TWICE AS NICE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

This week, the Tigers had a pretty good showing when it came to the number of players ranked in the top 100 among prospects. We can hope for more, but the farm is in far better shape than it was when Dave Dombrowski was in charge.

So while we are on that topic, obviously there is a question to be answered. And our writers will answer it separately and privately in order to offer, hopefully, a wider range of perspectives.

Take a look at what we have for Holly and Kurt this week.


The Tigers recently had a number of minor league players ranked near the top of prospects. Given this, what are our two bloggers’ feelings about the progress of the team’s rebuild?


HOLLY

We finally have a reason to smile this year and it’s all about the farm system. Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Franklin Perez, Isaac Paredes and Daz Cameron were all included in MLB’s top prospects ranking. Mize comes in at #6 and is rated as the top pitching prospect but the top four are all in the majors now so he really is #2.

Three of them are RHP with one an infielder and the other in the OF but the Tigers needs so many more bodies, esp. when you consider the odds that 1 out of every 3 prospects, on average, makes it to the majors. Currently, the Tigers have way too many positions to fill and I don’t see them getting more candidates without at least a couple more trades.

If I had to be concerned about anything, it’s the timing of the rebuild. Nowadays, you have to do it much more quickly in order to take advantage of youth and team control and the Tigers have never had a sense of urgency. This rebuild can’t play out over the next 3-4 years – it has to happen much more quickly and the organization cannot allow that top talent to languish in the minors because they don’t want to start “the clock”.

Maybe the farm system will deliver some surprises as the Tigers now have the 10th ranked best farm system in MLB. It’s heartening to see that, given all those years Dave Dombrowski stripped it clean and had the system near the bottom by the time he had left for Boston, it has rebounded.


KURT

The Tigers are building quite a stable of pitchers and it’s encouraging for sure. To have a player who has already risen to the top pitching prospect ranking is really exciting, and boy, do we need someone to head our future staff.

What is not so encouraging is the lack of position players in the farm system. Outside of one here and there, the list of viable prospects is quite low. As a result, what will be the biggest challenge is the rebuild of a lineup that is currently in pretty tough shape.

Considering that Jeimer Candelario was handed 3rd base after being acquired from the Cubs in exchange for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, he was officially the first new Tiger to watch as someone who could help lead the team back to contention.

So the news of Jeimer being sent down to Toledo this week was a bit of a gut punch. The problem is, he deserved to go down and he is just one of many who just aren’t hitting.

If you had to pick one player who you were confident could be plugged in for your future, he would be the one; maybe the only one. Now, even he is in doubt.

All in all – we will have to wait for things and players to develop to determine who is a future piece and who is not.


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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

With almost 35 games in the books for the Tigers, it is a reasonably good time to take a look at some of the players who have separated themselves from the rest of the team, whether it be based on good performance or lack thereof.

So, of course, our writers will look at the team to see what players have moved the needle.

As you know by now, Holly and Kurt have not shared their answers to the following question in the interests of offering a little variety and a wider range of perspectives. So, let’s check out the question ahead for our writers.


With one-sixth of the season completed, what 3 Tigers have impressed you the most so far and what 3 players have disappointed you the most?


HOLLY

IMPRESSED

My selections are based, not upon those who may have the top stats, but by those who have surprised me by taking their game to a new level.

1. Matthew Boyd
2. Niko Goodrum
3. Spencer Turnbull

DISAPPOINTED

I eliminated those who have become yearly disappointments (due to health) like Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Fulmer and focused on those who appeared to have taken a step backward.

1. Josh Harrison
2. JaCoby Jones
3. Tyson Ross


KURT

IMPRESSED

I picked 2 players representing the strength of the team and one that represented what has been the team weakness. So obviously, 2 pitchers and a hitter.

1. Spencer Turnbull
2. Matthew Boyd
3. Ronny Rodriguez

DISAPPOINTED

As you might have guessed, I picked 2 players representing the weakness of the team and one that represented what has been the team strength. So 2 hitters and a pitcher.

1. Miguel Cabrera
2. JaCoby Jones
3. Jordan Zimmermann


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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

With May beginning and April in the rear view mirror, when you look back, there has been plenty of turnover brought on by injuries, especially when it comes to starting pitching.

This certainly raises questions for the remainder of the season.

As you know by now, Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to the following question. This is so they can offer a wide range of perspectives.  So let’s check out the question ahead for our writers.


And then there was one. Matthew Boyd is the only remaining original starting pitcher left standing while 2 others are lost for the year. And then there’s also Jordan Zimmermann who will be lost for a significant amount of time and is questionable at best. Given this, should the Tigers bring up their top pitching prospects sooner rather than later – or should they wait until September call-ups? Our two bloggers respond…


KURT

Well, they are going to need pitchers as the foursome of Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, Spencer Turnbull and Tyson Ross leaves an open spot for some lucky Tiger.

The team can offer cameo appearances just as long as they aren’t messing with the controlling years they have banked on their minor leaguers.

Doubleheaders later in the season should offer opportunities where someone can come up, pitch and head back down. It will give us a good taste of how they are progressing.

Other than that, assuming there are no more injuries, I would ride what we have right now. I’m excited about what Matt Boyd and Spencer Turnbull have given us and the Tigers need to make sure they give Daniel Norris an extended look so they can make an educated decision about his future.

But the 5th spot? I am sure the Tigers will spread that start around amongst the middle relievers in the pen.

As for Casey Mize, he has gotten plenty of attention and deservedly so. As he continues his tour through Double A, I am sure it will be very difficult to keep him down at the farm. Expect to see him certainly in September, or maybe part of a double-header in the very near future.


HOLLY

As fans, we naturally want to see the promising talent. We’re anxious to see how good they are and how close the Tigers may be to contending again, especially when so many fans have doubts about the futures of Zimmermann and Fulmer. Matt Moore is out for the year (and his contract expires after this year) and along with Ross, are short-term solutions.

The Tigers are in need of 4, count ‘em, 4 starting pitchers, potentially this year but also most probably for next year, too. But unless Jordan Zimmermann can no longer physically play, the Tigers will bring him back this year and also in 2020 no matter how badly he performs. There are 50 million reasons why.

But while it’s easy to say “Play the kids!”, the Tigers have solid reasons for not bringing them up. The first is about syncing the timing of assembling this team so most of the players come up as close together as possible together  and also starting that clock on their MLB time and salary.

There is the need to give them regular pitching opportunities while additionally protecting their arms and cautiously building the number of innings pitched. It’s been reported that by shutting down Casey Mize last year (who had started to struggle), the Tigers preserved his arm and helped him advance this year because of that action.


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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

The Tigers have almost finished up their first month of baseball and it’s been quite the start. The team has had some ups and downs but their record is certainly a surprise heading into the last week of April.

As you know by now, Holly and Kurt have not shared their answers to the following question. This is so they can offer a wide range of perspectives. Let’s check out the question ahead for our writers.


HOLLY

The Tigers (through Wednesday) have the 7th best record in the AL and have maintained a .500 or better record almost the entire season so far. A wonderful surprise considering that they have some of MLB’s worst offensive stats.

Simply, it’s been all about the pitching. In almost all categories, the Tigers’ pitching staff are within the top 3 of most categories and no lower than the top 10. They are:

– 2nd in fewest total bases given up and lowest SLG
– 3rd in saves and fewest hits allowed
– 4th in fewest HRs given up
– 5th in lowest OPS allowed and BA (.225)
– 6th in fewest runs allowed and ERs
– top 10 in team pitching ERA

Even more impressive given that they’ve lost Michael Fulmer and Matt Moore, continued to be hampered by Jordan Zimmermann and still managed to put out a top product.

But I’m looking beyond the older, established players and what I’m seeing, I like. Matthew Boyd continues to amaze as does Shane Greene with his double-digit saves and 1.38 ERA.  Add in Spencer Turnbull and his team-leading 2.77 ERA for starting pitchers.

Could it be that the Tigers are starting to form a solid nucleus of their new starting pitching staff? I sure hope so.


KURT

If you look at the overall body of work, which is almost a month of baseball, the Tigers have been playing winning baseball. I just can’t figure out how.

With an abysmal offense and 2 major injury hits to the starting rotation, how are they winning?

Well, April certainly belonged to the pitching. And with an offense littered with sub .200 hitters, the pitching had better be good if you are looking to win under those circumstances.

They have played some sloppy baseball, have made mistakes on the bases, have struck out a gazillion times and have still won their fair share.

Despite Jordan Zimmermann returning to form, and what I mean is, back to the crap, the starting rotation has still held their own. And when they come out of the game, the bullpen has been decent leading up to a shutdown closer in Shane Greene.

It’s been a puzzling April, but that doesn’t mean it’s been a bad month, because it hasn’t. May might bring pain, but let’s appreciate April for the surprises it has supplied.


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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

The Tigers head into a break in the schedule today as a winter storm moving through Minnesota is thumbing its nose at the weekend series with the Twins at Target Field.

So we have some time to contemplate anything that might have caught our readers off guard so far in April.

As you know by now, Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to the following question. This is so they can offer a wide range of perspectives, which you also should know.

So, let’s check out the question ahead for our writers.


Which Tiger has surprised you the most so far this season (good or bad)?


KURT

I hate to say this is an easy one, but it is. One player has been THE story already this season and it’s Shane Greene. Never did I dream he could be this dominant, but he has been, setting a record for saves within the first 12 games.

Shane has always had nasty stuff, but he has struggled with harnessing it as walks and home runs would ruin him. But he’s not walking anyone this year and he is throwing everything for strikes which is just what you want out of your closer.

In a year where Joe Jimenez may have been expected to take hold of the closer role, it is really in the Tigers’ best interests that Greene earns the right to keep it.

Who wants to fast forward to July 31st right now? Because nothing would be better for this team than if Greene is as dominant then as he is now.

With Greene making headlines in April, presumed contenders are surely paying attention with hopes that this will continue to be Shane’s breakout season. Of course, it is the Tigers hope as well, that he will have built an impressive resume come trade deadline time, making him quite a prize to deal when the team needs one the most.


HOLLY

I am happy to say that I’ve been surprised by a number of players so far this season – with most of them being on the positive side.

Shane Greene, with his 8 straight saves to start the season and leading all MLB relievers, garners most of the talk right now, but it’s a guy who has played in the shadows who gets my vote.

Niko Goodrum.

A player who labored for almost 7 years in the minors, elected to become a free agent and signed with the Tigers to play minor league ball in 2018 but making the MLB roster.

He showed promise but what a difference a year makes so far with regular playing time. The more I see, the more I like.

Niko leads the team in BA (and places either 1st or 2nd in the other offensive categories), OBP, SlG and OPS with a very eye-pleasing .939 while also ranking in the top 10 of MLB in extra base hits.

But then there’s the defense. He is baseball’s version of Where’s Waldo? – playing 5 positions in just 11 games and doing it very well. And with JaCoby Jones on the IL, coupled with Mikie Mahtook’s struggles, he’s saved the day in CF.

He is the closest thing the Tigers have to a 5 tool player – batting average, arm strength, power, speed and defense.


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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

“Twice as Nice” is now on Mondays! With the first week of the new season underway, we are back to our normal seasonal schedule.

As you know by now, Holly and Kurt have not shared their answers to the following question. This is so they can offer a wide range of perspective, which you also should know.

So, let’s check out the question ahead for our writers.


What has been the most pleasant surprise for you in regards to this new Tiger team?


HOLLY

I was fortunate enough to be able to get down to Lakeland for a couple of games once again this season and as is my habit, I like to go right in when the gates open so I can watch practice and warm-up drills.

The Tigers have been very old-school in their training and conditioning – performing exercises we did decades ago as school children. Half-hearted toe-touching, sit-ups and the like – all done on the grass and without any accessories such as weighted balls or stretch bands.

But this time was different and I had to blink multiple times to ensure I wasn’t seeing a mirage. Dozens of players were now performing what other MLB teams adopted years ago. Exercises meant to increase flexibility and build stronger cores – planks, crunches, hip abductor stretches and the like – using balance balls and resistance bands.

Sidling over to one of Lakeland’s long-time security “helpers”, he told me that the change in how the team gets in shape came from Matt Boyd. I later learned that Boyd works out with a top performance coach on the West Coast who helped him build his core and lower his fat ratio while building 15 pounds of muscle – all while wearing a bracelet that reports his performance, sleep and nutrition stats back to his coach.

Boyd’s suggestion to Kevin Rand, who now heads up the entire Tigers’ training and conditioning programs was taken up, in part, this season. The Tigers are getting younger and the increasing number of them have supported the adoption of standards that are now mainstream in MLB.

Now, if they can only get Jim Leyland to refrain from smoking on the field…


KURT

During spring training, the Tigers seemed more disciplined at the plate, and to tell you the truth, after hearing about how Lloyd McClendon had been working with JaCoby Jones, I started looking for some crow to eat.

McClendon is one person I have been wanting to be wrong about and now that we have moved into the regular season, the surprises have continued.

There are steps to becoming better hitters fundamentally and Lloyd’s strategy with Jones and also Jake Rogers stressed how all hitters are different and you don’t give blanket direction.

However, patience at the plate is stressed across the board. In the spring, McClendon concentrated on better pitch selection and now he is shifting the attention to a more difficult step.

Lloyd has stressed that aggressiveness coupled with waiting for your pitch is the toughest of combinations and the rash of strikeouts in Toronto is just a growing pain when it comes to becoming better and more aggressive hitters. Even though the strikeouts were tough to watch, it appears that when it comes to being more aggressive at the plate, the players are listening.


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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

The regular season is here, it’s underway and the Tigers already have a game under their belts. With a team expected to struggle to win games once again this season, you tend to single out individual players to root for and follow.

There aren’t as many stars as we are accustomed to watching, but there are still individual stories that are very intriguing, both good and bad.

Holly and Kurt, as is the norm, have not shared their answers to the following question. This is so they can offer a wide range of perspectives. Let’s see what question is ahead for our writers.

Who’s your Tiger for 2019?


HOLLY

Gone are the days when you had the same favorite player year after year after year, especially now that the Tigers familiar roster has been decimated.

My favorite players for years – Justin Verlander, Miggy and VMart are reduced to just one. And given all the TMI about Miggy over the past year, it is very hard now to separate the character from the player. I cannot, in good faith, support and admire only part of a man and ignore the rest.

A favorite player for me has to be all-encompassing – someone with talent obviously, but also a man who strengthens the game and possesses great personal qualities like Al Kaline.

Which is why my choice, since late last season, is Matt Boyd.

You see how hard he works and the visible results but it’s also about his attitude, fight and bulldog mentality. He reminds me a lot of a young Justin Verlander. But this is also a good, decent man who is guided by strong principles in his marriage, work ethic and beliefs such as adopting dozens of young girls so they may avoid becoming victims of the sex slavery trade.

Which is also why it’s no surprise to see him as one of the top leaders within the clubhouse – motivating and mentoring many of his teammates.


KURT

I have always been drawn by players who have a flair for the dramatic. Clutch performances that win games get my attention and players who have the ability to do it time and time again, season after season, continue to draw me in.

Although Miguel Cabrera has had some down years affected greatly by injury, I haven’t forgotten how great he has been in a Tiger uniform. He has already earned his spot as one of the greatest right-handed hitters in the game and I am convinced that he still has plenty left. He is a gifted hitter who still poses a threat sitting at that #3 spot in the order.

As for the state of his legacy, the off-the-field issues cannot be ignored. Clearly, those distractions have impacted him on the field – the arena I care about the most. Those are the times I am disappointed and feel cheated by a Hall of Fame caliber player.

Since the day he arrived in Detroit, I have been mesmerized by his ability. He truly has a gift and what I wish for him is to regain the magic he has brought to the game so many times. Selfishly, that’s all I want as a baseball fan.


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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

The Tigers endured some tough news this week. Michael Fulmer will indeed have Tommy John surgery, which may keep him out of action until the middle of next season. It’s a huge blow for the Tigers.

So what will this mean for Fulmer and his future in a Tiger uniform?

Kurt and Holly, as is the norm, have not shared their answers to the following question. This is so they can offer a wide range of perspectives.  Let’s see what question is ahead in regards to Michael Fulmer.


Given that Michael Fulmer will undergo Tommy John surgery and be lost for the year, does he continue to have a future with the Tigers?


KURT

My first response to this topic was to check when Mr. Fulmer becomes a free agent, and it’s not soon. Not until 2023.

When he returns next season and it really won’t be until the latter part of the year, will the Tigers be in need of a starter or does it make sense to get the most out of him from the bullpen?

Remember when Fulmer first burst onto the scene and the Tigers were trying to figure out if he had a spot on the Opening Day roster? At the end of the spring, there was some talk about how effective he could be late in the game, even as a closer.

How incredible would it be if he comes full circle and secures an important late inning role in the pen?

This is a rebuild, folks and that starting rotation is going to continue to evolve and hopefully get younger between now and next season. There may not be a starting role for Fulmer, but the bullpen? You have to consider everyone, don’t you? In Detroit, you don’t turn away anyone.


HOLLY

The Tigers will probably make a decision on Fulmer before next January’s arbitration schedule and it will probably be based upon his recovery, the status of the rebuild and the progress of their promising rookie starting pitchers. Let’s also include Daniel Norris’ evolution and the emergence of Spencer Turnbull as factors.

Fulmer is out for this entire year and most likely for at least part of next year as well. Tommy John surgery recovery averages 15 months and when you haven’t been pitching for over a year, it’s going to take a while longer to get back.

In the meantime, the Tigers have to pay him $2.8 mill this year and retain him for 2020 as well. There is a decent chance that he won’t see action until late next year and it may not be enough time in which to build his trade value – the real reason for keeping him at this point.

So now we’re talking about the decision to retain him stretching into 2021 with the hope of trading him for prospects. But should his arm return, will teams bite on a player who has had 3 knee surgeries?

At this point, the Tigers and Fulmer are running out time as he becomes a free agent after the 2022 season. There’s no way they will pay bigger bucks to keep him so I suspect that his future as an active pitcher will last, at most, one more year.


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TWICE IS AS NICE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

We have moved the clocks, players continue to be cut and re-assigned.  Low and behold, things are starting to settle down. Most can make a pretty educated guess on who will be in the lineup come Opening Day.

But where do the Tigers stand with the rebuild? Are there any issues with the overall roster with which we should be concerned?

Holly and Kurt, as is the norm, have not shared their answers to the following question. This is so they can offer a wide range of perspectives. Let’s see what issue they tackle today.


Excluding pitchers, the Tigers appear to be mostly set with their Opening Day roster, barring any real surprise. The official group of 34 (so far) average just over 27 in age which is also the average age of an MLB team. Given that Detroit is supposedly rebuilding, are we concerned that this group should be skewing on the younger side?


HOLLY

To be concerned right now is really a mixed bag and probably better answered later this season when and if some of the young rookies come up.

Currently, the Tigers have 7 of the 34 players over the age of 30 with the oldest about to turn 36 and the youngest at 24. They did sign a number of 1-2 year contracts with established veterans which is currently skewing the average age higher.

There are a number of questions to ask before we can show possible concern. Will the older veterans be given priority over the development of rookies this year? Are the “promising” players in the minors still in need of further development beyond the expected time?

Will rookies be called up this year and will they see more than an inning here and there? Or are the Tigers stalling for time and plugging holes with one-year contracts because they don’t have the desired level of young talent?

But despite all the questions, the team is surely taking its time – too much time – because the rebuild started 2 years ago and the team has yet to find permanent replacements for most of their non-pitcher positions.

And this is a concern because lengthy rebuilds end up with promising players getting older and team control getting shorter – none of which gives you a decent window for winning.


KURT

It is way too early in the rebuild to expect a host of youngsters to begin filling out the major league roster. The Tigers are busy filling holes with veterans for just that reason, because the prospects that they hope hold the keys to the future are not ready to take on the present. Thus the older-than-average age of the team.

All you have to do is look at the projected starting lineup to see what the Tigers have done. Half the lineup is veterans filling places where, hopefully soon, a youngster will take over.

However, even with that, youth is being served at catcher, third base and 2 outfield positions. Don’t let the numbers fool you, I believe the team has chosen stop-gap veterans at the right positions and at the right time for now. If there is still doubt, run down the list of prospects and determine which players appear ready for prime time. One or 2 could be argued but overall, most are wet behind the ears.

Now, if we are asked this question a year from now, the answers better be entirely different.


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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

With Spring Training moving into the month of March, and the regular season fast approaching, it’s not too early to start focusing on some players who may positively impact the team come April, or at least we hope so.

As always, Holly and Kurt have not shared their responses to the topic below in the interests of offering a wide range of perspectives. Let’s see what they have cooking this week.


Which 3 Tigers will you be rooting most for this season and why?


KURT

Just for our general state of mind, a return to form from the team’s biggest of stars is critically important. There has been so much talk about Miguel Cabrera’s contract and how debilitating it has become, but I never questioned or complained when the Tigers signed him to an extension.  So the very last thing I will do is complain about it now.

Quite simply, a Miggy revival would do so much for a team in desperate need of something to get excited about and Cabrera at or near his best would do so much for everyone – on the field, in the dugout, in the stands and at home in the living room.

From home plate I head to the mound and Daniel Norris is the one pitcher who deserves some better luck after years of nothing but bad since he arrived in Detroit. Good health may end up being all he needs, but I also think that Norris needs to take on the mentality of a relief pitcher. One of the greatest attributes of a successful reliever is their ability to forget and Norris appears to have a tendency to hang onto past failures and carry them to his next start.

Lastly, let’s head to the pen, where the Tigers need to start collecting some horses. With Joe Jimenez emerging as the potential closer in the making, there is another arm that is just filthy enough to continue to make a strong impression.

Victor Alcantara, acquired in the Cameron Maybin trade, emerged as a relative unknown and has turned some heads. The best of signs has come this spring already, when the Tigers have only asked him to change….nothing; an endorsement that must excite him.


HOLLY

In almost all cases, I like to root for the underdog which is why Daniel Norris makes my list. Considered to be one of the prizes in Dave Dombrowski’s last trades, he’s had a rough go and I have to believe that the cancer surgery, plus significant injuries, have played a part in it. A Tiger for just a little over 3 years, he’s had to deal with 3 different pitching coaches which certainly doesn’t help you find lasting and continuous solutions and strategies.

Likewise, I have immensely enjoyed watching JaCoby Jones in CF with his extreme speed and athleticism. And stats don’t lie given that last year he ranked #1 or #2 in most defensive categories for that position and saved 21 runs in 2018. But you don’t stay in MLB if you can’t hit and it would be a shame if his bat preventing him from sticking.

Not helping the situation is that Daz Cameron is breathing down his neck and I can’t help but hope that the imminent departure of Nick Castellanos could pave the way for Jones or Cameron to move to RF. The Tigers are going to need major defensive help in the outfield if Christin Stewart become the regular LFer.

My final choice doesn’t involve the underdog but instead is focused on the remaining franchise face in the form of Miguel Cabrera, who had his last solid year in 2016. Miggy is once again on that roller coaster redemption ride and there are simply too many more years and too many millions of dollars that could serve as the biggest albatross around the Tigers’ rebuilding neck if he doesn’t rebound.


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