9 Detroit Tigers players trapped in spring training limbo

The Detroit Tigers won’t start spring training on time.

Missing the start of spring training isn’t a big deal in and of itself. But it’s the first in a series of delays that could potentially push back the start of the regular season, or even cause the Detroit Tigers to miss real games.

The lockout could end tomorrow, of course, if the stubborn owners actually try to negotiate. But they reneged on their commitment to counter the players’ latest offer, then tried to get the federal government involvedso it doesn’t seem like a realistic result.

And for their part players stick together in their belief that landlords do not bargain in good faith, and they are unwavering in their determination to achieve a fair collective agreement.

Major League Baseball is in trouble right now, and fans can hardly be blamed if they turn their attention elsewhere. Maybe to the minor leagues?

As we mentioned in our depth chart last week, minor league baseball is unaffected by the work stoppage. Most minor leaguers are not on their team’s 40-man roster and therefore are not yet members of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

So top Detroit Tigers prospects like Riley Greene, Jackson Jobe and Spencer Torkelson will still be filtering to Lakeland in the coming weeks, if they aren’t already there. And minor league spring training is scheduled to begin in mid-March.

Meanwhile, MLB veterans like Javier Báez, Robbie Grossman and Eduardo Rodriguez won’t really be affected by missed games. On the contrary, more free time will help them stay fresh when the season begins.

But a subset of the Detroit Tigers could suffer real harm from this lockdown.

There are prospects on the 40-player roster who never made it to the majors, and another handful of young players are vying for spots on the roster. Both groups would benefit from working directly with Detroit’s new player development staff.

Instead, they will wait on the sidelines.

So let’s take a look at these players stuck in baseball limbo and discuss why missing even a month of spring training could hurt them.

Detroit Tigers trapped in spring training limbo – Starting pitchers

Tigers pitching prospect Alex Faedo warms up during spring training.

Alex Fedo

Alex Faedo’s story is typical of many players on this list. The canceled 2020 minor league season sent Faedo to alternate site Detroit, but a COVID episode kept him out of action until August, and he was quickly arrested with a pulled forearm that eventually led to Tommy John surgery in December.

The last time Alex Faedo threw a pitch in a real game was Sept. 1, 2019, and he’s yet to see the Triple-A level. Most pitchers recover from Tommy John surgery, but their first year back tends to be bumpy. It wouldn’t be shocking if Faedo didn’t return to full strength until 2023, when he’ll be 27. It would be nice if he could start fixing the problems as soon as possible.

Elvin Rodriguez

Elvin Rodriguez was a bit of a surprise among Detroit’s 40 players at the start of November, but the Detroit Tigers lack starting pitch depth in their upper tiers, and he would have otherwise been a free agent. Rodriguez was beaten to the tune of a 5.83 ERA in Double-A Erie last year, and he’s missed a handful of starts, but he’s generally been an effective workhorse since joining the Detroit system in Justin Upton’s trade in 2017.

Nothing Rodriguez does really stands out, but he has enough ingredients to potentially profile himself as a fifth starter or a swingman. His fastball is in the 90s and can hit 95 MPH with good life at the zone top, and his mid-80s change can miss bats when locating him well. He also shows an 11-7 curveball with good depth, but it’s a bit slow, so he started playing with a slider last year. Rodriguez has a repeatable delivery and throws plenty of strikes, but his command in the area is lacking. In short, he’s exactly the kind of pitcher who would benefit from extended time to hone his throwing and command with Chris Fetter and the Tigers’ player development team.

Joey Wentz

Joey Wentz is a pretty good example of the long Tommy John recovery process we mentioned above. Wentz was outstanding after coming to the organization on a trade from Shane Greene in 2019, but injured his arm in spring training the following season. It was actually a good time, as the 2020 minor league season was canceled anyway. Wentz returned for 72 runs in 2021, but he still didn’t look quite right, and he finished the season with a 4.50 ERA and the highest walk rate of his career.

The Wentz stuff was mostly back last season. His fastball was usually in the 89-93 MPH range, but he could run it up to 95, and he mixed three different secondary offers. From a purely subjective perspective, Wentz looked hesitant to kick off his change, and just didn’t seem very comfortable letting go – similar to how Michael Fulmer looked in 2020. As a result, he struggled to put away batters and racked up a big pitch count. He would definitely benefit from more in-game action against quality competition.

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