The Tigers missed the postseason for the seventh straight year in 2021, but there were signs of improvement. Detroit finished 17th in ERA (4.32). Their bullpen had 42 wins, 28 losses, and 42 saves while posting a 4.50 ERA (22nd). Offensively, the Tigers remain a bottom-tier team in runs (697 – 22nd) and home runs (179 – 24th). However, they did become more aggressive on the base paths (88 steals – 9th).
Sensing a chance to compete in the AL Central, Detroit signed SP Eduardo Rodriguez and SS Javier Baez. They decided to move on from SP Matthew Boyd, SP Jose Urena, 2B Niko Goodrum, and SP Julio Teheran. In a minor league deal, the Tigers added C Tucker Barnhart for 3B Nick Quintana.
The success and excitement of this team come from three young arms – Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning. Both Mize and Skubal flashed last season, but Manning, who came into the majors with a similar pedigree, failed to live up to expectations. The addition of Rodriguez gives Detroit competitive pitching every four out of five days.
Even with the signing of Baez, the Tigers don’t have another upper-echelon player in their starting lineup. They hope 1B/3B Spencer Torkelson comes quickly, but he may need more time at AAA. OF Akil Baddoo made the jump from High A to the majors in 2021 with reasonable success. There were many down days, along with signs of growth.
Their bullpen had a feast or famine feel. RP Michael Fulmer looked the closing part at times, but staying healthy remains a concern. RP Gregory Soto can be challenging to hit, while command remains a concern.
The Tigers have four World Series titles (1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984). They have had five playoffs appearances over the past 35 seasons, with one coming as a World Series loss in 2006. Detroit is getting closer to a winning record. However, a further step forward can’t happen without more firepower added to their offense.
OF Robbie Grossman
After failing to receive a full-time starting job over his first eight seasons in the majors, Grossman made 156 starts in 2021, leading to career-highs in runs (88), home runs (23), RBI (67), and stolen bases (20). He finished as the 54th most valuable hitter by SIscore (1.55).
More exposure to right-handed pitching (.221 with 15 home runs and 40 RBI over 385 at-bats) led to a regression in his strikeout rate (23.1 – 21.3 in his career). His top-shelf walk rate (14.6) secures a premium spot in the batting order for the Tigers despite a below-par batting average (.239).
Grossman continued to have weakness in his contact batting average (.331) and RBI rate (13). However, his jump in power came via an improved launch angle (21.1 – 9th), leading to his career's highest fly-ball rate (46.2). On the downside for home runs, he ranked 245th in hard-hit rate (34.1), with a shorter HR/FB rate (12.2) than in 2020 (16.3).
Grossman will be a fantasy value if he repeats his success based on his ADP (176 – 109th hitter drafted) in mid-January in the NFBC. His ability to take walks is repeatable, and he added more loft to his swing. Grossman's spike in stolen bases was supported by his past two seasons, but his age (32) and career resume in steals (57 over 2,919 at-bats) suggest this part of the equation could be a trap. I’ll set the bar at .230 with 80 runs, 15 home runs, 60 RBI, and 15 steals while passing by his draft window without a look in 2022.
OF Akil Baddoo
Minnesota drafted Baddoo in the second round of the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft at age 17. Over his four seasons in the minors, he hit .248 with 172 runs, 21 home runs, 95 RBI, and 48 stolen bases over 876 at-bats. His walk rate (13.9) had a major league feel while needing some work on his strikeout rate (22.8). Unfortunately, Baddoo only had 117 at-bats in 2019 due to TJ surgery.
As a Rule 5 player in 2021, Detroit had to carry him all season on their major league roster or offer him back to the Twins. His bat flashe