The Detroit Tigers went into 2022 with some very additions, including free agent signings, such as Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez, trade acquisitions, such as Tucker Barnhart and Austin Meadows, and up-and-coming prospects, such as Spencer Torkelson and, eventually, Riley Greene.
These new elements combined were responsible for 3.5 WAR. Six Cleveland Guardians have individual WARs greater or equal to that. And that's not even mentioning that Torkelson's -1.3 WAR had to be factored into it.
The Tigers gambled big, and while Baez and Greene had nice seasons, they both paled in comparison to expectations, and the Tigers once again had to rely on tons of replacement players and reinforcements. While, somehow, the Tigers did not finish the season in last place, they only finished 1 win above the Royals, and 96 losses still isn't a lot to smile about.
Austin Meadows, to his credit, was actually doing fairly well through 36 games, as he hit .250 with 11 RBIs and, mostly shockingly for a 30-homer man, no round-trippers. The edge for Meadows was surprisingly his defensive work, which was never particularly on display in Tampa. However, in mid-May he went on the IL and would be out for the remainder of the season. The outfield and the lineup would never recover.
2023 Prediction: I think he goes back to power hitting, and makes a name for himself by the time the deadline deals start happening.
I had thought that Tucker Barnhart going to Detroit was a great deal for all involved parties, as it allowed the Tigers to get a true gold-glover behind the plate to relieve Greiner and Haase, and it allowed the Reds to start Tyler Stephenson. Unfortunately, Barnhart's year in Detroit was a down one at the plate, as he hit .221 with 16 RBIs in 94 games. As it has in the last year, his defense is also still slipping. Eric Haase, yet again, had to step in and be the more valuable catcher.
2023 Prediction: Will be the completely inoffensive, efficient catcher Chicago needs. I think he'll start more than Yan Gomes.
The other free agent signing that sparked attention was Andrew Chafin, whose 2020-2021 run between Arizona, Oakland and Chicago was nothing short of brilliant. His 2022, not only slightly-injury-shortened, was waterlogged by the mediocrity of the Tigers themselves. In 63 games, Chafin held a 2.83 ERA with 67 strikeouts and only a 0.3 WAR.
2023 Prediction: Not to be crass, but...maybe Chicago brings him back? They could use a guy like him.
In the absence of reliable star players, it was once again up to people named Castro to be thrust into starting positions. This year, Willi had the slightly better year than Harold, with 31 RBIs and 8 homers, in addition to a team-high 9 steals, tied with Baez and Akil Baddoo. He's still a nice defender, a great utility guy, and...someone who really shouldn't be starting as often as he is.
2023 Prediction: The Tigers plan on using Meadows, Baddoo, and Riley Greene in the outfield picture. That should, in theory, be enough to ensure that Castro isn't heavily utilized next season. This, however, is a Tigers team. So he'll be starting by July.
Speaking of outfielders, Akil Baddoo, after a strong start to the season in 2021, was primed for a great year this year. In 73 games, Baddoo hit .204 with 9 RBIs. On one hand, he is 23 years old and is finding his way around the majors. Still, a lot of Castro's second half work was spent making up for Baddoo's drop-off. Hopefully he can get his mojo back, but the Tigers are prepared for either outcome.
2023 Prediction: He figures it out and is the Tigers' star in the second half.
With the trio of Manning, Mize and Skubal all being injured at some point, in addition to zero innings from Spencer Turnbull and Rodriguez going AWOL for a month or so, there were a lot of openings in the Tigers' rotation this year, and a lot of rookies were given the ball at different points. Beau Brieske was an earlier call-up, in 15 games he had a 4.19 ERA with 54 Ks. Ultimately, though, Briske ended up injured for a period as well, perhaps wanting to fit in.
2023 Prediction: In an ideal scenario where nobody's hurt, the Tigers rotation includes Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Eduardo Rodriguez and Spencer Turnbull. If they're all good and ready, they won't need Brieske, but I do think he will get at least 17 starts next year, because...I mean, if this season is any indication, it won't all go right.
Then as more starters dropped, Joey Wentz entered the picture. Wentz had a 3.03 ERA in 7 starts, striking out 27 in 32 innings. Those are great starter numbers, but they happened because the Tigers' first 9 or so choices were hurt.
2023 Prediction: Dare I say this guy gets dealt or handed off at some point? I don't know if they have room for him AND Brieske, and I feel like they'll give Brieske a chance first.
And then there's the big rookie prospect Kerry Carpenter, who popped by in August and September and hit .252 with 6 homers and 10 RBIs in 31 games. Those 6 homers made 2022 a 36-homer year for Carpenter, who hit the other 30 between 2 different minor league teams. The Tigers need a guy who can hit for power when he's supposed to, as he'll add to a whole bunch of power hitters that will hopefully be on next year.
Third or fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Tomorrow, some remnants of a Twins team that nearly made the playoffs.