael Gentry, mentioned the Steve Yzerman plan and the fruits of his drafts so far. Last year saw rookie defenseman Mo Seider win the Calder Memorial Trophy, while rookie left winger Lucas Raymond finished fourth in the Calder voting and accumulated 57 points.
Meanwhile, this year’s rookie crop includes Jonaton Berggen, who scored 7 Points in first 11 NHL games, and towering winger Elmer Soderblom contribute before getting injured. Talented blue liner Simon Edvinsson is expected to join them soon, and goaltender Sebastian Cossa could be in the NHL by next year.
Currently, the Red Wings are 12-7-5.
The state of the Tigers minor league system
In 2022, from Lakeland to Toledo, there was significant progress across the board. Players at all levels showed real development. And it was not just from the top five rounds, as has been the case in the past for the Tigers.
Injuries that decimated the big-league pitching staff, so players like Garrett Hill (2018 26th round pick) and Beau Brieske (2019 27th round draft pick) came up to Detroit and contributed. Parker Meadows, Detroit’s 2nd-round pick in 2018, had a breakthrough season and is now on the 40-man roster. Same for Wenceel Perez who, as I have highlighted on the Tigers Minor League Report, changed his swing for the better.
Pitchers had plans when they went to the mound. International players, which has been a major weakness, are now among the top players in the system. Cristian Santana and Roberto Campos are rising on prospect rankings lists.
However, Riley Greene is the only young player at the MLB level who showed he will be a regular contributor. Spencer Torkelson struggled in his first season at the major league level. Some felt he was rushed, and to a degree that is true. But Detroit did not have a backup plan for him in 2022. And they haven’t yet landed a viable backup plan at first base this off-season.
Even with the injuries, the pitching was the main reason Detroit was watchable last season. The upgrade of their coaching staff on the big league level is the new emphasis, and it makes sense. The Tigers want to keep their arms healthy and have young players stay and contribute.
Developing controllable players who may help the Tigers is cost effective. Of course the organization has failed to do this since the 1970s. The Bill Lajoie era from the mid-1970s to the late-80s kept the Tigers competitive. Randy Smith started modernizing the front office as best he could when he took over as GM in 1995. Dave Dombrowski mostly seemed to draft players as currency in trades for better talent, and he was allowed to spend freely, thanks to Mike Ilitch.
This year’s catching free agent class, as Scott Harris mentioned, is thin. To trade for someone like Danny Jansen or Sean Murphy, it would almost certainly cost the Tigers a young talent like Colt Keith or Wilmer Flores. We do not know how Harris will approach the next few months, but early indications suggest a season of growing pains and question marks.
- Can Ryan Kreidler be an everyday player?
- Where will the right-hand power come from?
- Is Akil Baddoo ready to be an everyday regular who can contribute?
There are too many questions for the Detroit Tigers to answer without spending more money. Matthew Boyd is a good start for rotation depth, but fans want to see more. For now, they are just stuck reading quotes.