The tone for the Detroit Tigers starting rotation last spring was one of optimism. Despite losing Spencer Turnbull to Tommy John surgery, he had shown his promise by throwing a no-hitter in 2021. Both Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal started 25 games, and Wily Peralta was a pleasant surprise. But after a season in which the Tigers lost Skubal and Mize to injury, and Eduardo Rodriguez due to personal issues, the tone around the starting rotation is still optimism.
Granted, no one expected Bryan Garcia (now with Houston) would make four starts last season, or that Beau Brieske and Garrett Hill would join the team. But since Scott Harris has taken over he has hired a new medical and training staff and brought in new assistant pitching coach in Robin Lund. Lund, who has worked on building plans for pitchers with a focus on strength and conditioning, gives Detroit another set of eyes to look over the pitchers.
Why does that mean optimism, exactly? Since Chris Fetter has taken over as the pitching coach, there have been several pitchers who have seen better numbers. Outside of Brieske and Hill, one example to consider is Daniel Norris. After coming back to Detroit last year, he allowed just two earned runs over his last 11 innings of work, for an ERA of 1.59.
Joey Wentz is another example. After adding a cutter to his mix, he started to sequence his pitchers better. Wentz allowed six earned runs in just 2.2 innings in his MLB debut. But over his final six outings he allowed just five earned runs in 30 innings, good for a 1.50 ERA.
However, the numbers don’t lie. The rotation was dead last with a 6.66 K/9, and their 4.69 FIP was the worst in the American League. Still, for all that went wrong for the Tigers in 2022, Detroit demonstrated something it has not had in quite some time: depth. That depth carries over in 2023, with the addition of Michael Lorenzen and the return of Matthew Boyd.
Detroit Tigers Opening Day Starting Rotation 1.0 projection
If you look at any depth chart, the rotation may look like this:
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
LHP Matthew Boyd
RHP Michael Lorenzen
RHP Matt Manning
RHP Spencer Turnbull
My first “projection”?
Turnbull has not started a game since June 4, 2021. However, he has hit 94 MPH on the radar, per a Chris McCosky report on Friday. If Detroit decides to ease him in, we could see Joey Wentz or Brieske in the fifth spot. I put Brieske over Hill because once the Tigers changed Hill’s windup, he was much better out of the bullpen (K per 9.68 versus 4.43 starting). What about the rest of the rotation?
RHP Mason Englert (Rule 5 pickup)
RHP Reese Olson
RHP Rony Garcia
RHP Alex Faedo
RHP Wilmer Flores (not on the 40-man roster)
Englert, who the Tigers picked up in the Rule 5 draft, had a 30% K rate in the minors, with good command of his four pitches. He throws a fastball that touches 94, a slider, curve and an above-average changeup. Can he translate that into the major leagues? The Tigers are willing to see what he can do. But drafting him made sense. The Tigers, outside of Double-A, have some unproven arms in the upper levels like Brant Hurter, Dylan Smith, Ty Madden and Keider Montero.
Flores, the Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year, still needs to develop a changeup down in Toledo before he can get some consideration for a rotation spot. But he may not be too far away.
Is the depth enough?
The Tigers did address one thing in the off-season, and that was adding positional player depth, something they needed. As far as Boyd and Lorenzen go, they are signed on one-year deals, meaning Detroit views some of their pitching prospects as close to major-league ready. Will they be? Fans will await to see if Detroit has taken at least another step in their pitching development machine.