2024 Tigers roster projection 2.0: How Gio Urshela could alter the team

LAKELAND, Fla. — There are always a few surprises in spring training. The Detroit Tigers gave us the first of the year Thursday when they agreed to a one-year deal with infielder Gio Urshela, a signing that could alter the configuration of the rest of the roster.

And as the Tigers prepare to open their Grapefruit League schedule Saturday against the New York Yankees, there are other roster battles on the pitching end already coming into clearer focus.

Here’s a look at where things stand:


Jake Rogers

Rogers is in good spirits this spring. One thing to watch: Can his throwing return to form? Rogers, who missed all of the 2020 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, was hailed for his elite arm in the minor leagues. Last year, though Rogers graded out well in blocking and framing, his throwing took a step back. He was worth -1 caught stealing runs above average, per Baseball Savant, and threw out only 16 percent of base stealers.

ZiPS Projection: .205 BA, .277 OBP, 13 HR, 1.4 fWAR

First base

Spencer Torkelson

We’ve talked ad nauseum about Torkelson’s game. He should be fun to watch this season. Don’t be surprised if Mark Canha or perhaps others play a bit of first base when Torkelson needs a day off his feet.

ZiPS Projection: .243 BA, .326 OBP, 33 HR, 2.3 fWAR

Second base

Colt Keith

How Keith handles defense at second base will be fascinating. So far in early drills, Keith looks competent enough but can get clunky with his footwork around the bag and has yet to have his range tested.

ZiPS Projection: .252 BA, .314 OBP, 19 HR, 1.3 fWAR


Javier Báez

Báez’s swing is perhaps a tad less violent — less coil and turning his back to the pitcher — but otherwise isn’t noticeably different. It’s hard to know how much his back and core issues hurt his performance last year. If Báez can hit 20 homers and remain a plus defender, the Tigers will take it.

ZiPS Projection: .236 BA, .280 OBP, 14 HR, 1.2 fWAR

Third base

Gio Urshela

Urshela feels like a lock to play third almost every time a left-hander is on the mound. He was a plus defender at the hot corner last season and is a .290 career hitter against lefties. It will be more interesting to see how often he plays against right-handers. His career .272/.320/.414 slash line versus RHP is still better than what lefty bat Zach McKinstry posted against righties last year (.230/.297/.356). Still expect Urshela, Matt Vierling, McKinstry and Andy Ibáñez to play some third this season.

“He has pounded left-handed pitching pretty much his entire career, and especially over the last three years,” Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris told reporters Friday in Lakeland. “We feel like he fits our roster because he has a chance to strengthen our infield defense but also allow A.J. to reconfigure the rest of the diamond to strengthen our outfield defense.”

ZiPS Projection: .280 BA, .321 OBP, 10 HR, 1.4 fWAR

Left field

Mark Canha

Canha will likely get time at both outfield corners in addition to spending time at designated hitter and first base.

ZiPS Projection: .266 BA, .371 OBP, 11 HR, 2.1 fWAR

Center field

Parker Meadows

Meadows is one of the X-factors on this team. He has a high ceiling and the floor of a platoon bat with plus defense. How he handles tougher big-league pitching this year will be telling.

ZiPS Projection: .228 BA, .294 OBP, 15 HR, 1.5 fWAR

Right field

Riley Greene

Chances are Greene spends time in both outfield corners depending on the ballpark, and we’ll see whether either position ends up being stronger than the other. It will be more interesting to see whether the Tigers use him at all in center if Meadows struggles or is injured. One benefit of the Urshela signing: Vierling seems more likely to get backup reps in center, allowing Greene to stay in the corners.

ZiPS Projection: .268 BA, .336 OBP, 15 HR, 2.8 fWAR

Designated hitter

Kerry Carpenter

Carpenter’s bat plays at this level. Defense is the next step. Carpenter made improvements last year but still has much room to improve. He projects as the Opening Day DH, but the Tigers are going to rotate plenty of players in at the DH spot, and Carpenter has said his goal is to prove he can play in the outfield every day.

ZiPS Projection: .256 BA, .315 OBP, 19 HR, 1.2 fWAR


  • C Carson Kelly (ZiPS Projection: .223 BA, .303 OBP, 8 HR, 1.0 fWAR)
  • IF Andy Ibáñez (ZiPS Projection: .260 BA, .318 OBP, 10 HR, 1.1 fWAR)
  • UTIL Matt Vierling (ZiPS Projection: .257 BA, .320 OBP, 10 HR, 0.7 fWAR)
  • UTIL Zach McKinstry (ZiPS Projection: .244 BA, .313 OBP, 10 HR, 1.1 fWAR)

Urshela will likely bump Vierling to a versatile bench role, and it could spell bad news for the likes of Justyn-Henry Malloy, Ryan Kreidler and Akil Baddoo. Each of those players has an interesting roster case — Malloy has the most offensive potential but is only playing outfield, which severely hurts his roster chances. Kreidler is a great defender and a right-handed bat, but adding Urshela makes that need less palpable. Baddoo is a good base runner and could bring late-game substitution value, but the Tigers already have three lefty outfielders, Greene, Meadows and Carpenter. McKinstry and Ibáñez are not complete locks, but it might be difficult for any of the above candidates to unseat them for a spot.

Starting rotation

  • LHP Tarik Skubal (ZiPS Projection: 3.65 ERA, 9.37 K/9, 2.4 fWAR)
  • RHP Kenta Maeda (ZiPS Projection: 4.51 ERA, 8.42 K/9, 1.3 fWAR)
  • RHP Jack Flaherty (ZiPS Projection: 4.54 ERA, 8.93 K/9, 1.2 fWAR)
  • RHP Casey Mize (ZiPS Projection: 4.61 ERA, 6.68 K/9, 0.7 fWAR)
  • RHP Reese Olson (ZiPS Projection: 4.35 ERA, 8.64 K/9, 1.5 fWAR)

Could Matt Manning get squeezed out? It’s tough to know what the exact plan is here. Reality tells us there’s a good chance one of Detroit’s six starters gets hurt before Opening Day, meaning this will all sort itself out. Other options include taking six starters and pairing, say, Mize and Olson in tandem outings to begin the year. Or one of Olson, Mize and Manning might have to start the year in Triple A. Of those three, Manning has the most to prove. The Tigers could take all six starters, but that would mean weakening the bullpen. And some of this might depend on the performance of Joey Wentz …


  • RHP Alex Lange (ZiPS Projection: 4.16 ERA, 11.91 K/9, 0.3 fWAR)
  • RHP Jason Foley (ZiPS Projection: 4.22 ERA, 6.33 K/9, 0.2 fWAR)
  • LHP Andrew Chafin (ZiPS Projection: 4.26 ERA, 9.76 K/9, 0.1 fWAR)
  • LHP Tyler Holton (ZiPS Projection: 3.84 ERA, 8.15 K/9, 0.7 fWAR)
  • RHP Shelby Miller (ZiPS Projection: 4.60 ERA, 8.80 K/9, 0.2 fWAR)
  • RHP Will Vest (ZiPS Projection: 3.99 ERA, 9.35 K/9, 0.5 fWAR)
  • RHP Beau Brieske (ZiPS Projection: 4.48 ERA, 6.97 K/9, 0.7 fWAR)
  • LHP Joey Wentz (ZiPS Projection as a starter: 4.86 ERA, 8.73 K/9, 1.1 fWAR )

There’s still some competition for at least two spots in the bullpen, but the Tigers seem to like what Brieske can bring to the table as a hard-throwing, multi-role reliever. It’s Wentz who throws a metaphorical curveball in roster construction. Although he was rather atrocious last year — a 6.90 ERA in 105.2 innings and an absurd -23 run value on his fastball — it’s difficult to forget Wentz’s posting a 1.73 ERA over his final five starts of 2022 and dominating the Arizona Fall League. Wentz is out of options, so the Tigers must either keep him on the roster or designate him for assignment. If he is designated for assignment, it’s unlikely the left-hander would clear waivers. Wentz looked good in his first live batting practice Thursday. His lack of options could buy him some time, but Wentz needs to show he will be worth it. Others such as Alex Faedo, Sawyer-Gipson Long, Mason Englert, Trey Wingenter and Brendan White could make their own cases this spring.

(Photo: Junfu Han / USA Today)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top