Let’s flashback to March 12, 2022. The MLB lockout has finally come to an end and a full baseball season is set to go. The Detroit Tigers are coming off a resurgent end to last season and the front office has made the decision to try and compete for a playoff spot after a long rebuild. The time is now for the Tigers.
Or so it seemed. As of May 23, Detroit’s 14 wins are tied for the fewest in the American League. Outside of Javier Báez’s walk-off on Opening Day and Miguel Cabrera reaching 3,000 career hits, there have been very few positive moments this season.
All five of the pitchers in the Opening Day rotation are currently out with injuries.
The emphasis of the Tiger’s rebuild has been to develop starting pitching. Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal are the “big three” homegrown pitchers in the rotation. All three had shown flashes of potential early in the season before getting hurt.
Pitching coach Chris Fetter has been superb at getting the most out of Tiger pitches in his tenure. Despite the lack of starting pitchers, Detroit remains in the top half of the league in team ERA.
The injury bug got hold of the offense before the regular season even began. Riley Greene was set to make his MLB debut on Opening Day as the starting center fielder. He fouled a ball off his right foot near the end of Spring Training and has been out with a broken foot since.
After his heroics in the first game of the season, Báez sustained a thumb injury that lingered for a few series until he was placed on the IL.
Austin Meadows was acquired by Detroit via trade just days before the season began. He was the most consistent player in the Tiger lineup until a sinus infection brought upon symptoms of vertigo. Meadows attempted to play in Tampa Bay, but had to leave the game after only one inning.
A positive spin the Tigers can put on this nightmare start to the season is the opportunity for prospects to gain experience at the MLB level. Detroit seemed to be ahead of schedule after last season. The truth is, this is a team that is not ready to compete just yet and needs to develop younger talent to supplement their current roster.
Kreidler is an infielder currently playing at the AAA level. He has experience playing multiple positions in the infield.
If called up, Kreidler would add much needed depth to the Tigers lineup whether that be in a platoon or a bench role. In AAA this season he has hit four home runs and stolen four bases to go along with an OPS of .808.
The son of Roger Clemens, Kody was the Tigers third round draft choice in 2018. Clemens is another utility player in AAA, but he has spent most of his time at second base.
Clemens is enjoying a breakout season for the Toledo Mud Hens. He has a batting average of .311, eight home runs, 30 RBI and an OPS of .929.
At the major league level, Jonathan Schoop is currently having his worst season in his career. Clemens could provide a spark to the Tigers lineup and push Schoop for his starting job.
Recently, Clemens proved he is ready for the MLB by going 6-7 in a doubleheader with five RBI.
Flores is the first pitching candidate on this list. He has been a surprise and consistent even as he has moved up the minor league ranks.
On the season Flores has an ERA of 1.46 and a WHIP of 0.73. The dominant performances started in high-A and he was promoted to AA. In his one start for the Erie Seawolves, he threw five shutout innings and allowed only one hit.
Flores is only 21 and has not played at any level higher than AA, but with the list of injuries expanding he may see MLB action sooner than anticipated.
Hill is another right-handed pitcher who has had sustained success in the minor leagues this season. He is an older prospect for the Mud Hens at age 26.
Although he is 26, Hill has only been in Detroit’s farm system for four years. He was a 26th round draft choice in 2018 as a 22-year-old.
So far in 2022, Hill has an ERA of 2.43 and a WHIP under one. The Tigers are probably not expecting Hill to become a mainstay in the big league rotation, but Hill could potentially eat some innings while the rest of the starters recover.