10 Tigers players to watch in Summer Camp

July 1st, 2020

DETROIT -- The Tigers will have at least 59 players in their Summer Camp, all at Comerica Park, a logistical challenge to fit on one field the work that normally goes on around an entire Spring Training complex while also observing social distancing. Players will work out at different times throughout the day, and use the home, visiting and auxiliary clubhouses.

It’s not just how many players will be working, but the difference in their purposes. Some players will try to pick up where they left off in March to get ready for a shortened 2020 season. Others will get the kind of instructional work that normally would happen in the Minor Leagues. All have something important to gain from the next few weeks.

For some players in particular, this camp is important. Here are 10 to track as Summer Camp begins:

, : General manager Al Avila mentioned both as players who would’ve been in line to make their Major League debut this summer in a normal season. They remain strong candidates, but with no Minor League season and no actual games at the alternate training site at Triple-A Toledo, their Spring Training and Summer Camp work -- including intersquad games -- will comprise the bulk of their case for consideration when the Tigers need extra starters.

: The future Hall of Famer looked in Spring Training like he had the makings of a rebound season, including a two-homer game off Gerrit Cole, before the pandemic halted camp. He kept up his workouts when he returned home to South Florida, and Avila said last week that Cabrera hasn’t missed a beat. Can he get back his timing in an abbreviated camp?

: Detroit’s ace showed a sharper curveball and changeup in Spring Training to complement the fastball-slider combination that worked well for him for much of last year. Nobody on the team works on pitch design like Boyd, who had his Rapsodo machine shipped to his Detroit-area home so he could use it with his throwing sessions. He said last week that he faced teammate Erik Haase 18 times in a simulated game; now, Boyd gets other hitters against whom to judge his stuff. He had worse numbers against division opponents last year than against the rest of the league, so especially in this upcoming schedule, a well-rounded repertoire could help him.

: No, the slugging infielder isn’t going to make the Opening Day roster less than two months after his selection as the top pick in the MLB Draft. But rarely do players get their first exposure to pro ball in a Major League environment, especially so soon after the Draft, giving him a valuable opportunity to learn how big leaguers train and prepare. This will also be his first chance to begin working at third base.

: The last time the former All-Star threw in a competitive game, James McCann was his catcher and Pete Kozma was his shortstop. That was September 2018, before Fulmer’s right knee surgery and later Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Fulmer has been cleared for full activity, and this camp will be like a rehab assignment for him. If he shows he’s ready for Opening Day, the Tigers have a fascinating decision to make: Whether to throw him in the rotation, put him in the bullpen or use him in a hybrid role like they did with Daniel Norris last year.

: Speaking of which, this season already loomed big for Norris, coming off his encouraging run of three-inning starts in the Tigers' rotation last season. Innings won’t be a worry with him now, but he needs to pick up where he left off, both last year and in Spring Training. If the Tigers have any chance of a surprising start, Norris and his nasty changeup play a key role.

: This is the final year of the contract Zimmermann signed as a free agent five years ago. The fact that it’s a shorter season might be a blessing in disguise. He has had stretches of quality pitching over the past few years, including six starts in late summer last season and seven starts around the same time in 2018. The shorter the season, the less the chance of his neck and back failing him. The healthier he is, the more he can work on his pitches. Conversely, if he struggles, the Tigers face a decision on when to turn to the future.

: Summer Camp restarts the outfield competition from Spring Training, with Stewart trying to show he deserves the starting nod in left. It was an interesting storyline in Lakeland, Fla., with 2019 trade acquisition Travis Demeritte and former Royal Jorge Bonifacio making impressions. The Tigers could really use Stewart’s left-handed power bat in their predominantly right-handed lineup.

: When the Tigers announced Torkelson as a third baseman in last month’s MLB Draft, they put Paredes on notice. The 21-year-old saw limited action in Spring Training -- he went 0-for-5 in three appearances -- but he has a chance to make a new impression. Either Jeimer Candelario or Dawel Lugo will likely win the starting job at third base in Detroit, but both struggled in the Grapefruit League. A strong Summer Camp might not be enough for Paredes to win a spot on the Opening Day roster, but it could earn him a look soon after that if third base remains a trouble spot. A rough camp could put Paredes in line for a position move.