Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

MLB News

Inbox: What should fans be excited for in '19?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers questions from fans
December 18, 2018

With the New Year just about here, it's time to take a look ahead with the latest Tigers Inbox:

With the New Year just about here, it's time to take a look ahead with the latest Tigers Inbox:

Honestly, I'm usually excited for baseball by the end of January regardless, just to get out of the Michigan winter and head to warmer weather in Florida. But beyond that, I think the draw is the young talent that should begin to emerge and shape the next Tigers team. Christin Stewart's September at-bats, especially the plate discipline, provide some intrigue to see how he'll grow as a hitter in 2019. Jeimer Candelario has a chance to be an impact hitter near the top of the order if he can stay healthy. Daz Cameron, Jake Robson and Danny Woodrow could get the call to Detroit at some point, and all of them provide an element of baserunning that manager Ron Gardenhire wants to inject into the offense.

Again, as mentioned above, winter in Michigan gets old by February, which makes the warm weather in Florida more welcoming. Beyond that:
1. It's the best chance to see Tigers prospects all in one place before they head out to Toledo, Erie and other posts. Franklin Perez gets a camp invite now that he's on the 40-man roster, and there's a possibility top prospect Casey Mize will get a non-roster invite, as Alex Faedo did last year. Jake Rogers was also in big league camp last spring. Those who don't receive invites will be just across the street on the Minor League fields, which offer an outstanding chance to see games in March.
:: Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox ::
2. It's still easier to get an up-close look at the games and the players and coaches in Spring Training compared to the regular season.
3. The food scene in Lakeland gets better each spring.

I mentioned a few prospects in the answer above. On the position side, there should be plenty of opportunities for callups, between injuries, potential trades and the makeup of the squad. The question is on the pitching side, and whether any of Detroit's highly rated starting prospects make the jump. There's a sense the club is going to exercise continued patience with Beau Burrows following a season and a half of Double-A ball. Mize, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 Draft, could end up pitching his way onto a fast track, but the team is more likely to play it cautious with his development. If Burrows, Mize, Faedo and Matt Manning all open the season at Erie, that lessens the chances of seeing any of them in Detroit by September, if at all next season.

Don't see it happening. First, Verlander should still be in position to rank among the top free-agent starters, and he can look for a chance to go for another World Series title somewhere to help cement his legacy and Hall of Fame resume. The Tigers won't be far enough along in their rebuild to offer that, and they're not likely to compete on top-level free agents until Jordan Zimmermann's contract expires after the 2020 season.
Second, starting pitching isn't going to be the position of need for the Tigers, whose rebuilding strength is their depth in starting-pitching prospects. They could use a veteran starter to help them along, but Verlander isn't likely to be that player.

Shane Greene actually has two more seasons before free agency, so that isn't a factor. Beyond that, there are statistical reasons to believe he has a chance for a bounce-back campaign, which would rekindle trade interest. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was the best of his career, the average exit velocity off his sinker was the same from 2017 to '18 and his fastball velocity -- while down just under 1 mph -- wasn't a dramatic drop. His opponent slugging percentage rose, however, as hitters jumped on his four-seam fastball. He might not get back to his '17 dominance, but with the Tigers still rebuilding and Joe Jimenez comfortable in a setup role, there's reason to see what Greene has this spring.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.