If the Detroit Tigers want to make the MLB Playoffs in 2017, they will have to be solid in terms of starting pitching. Last season they had seven different pitchers start at least 10 games, some due to injuries to a starter and some due to lack of performance. Only Justin Verlander, the American League Cy Young runner-up eclipsed 30 starts on the season.
With Opening Day right around the corner, the Tigers rotation is shaping up nicely. In fact, with the exception of the fifth starter, the rotation is set.
Verlander will toe the rubber on Opening Day when the Tigers travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox. He is coming off a season which saw him return to his old form, going 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA while striking out a league-best 254 batters in 227.2 innings of work.
Following Verlander in the rotation will be one of the biggest question marks of the season, Jordan Zimmerman. When the Tigers acquired the 30-year-old prior to the 2016 season, they (and the fans) were certain they were getting a second ace on their staff. Unfortunately, he did not live up to the hype (partly because of injury) as he started only 18 games on the season, posting a 4.87 ERA. Zimmermann has been pitching better this spring and he and the Tigers are very excited for his second year with the team.
According to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News, Daniel Norris is expected to start the third game of the season when the Tigers take on the White Sox on April 6. Norris is a pitcher who could have a breakout type season in 2016 after going 4-2 with the team in 2016. The lefty is still only 23-years-old, but he has the talent to be a top of the rotation starter as his career progresses.
Starting the home opener for the Tigers will be none other than the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer. In his rookie campaign, Fulmer was absolutely brilliant, going 11-7 while putting up an ERA of 3.06. Expecting him to replicate what he did last season may be a bit too much to expect from the 24-year-old, but if he can come close, look out.
Rounding out the rotation is where things get interesting for the Detroit Tigers. At this moment in time, the No. 5 spot will almost certainly go to Anibal Sanchez or Matt Boyd. Sanchez was square on the chopping block at the start of Spring Training but since tweaking his mechanics, he has been nearly unhittable. That being said, I believe the No. 5 spot will be awarded to Boyd. He has been outstanding so far this spring, striking out 21 batters and walking none in 21.2 innings of work. If Boyd does get the nod, Sanchez will likely be thrown in the bullpen for some long-relief duty.