Opening Day 2019 is just two weeks away. The Detroit Tigers will soon head north from Lakeland, Florida and head straight across the border to face the als0-but-not-quite-saying-it rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays.
When, “Play Ball,” is yelled in the Rogers Center on March 28th, the question looms: who is taking the field for the Tigers?
That is the question turning over in every Tigers fan's mind. As Spring Training games have come and gone, one thing we know to be true is this: the team will look much different than it did even just a year ago. For starters, this is the year we may start to see some of those younger guys start to break through, and we'll get a taste of Christin Stewart for a full season. This article is two parts: a projected 25-man roster and then an Opening Day lineup projection. Enjoy the feast!
Projected 25-man Roster for 2019:
Picking through and trying to decide who belongs and who doesn't on a 25-man roster is not cut and dry. What do you do with someone like, Gordon Beckham? Tyson Ross, who hasn't been that great this spring, who could actually be blocking one of our young arms? The Tigers definitely have some decisions to make and some are going to be easier than others. The breakdown is as follows:
There are some names that are missing from this list obviously. Answering a question above, there is no Tyson Ross simply because he's turned 10.2 Spring Training innings into an 8.44 ERA, which simply doesn't cut it. Sure, he signed here to be a starter, but Turnbull is younger and has been more effective in less work than Ross. In 2019, the theme should be: let the kids play. Michael Fulmer is another name not on here, due to his indefinite shut down while he works on regaining his lower-body mechanics, he will most likely begin the season on the injured list.
Michael Fulmer threw a bullpen session this morning on back fields at Tigertown, this time without the knee brace. He said he’s working on getting explosiveness back in delivery, doesn’t want to push himself in games to where he risks bad mechanics and injury.
— Jason Beck (@beckjason) March 15, 2019
|Blaine Hardy||LHP||RP; Lefty specialist; Clutch outs|
Ross again doesn't show up here simply because he just hasn't been good, he also signed to be a starter, which could make him a candidate to start in Triple-A, or released. Though, if he's willing he could be added to the bullpen as a long reliever, ala Anibal Sanchez, and work from there.
Drew VerHagen, is another name not here, though most likely he'll be joining Fulmer on the injured list to start the season. He is officially out of Minor League options, so he will be on the roster or released and passed through waivers. The same goes for Buck Farmer.
Blaine Hardy is the guy to watch this season. He's accrued a zero-ERA through spring and if Shane Greene is good enough to be traded this July, you could see Hardy move into a set-up role and Joe Jimenez takes over the closer spot. Hardy is a wild-card, but he proved last season that second chances are sometimes the best thing that can happen to a player and big things are coming for old Blaine.
Any way you look at it, the lineup is going to continue to be right-hand heavy. But the big focal point will be on our first base situation. The addition of Brandon Dixon, claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds, could help transition Miguel Cabrera to a full-time DH and even start to get Nicholas Castellanos' feet wet at first–if this is the direction the organization wants to go with him. By using Dixon, who hit .346/.389/.570 in Triple-A last season after being demoted from the big club, in a rotational role with Nicholas and Miggy, this could very well set up a good, transitional season for Nicholas and Miggy.
Let's explore this. Miggy has been clear he wants to play the entire game but will do what's best for the team. It has long been thought that Castellanos would do the least harm defensively at first base. So, with those things in mind here's the thought: Miggy plays 81 games at first base and 81 games at DH–all assuming his body holds up, if not the DH number should grow. Then Nicholas should split his time three ways, 54 games in right field, 54 games at First base, 54 games at DH. This way when Miggy is DH-ing, Castellanos or Dixon will be at first. When Nicholas DHs, Miggy is at first. And, lastly, when Nicholas is in right field and Miggy is DH-ing, Dixon can play first.
2019 Opening Day Lineup:
Okay, so after all of that here's where the Tigers will line up on Opening Day against Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays:
- Christin Stewart (L) – LF
- Jeimer Candelario (S) – 3B
- Nicholas Castellanos (R) – RF
- Miguel Cabrera (R) – 1B
- Niko Goodrum (S) – DH
- Grayson Greiner (R) – C
- Jordy Mercer (R) – SS
- Josh Harrison (R) – 2B
- JaCoby Jones (R) – CF
SP- Jordan Zimmermann
A few notes about this:
Some may balk about starting Stewart in the lead-off spot, but his ability to draw walks, and slightly better speed, makes him the best candidate over Candelario. Given both of these young players ability to get on base in front of Castellanos and Cabrera, is a better construction of a lineup than playing the veteran Harrison there.
Also, hitting Castellanos in front of Cabrera is two-fold. First, Castellanos is our best hitter currently–until Cabrera returns to form. Second, he will only get better as Miguel gets back into the swing of things and adds a layer of protection for him.
There you have it: the 2019 Detroit Tigers.
Projected wins: 66.