Detroit Tigers Links: David Price, Justin Verlander, Bullpen, Don Kelly

Here’s the latest from the Tigers:

  • David Price struggled during his last outing, but the Tigers aren’t concerned.
  • Justin Verlander could miss his first start of the season.
  • The bullpen is performing well ahead of the regular season starting.
  • James McCann feels blessed to make the Opening Day roster.
  • And finally, former Tiger Don Kelly has earned a roster spot with the Miami Marlins. Congrats Don!

April Fool’s YouTube Video of the Day: Justin Verlander Sets Don Kelly’s Foot on Fire

Detroit Tigers Links: Spring Training Cuts, Miguel Cabrera, Luke Putkonen

The Tigers have been busy trimming their roster down ahead of Opening Day. Detroit has optioned and cut players who either played a role last season or were thought to me in the mix for a big-league roster spot before Spring Training began.

  • Kyle Lobstein was sent to Triple-A due to a dearth of starting opportunities and will likely be the first name called upon should something happen to one of Detroit’s starters. Joining him in Toledo are relievers Josh Zeid and Alex Wilson, who failed to make the team.

Zeid was claimed off waivers from Houston and was part of the deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia and Jarred Cosart and John Singleton to Houston. Wilson has also been involved in a blockbuster trade. He came to Detroit in the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes swap.

  • A previous round of cuts saw the departure of pitchers Drew VerHagen and Jose Valdez. Outfielder Daniel Fields and shortstop Dixon Machado joined the two pitchers in Triple-A.
  • Steven Moya will also start the season in Triple-A.
  • Two significant bench players were optioned to Toledo this morning with outfielder Tyler Collins and last season’s backup catcher Bryan Holaday being sent down. Former O’s outfielder Xavier Avery was sent to minor league camp.

In other news,MLB.com’s Jason Beck passed along news that reliever Luke Putkonen has been released. Putkonen posted solid numbers in 2012 and 2013 with a cumulative 3.35 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched. However he hasn’t found the same success of late and was cut.

And finally, when not stealing the Phillie Phanatic’s keys, Miguel Cabrera is back in the field. The team hopes he and Victor Martinez will be ready for Opening Day.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers Spring Training Links: Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ausmus, Iglesias and Greene

Here’s the latest from the Tigers:

  • Jose Iglesias missed time due to a shin inury, but should be fine going forward.
  • Shane Greene was roughed up in his Tigers debut.
  • Justin Verlander is back to being his old self on the mound. I wrote about
  • Miguel Cabrera has been cleared to take grounders at first base.
  • Brad Ausmus seems to have found his way to Twitter.

And finally, Jack White was at the Tigers spring training facility.

 

Kingdome Crossover: Players the Seattle Mariners Could Have Drafted Instead of Danny Hultzen

The Seattle Mariners have made their fair share of blunders over the years, namely letting numerous players leave for little-to-no return.

This long, illustrious list includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jason Varitek, Rafael Soriano, Alex Rodriguez—you get the point.

The M’s missed a big opportunity in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Danny Hultzen was drafted third overall by Seattle and immediately became part of the “Big Three” pitching prospects along with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Hultzen showed immense potential, but has seen his career derailed by injuries.

The former first-round pick could still achieve the success he was projected to reach, but it will take time.

Hindsight is obviously 20-20 (stop me if you’ve heard that before), but the 2011 draft produced numerous first-round gems that the Mariners could have taken. Here are some of those players in order of draft position.

Dylan Bundy, Starting Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, 4th Overall Pick

Bundy, only 22, made his major league debut in 2012. He made two relief appearances for the O’s, totaling an inning and two thirds.

However, the former fourth-overall shows the potential to be a front-line pitcher, if not an ace in the major leagues.

If nothing else, Bundy’s name appearing in trade rumors should speak to his value. According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles wanted Bundy in a trade for Matt Kemp while Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported in July that Boston was interested in Bundy in a potential Jon Lester trade.

Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman: Washington Nationals, 6th Overall Pick

In a draft class loaded with talented hitters, Rendon has shown the most polish early.

The third baseman, who has also experience at second base, hit .287 in 153 games. The infielder also scored a major-league high 111 runs. In addition, he swatted 23 home runs, drove in 83 runs and swiped 17 bases.

He would have trouble finding at-bats with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager manning second and third, but teams can always use extra bats—especially quality ones like Rendon.

Archie Bradley, Starting Pitcher: Arizona Diamondbacks, 7th Overall Pick

Similar to Bundy, Bradley has future ace/front-line starter written all over him.

He’s been routinely ranked in the top ten prospects in the league and is probably on equal, and while his minor league numbers haven’t been overly impressive (4.45 ERA and a 1.506 WHIP in 18 minor league starts across three minor league levels) he still has a bright future.

Bradley is on similar or better footing than Taijuan Walker or James Paxton in terms of potential.

Francisco Lindor, Shortstop: Cleveland Indians, 8th Overall Pick

Lindor has skyrocketed through the minors and could be in Cleveland in the near future.

One of the top prospects in the game, Lindor is regarded as a top-notch defensive shortstop. He also managed a .273 batting average in 38 Triple-A, showing the potential to be more than simply a defensive wizard at the major league level.

His impending arrival also forced two-time All Star Asdrubal Cabrera out of Cleveland at the trade deadline. Incumbent shortstop Jose Ramirez could meet the same fate as Cabrera.

Javier Baez, Infielder: Chicago Cubs, 9th Overall Pick

Part of the Cubs’ first wave of impact prospects to make the majors, Baez shows tremendous upside. He has outstanding power and will drive in plenty of runs when he reaches his potential.

Baez can play either middle infield position and is part of a talented group of Cubs’ infielders that include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo among others.

The infielder wouldn’t unseat Robinson Cano at second (duh), but he’d provide an upgrade over Chris Taylor and Brad Miller at shortstop.

Baez mashed 37 homers and drove in 111 runs in across multiple levels in the minor leagues in 2013.

George Springer, Outfielder: Houston Astros, 11th Overall Pick

While Rendon would have been blocked at multiple positions by the Cano and Seager, George Springer wouldn’t have been blocked in the outfield.

Part of the Astros’ next great team, Springer is a slugger in every sense of the word.

The outfielder swatted 20 home runs in a mere 78 games. He only hit .231 and struck out 114 games, but his power is undeniable.

Springer has a .303 career batting average in the minor leagues—or, in other words, he won’t be a .231 hitter forever. He’ll improve.

But instead of hitting bombs in Safeco Field as a member of the M’s, Springer will be hitting for the division rival Astros.

Jose Fernandez, Starting Pitcher: Miami Marlins, 14th Overall Pick

Jose Fernandez is one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball—a fantastic accomplishment considering he was only drafted in 2011.

The 22-year-old Cuban took home Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors in his first season in 2013. Only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright finished ahead of Fernandez in Cy Young voting that year.

The Marlins ace is one of the many exiting, young talents in Miami that have prompted the team to give Giancarlo Stanton a big contract and accelerate the rebuilding process so as to win as soon as possible.

Coming off of an injury shortened 2014, Fernandez will undoubtedly be Miami’s ace when he returns in 2015 and beyond.

Seattle is blessed in the pitching department with the likes of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but adding Fernandez certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

C.J. Cron, First Baseman: Los Angeles Angels Anaheim, 17th Overall Pick

Cron can flat out hit. He may not be as dynamic as teammate Mike Trout, but he provides the Angels with another young player to build around.

The first baseman owns a .290 career minor-league batting average and can drive the ball out of the park. He slugged 11 bombs in only 79 games in 2014 and has the potential to do much more.

With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in decline, Cron will be counted on to help carry the Angels into the future. Don’t be surprised if Cron gets close to 40 home runs in a season at some point.

He would have been a nice fit at first base for the M’s.

Sonny Gray, Starting Pitcher: Oakland Athletics, 18th Overall Pick

While Bundy and Bradley are future aces, Gray (like Fernandez) is already there.

Gray has a 2.99 ERA in 283 innings pitched and posted a 3.2 WAR in 2014. That 3.2 WAR was higher than the likes of Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Anibal Sanchez.

Gray stepped in during his rookie season and started two playoff games for the A’s. Both times he went toe-to-toe with vintage Justin Verlander and didn’t blink, arguably pitching as well as the former Cy Young MVP.

Also like Fernandez, Gray would have been a nice addition to the M’s, but Seattle will have to settle for seeing him pitch against them a few times a year with Oakland.

Other Notable Names

In addition to the big names like Fernandez, Springer and Rendon, there were a plethora of players available later in the first round of the draft.

The Cardinals and Giants respective second baseman (Kolten Wong and Joe Panik) were taken 22nd and 29th overall. Jackie Bradley Jr. was taken with the 40th pick while fellow Red Sox youngsters, and current farmhands, Matt Barnes (19th), Henry Owens (36th) and Blake Swihart (26th) were also first-round picks.

While Danny Hultzen hasn’t reached the big leagues yet, the M’s clearly could have received more value out of all these players.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comunless otherwise noted.

You can view the piece over at Kingdome here. For everything else Kingdome of Seattle Sports has to offer, click here. You can follow Kingdome on Twitter here and subscribe on YouTube here.

Detroit Tigers: Bullpen Names to Watch

It’s no secret that the Detroit Tigers have had bullpen issues. Detroit finished below league-average in numerous bullpen categories in 2014, including saves and holds.

Additionally, the team’s bullpen allowed 4.35 runs per game, easily the worst among playoff teams. Lastly, the team had an Inherited Score Percentage (which, per Baseball Reference, is “the percentage of runners on base when pitcher entered the game who subsequently scored) of 33% – fifth worst in the league. In other words, one of every three runners that Tigers relievers inherited scored. This stat is especially bad when you consider that Detroit inherited 244 runners, seventh worst of all teams.

While the bullpen will be largely improved thanks to expected bounce-back seasons from Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria, the return of Bruce Rondon and the consistent presence of Al Alburquerque, there are other names to track as we inch towards Opening Day.

Angel Nesbitt

None of these pitchers are locks to make the roster like a Nathan or a Soria, making them all dark horses to a degree. However, Nesbitt may be the biggest dark horse of the group. Unlike the relievers that follow, the flame-throwing 24-year-old doesn’t have any major league experience.

What he does have is stuff, including a fastball that approaches 100 MPH.

Nesbitt posted an impressive 1.48 ERA at two minor league stops in 2014 while striking out 9.7 batters per nine innings. He also compiled 20 saves.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see him start the year at Triple-A in order to obtain more experience, but if he doesn’t start the year with the big club, look for him to get a call up at some point in 2015.

Josh Zeid

Once upon a time, Hunter Pence was traded from Houston to Philadelphia. In exchange for parting with Pence, the Astros received a package that included Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, Domingo Santana… and Zeid.

Cosart has a cumulative 3.26 ERA in 40 career starts and was flipped at the last trade deadline to Houston for an additional haul of prospects, including two former top 100 prospects. Singleton is so highly thought of that the Astros signed him through 2021 despite having no big league experience. Santana made his major league debut last season.

Zeid debuted in 2013 with a solid season. In only 25 games, he posted a 3.90 ERA, recorded a save and struck out 24 batters in 27.2 innings. The former Astro has experience in the minors as a starter but has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since 2012. Despite a 6.97 ERA in 2014, there are numerous positives to be had with Zeid.

He shows promise as a lefty specialist after holding left-handed batters to a .178 batting average and a .275 OBP in 2013. He struggled mightily with lefties in 2014, allowing a .455 batting average and a .500 OBP. Nonetheless, his performances in 2013 show that he has potential to be useful bullpen arm for Detroit.

Alex Wilson

Acquired as part of the Rick Porcello trade, Alex Wilson may start the season with Detroit. The Tigers clearly could use some new blood in the bullpen and Wilson provides that. He posted a 1.91 ERA in 18 appearances for Boston in 2014 and proved to particularly useful against right-handed batters, limiting them to a .151 batting average and a meager .476 OPS.

Another transitioned starter, Wilson will likely provide Brad Ausmus with another weapon to use out of the bullpen, along with Nathan, Soria, Bruce Rondon, Al Alburquerque and Tom Gorzelanny.

Ian Krol

Similar to Wilson, Krol came over as a secondary piece in a trade for a starting pitcher. Krol was acquired with the since departed duo of Robbie Ray and Steve Lombardozzi for Doug Fister.

It was hit and miss for Krol in his first go-around in Detroit. He came out of the gate strong with a 3.38 ERA in March/April and improved on that number in May with a 1.59 mark in 16 appearances. It went downhill soon after that. The former National’s ERA in June was 11.12. He only made 10 appearance the rest of the way, seven of which came in July. The reliever’s ERA in that month? 9.00.

Krol, along with Nathan and Soria, should have a bounce-back season. He showed promise early in Detroit and in Washington where he posted a 3.95 ERA in 32 appearances. Hopefully the adjustment period is over and Krol can go back to being a critical member of the Tigers bullpen.

Blaine Hardy

Plucked from free agency in 2013, Blaine Hardy had a solid first season in Motown. In 39 innings, he posted a 2.54 ERA, providing one of the few bright spots in an otherwise frustrating year for the bullpen.

Hardy will look to continue his success in 2015. Although a roster spot isn’t a 100% guarantee thanks to a rough spot down the stretch (5.40 ERA over his last nine appearances), expect him to be with the Tigers at some point in 2015—regardless of if he makes the team out of Spring Training.

Joel Hanrahan

At the height of his prime, Joel Hanrahan was a two-time All-Star closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, converting 76 save in a two year span while turning in a sparkling 2.24 ERA. In four years with the Pirates he posted an ERA of 2.59 as a reliever.

It’s easy to forget those years he spent in Pittsburgh were from 2009 to 2012.

Hanrahan has had trouble recovering from injury as of late, but should he be healthy come the regular season, he’ll be a massive part of the Tigers’ success. Along with Nathan and Soria he would give Detroit three pitchers who have saved 40 games in a season, a rarity in today’s game. If all three pitch like they’re capable of, the Tigers could have a lockdown bullpen—something that hasn’t been muttered in Detroit for a long time.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers: Internal Replacements for Victor Martinez

The latest from the Detroit Tigers is that designated hitter Victor Martinez has a torn meniscus and will undergo surgery next week.

V-Mart won’t miss the entire season due to the injury, but it could leave him out for an extended amount of time. According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, players have returned from the surgery in one or two months. Knowing this, it’s likely Martinez will miss Spring Training.  

The recently released Dayan Viciedo represents one of the few free agent alternatives, other options on the market include the likes of Jason Kubel, Ryan Doumit and Nate Schierholtz. This list could change once teams start making cuts in Spring Training, but it’s what the Tigers have to work with at present.

Detroit may fancy their chances finding another J.D. Martinez in the early months of the season to provide cover, but the team may look to fill the gap internally, here are few options for the team.

James McCann

While not a candidate to be used every day as a V-Mart placeholder, McCann can provide the Tigers with value stepping in every now and again. The young catcher wouldn’t be a direct replacement in terms of being the DH, but he would allow manager Brad Ausmus to shift the team around.

McCann would start behind the dish in most scenarios, the catcher is one of Detroit’s better position player prospects and brings a defensive-minded mentality to the game. Additionally, he hit .295 at Triple-A, showing some potential as a two-way contributor at the big league level.

Starting McCann would allow the team to slide Alex Avila to first base, something that has been brought up before. When you also consider Avila’s health issues and the toll they’ve taken on his offensive numbers, some time spent at first makes sense.

Like Martinez, Miguel Cabrera is a question mark to start the season on the active roster. Avila could provide cover at first base while the former MVP recovers. Even if Cabrera is ready to go, they’ll likely be cautious with him—which means taking a good portion of the designated hitter at-bats that V-Mart is potentially vacating.

Starting McCann at catcher would be a win-win situation in the sense that Avila and Cabrera’s health would be preserved so that they can be their best offensively.

Corner Outfielder A, B or C

As of right now, Detroit has three quality corner outfielders on their roster. Three outfielders who would start for most teams—Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis. With the DH spot open, Ausmus and the Tigers could rotate the three between starting in the field and being designated hitter so they stay fresh.

With the return of Jose Iglesias and the arrival of Cespedes and Anthony Gose, it’s clear that Detroit will be a much improved defensive unit in 2015. Knowing this, the Tigers could start their strongest defensive duo in the outfield and not have to worry about losing the third’s bat as the remaining outfielder can slot in at DH. The situation also allows the flexibility for the outfielders to be utilized in situations where they thrive, like Davis who should probably start against left-handed pitching after mashing .356 against southpaws in 2014.

The Prospects

For all the unfair grief Detroit’s minor league system has gotten recently, they have some quality depth in the outfield.

The 6’6” slugging outfielder known as Steven Moya possesses phenomenal raw power that could translate into big home run numbers once he reaches Motown. In addition to him, the team will also be able to call on Tyler Collins, a more all-around type who is solid in most aspects of the game on both sides of the ball.

Both Moya and Collins got limited playing time in Detroit last season, but the two wild cards may be outfielders who have never worn the Old English “D” in a game. Daniel Fields has long been considered a solid prospect, but was hit with the injury bug in 2014. Because of this, former sixth-round pick was never able to establish himself at Triple-A Toledo last season and as a result wasn’t able to help the Tigers in any capacity. If he’s healthy this season, he may find himself in Detroit sooner rather than later.

The other wild card is Wynton Bernard, a former San Diego farmhand who dominated at Single-A Western Michigan last year. He put up an impressive .323 batting average and was added to the Tigers 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He may not be the top name on the list, but the fact that he was added to the 40-man roster suggests the Tigers think highly of him. It at least gives him an outside shot.

Conclusion

The likely scenario is that Ausmus rotates his outfielders. With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez both question marks to be 100% to start on Opening Day, the team will need all the offense it can get. Utilizing all three corner outfielders is the best way to go about that. It would be surprising to see the McCann scenario deployed, or to see Collins or Moya make the roster and receive some at bats, but as it stands, the outfield provides the Tigers with the best source of offense at this point in time.

What do you think?

Which situation do you think is best way to go about replacing V-Mart? Is it one of the above or is it yet another alternate situation? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter either here or here.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Seattle Sports: Highlights of the Professional Sports Team’s Public Twitter Discussion Concerning a Road Trip to Arizona

The following is a fantastic use of Twitter. It happened after the Seahawks came back to beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

Detroit Tigers: Why Tom Gorzelanny Is the Perfect Signing

The Detroit Tigers’ bullpen has been the team’s ultimate downfall in recent postseasons. From Jose Valverde’s implosion, to the unlikely events in Boston, to the meltdown against Baltimore, the Tigers have had their share of problems in the department of relief pitching.

Take the bullpen struggles and couple them with a newly-minted, but largely-untested, back of the rotation and you realize Tom Gorzelanny is the perfect signing for the Tigers.

He’s not the biggest name, and he won’t summon thoughts of Trevor Hoffman when thought of by the fans, but he’s still a quality addition—an addition that makes sense for the Tigers.

Detroit’s bullpen is bad. You can look at statistic A or statistic B, but the bottom line is that the unit was poor in 2014.

Gorzelanny wasn’t the top option on the market, and with another team may not have been valued as much. However, with the Tigers Gorzelanny is an impact signing.

When I say he wouldn’t have been valued as much with another team, I’m in no way knocking Gorzelanny he had a fantastic season last year, with a 0.89 ERA in 23 innings—it’s just that other teams have more pitching depth.

With the Tigers, Gorzelanny has the potential to make an impact as a reliever and a starter.

The former Pirate made his name as a starting pitcher with Pittsburgh, winning 14 games and posting a 3.88 ERA in his first full major league season. After that, Gorzelanny struggled and eventually moved to the bullpen as a swingman, making the occasional start while predominantly working out of the bullpen.

From 2011 to 2013 he posted a 3.67 ERA in 188 appearances, 26 of which were starts. The lefty struck out 240 batters in 262.1 innings during that span.

The genius of the signing is that Gorzelanny provides ample cover in the Tigers’ two potential problem areas: the bullpen and the back end of the bullpen.

Detroit’s bullpen will be a very different looking bunch in 2015. Two of the team’s most consistent performers, Joba Chamberlain and Blaine Hardy, aren’t likely to feature as prominently. Chamberlain is a free agent and unlikely to return, while Hardy struggled down the stretch and will face competition from the likes of the returning Bruce Rondon and Ian Krol as well as newcomers Alex Wilson, Josh Zeid and Angel Nesbitt.

Gorzelanny is the also the perfect deputy for new starting pitchers Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon.

Should either Greene or Simon struggle, they can shift to the bullpen and work on improving while Gorzelanny fills in for a few starts.

In addition, should Simon have trouble replicating his All-Star numbers from 2014 (which is completely possible given his second-half struggles with the Reds last year), manager Brad Ausmus can flip-flop the two. Gorzelanny has experience in the rotation, while Simon has had success in a relief role. He turned in a 2.78 ERA in 99 relief outings for Cincinnati from 2012 to 2013. He threw 148.2 innings over that span, striking out 115.

If Gorzelanny thrives as a reliever (as his track record would suggest) or does the same in a starting role, it will be a successful signing. Even if he does a little of both and posts respectable numbers, the Tigers will have made another shrewd signing. The transaction was especially shrewd considering Gorzelanny signed for a reported $1 million, much less than fellow pitchers Zach Duke and Andrew Miller fetched.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.