Tigers have a chance to provide a glimpse of the future

DETROIT (AP) — It’s easy to look a few years ahead and imagine Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning on the mound for the Detroit Tigers, with Spencer Torkelson at one of the corner infield spots and Riley Greene in the outfield.

That’s the blueprint for this franchise’s return to prominence. Getting from here to there is the challenge.

The Tigers have been one of baseball’s worst teams for the past four seasons, but now they’ve finally reached the point where they can boast a few highly ranked prospects. Not all of them have reached the major leagues yet, but this 2021 campaign could be significant in their development.

Detroit has been cautious over the past few offseasons, avoiding major long-term deals. The Tigers did bring in some veterans for this year like Robbie Grossman and Wilson Ramos, and general manager Al Avila said he wants his young players to have to earn their opportunities in the big leagues.

“Our goal is to get more young players established at the major league level and surround them with guys that we feel will take us over the top and help us win more games,” Avila said. “Next year, you’re talking about the offseason, the winter of ’21, going into ’22, yeah, I think at that point, we can add more to the organization.”

By the end of this season, the Tigers could have a much better sense of their timeline for returning to contention. Detroit has five of the game’s top 25 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. That includes Mize and Skubal, who both pitched in the majors last year with mixed results.

Torkelson was the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, and Greene and Manning were first-round selections in 2016 and 2019.

This next stage of Detroit’s rebuild begins with AJ Hinch managing after Ron Gardenhire retired late last season. Hinch took over after losing his job as Houston’s manager and being suspended last season in the aftermath of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.


The Tigers added Ramos to help shore up their catching situation, and the switch-hitting Grossman could help the outfield. Detroit also acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara and infielder Renato Nunez. plus pitchers Jose Urena, Julio Teheran, Derek Holland and Wily Peralta.


Aside from those five top-25 prospects, Detroit has some other young players with a lot to prove this year. Outfielder Daz Cameron is someone to keep an eye on. The Tigers acquired him in the 2017 trade that sent Justin Verlander to Houston. Detroit hasn’t gotten much return on that deal so far, but Cameron made his big league debut last year and played in 17 games.


Miguel Cabrera turns 38 in April, and his production has fallen off in recent years, but he does have a chance to reach a couple major milestones this season. Cabrera needs 13 home runs to reach 500 and 134 hits to reach 3,000.

Cabrera’s accomplishments can certainly provide some valuable lessons to Detroit’s younger players.

“It takes a long time to get to those numbers,” Hinch said. “As far as how consistent Miguel has had to be … the routines that he’s developed, the posting and putting up monster numbers. To do that for close to two decades is probably motivation enough, and more than anything that I can say or illustrate to a young team.”


The Tigers may use a six-man rotation this year, and Hinch has plenty of potential starters to choose from. While the progress of Mize, Skubal and Manning will be a big story this season, 2021 is also important for left-hander Matthew Boyd. He was Detroit’s opening day starter last season, but he did not pitch like an ace, going 3-7 with a 6.71 ERA.

“You go forward, and every single minute, every single opportunity that you have to pick up a baseball, it’s a moment to grow,” the 30-year-old Boyd said. “I had a lot of things that I could get better from last year. There were a lot of things that were also very good.”


Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister


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