Predicting Tigers' 2021 Opening Day roster

March 21st, 2021

The Tigers’ weekend moves to send top prospects and to minicamp made it clear that these final days will be more about evaluating the roster for April 1 than about getting a look at the kids for the future. And some of those Opening Day roster decisions aren’t easy:

How does Detroit make room for Rule 5 Draft pick ?

Does stay on the roster to work on his pitch mix or head to Triple-A, a move the Tigers can only make without his permission until a couple of weeks into the season based on his service time?

Has made his case to make the rotation, or do the Tigers wait a little while to use his allotted innings for the season?

Those are among the decisions that will echo around the offices at Tigertown over the next week or so. Some decisions need to happen sooner based on opt-out clauses.

Here’s the latest unofficial projection:

Catchers: ,
Manager A.J. Hinch predicted last week that the backup-catcher competition could be the last to be decided. Greiner returned to action a few days ago from a broken nose, thus returning to the catching mix. picked up a much-needed single on Sunday, but he’s still 3-for-22 with 10 strikeouts for the spring. The bright side for the Tigers is that Ramos looks very much like a No. 1 starter who can handle a regular workload at age 33. He has garnered the bulk of the starts over the past week in an effort to better learn Tigers starters and their tendencies.

First base: ,
Either the Tigers go with Núñez as their starting first baseman or they turn to and then mix and at second and third. Núñez slugged his first home run on Tuesday and added a two-hit game Saturday. On the flip side, his miss on a double-play throw Sunday was a reminder that Detroit will have to live with whatever he provides on defense if the club carries him. Meanwhile, Cabrera continues to show a bounce in his step when he’s in the field, fueling optimism that he can handle a game or two a week at first without wearing down while serving as the team's primary designated hitter on other days.

Second base:
The lineup Saturday that had Schoop at third and Paredes at second created some intrigue. Hinch has said he could switch Schoop and Paredes around depending on the opposing lineup and the pitcher they’re playing behind. Still, this is expected to be Schoop’s primary spot.

Third base:
Remember when Candelario went 5-for-36 with no walks and 10 strikeouts last Spring Training and everybody was wondering if his Major League prospects were done and whether Dawel Lugo might win a roster spot by default?

Castro has cooled off some from his hot start this spring, but his defense has stabilized despite some inconsistent throws. As mentioned several times this spring, the Tigers are going to exercise patience with him and let him grow into the job.

Outfield: , , , ,
Baddoo hit his fourth home run of the spring on Sunday, all but sealing his case to make the roster. Seemingly the only question at this point is whether the Tigers carry five outfielders to fit him or send down somebody else to make room for him in a four-man outfield group. Reyes has done his best to catch up after a delayed arrival to camp.

If Detroit carries five outfielders, that leaves room for only one utility player. Goodrum’s ability to play every infield position with average defense or better makes him the logical option, despite an 0-for-23 Spring Training slump that ended with a home run on Sunday. Paredes remains a player to watch, especially if the Tigers turn to Candelario over Núñez at first base, but Paredes is 4-for-27 with one extra-base hit -- a home run -- and six strikeouts this spring.

Rotation: , , , ,
The only change here from last week is , whose absence from camp due to contract tracing from COVID-19 protocols puts his status potentially in question. Hinch said Sunday morning that it’s looking unlikely Turnbull will be able to get much work before the end of camp, which would put the Tigers in the unenviable position of deciding whether to slot him at the back of the rotation to open the season or wait until they go to a six-man rotation to bring him back.

Bullpen: (closer), , , , , , ,
Alexander continues to make his case as a multi-innings reliever, which could put pressure on the Tigers to figure out whether to keep him in the Majors or leave him as the odd man out due to Minor League options. That debate could also involve Holland, who has dominated this spring as a non-roster invite.