Detroit Tigers: A look at the current state of the bullpen for 2020

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

The past few years, the Detroit Tigers bullpen has been horrendous, and things do not seem to be getting any better, but is there hope for the bullpen in 2020?

Since Al Avila has taken over as the General Manager of the Detroit Tigers, he has been tasked with stringing together a bullpen. The Tigers bullpen has been an issue for the past few years, but take a look at how it has been pieced together for the 2020 season.

First and foremost, the current bullpen projections are based on the twenty-six man roster. The outbreak of COVID-19 will make the 2020 season an interesting one, so there may be some tweaks to this and expansions to the roster.

The ninth inning is going to be given to Joe Jiménez as he tries to become the next closer for the Tigers. With any luck, the Tigers can let Jiménez become the next Shane Greene who they can then flip for prospects to help flood the minor league system.

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He has not been flawless in late-game situations, struggling to nail down that closer’s role. He looks to change this narrative in 2020 if given the opportunity.

Another arm that is in the mix as the late game high-leverage situations is Buck Farmer.

The way things stand, Farmer would be the eighth-inning guy in the few opportunities where the Tigers are actually winning. Farmer had quite the season in 2019 after his stats improved immensely, and he showed that he could be a reliable arm in the Tigers bullpen.

Also in the late-game category is Jose Cisnero, who has been absent from Major League Baseball for the past three years before 2019. Last season Cisnero strung together 35.1 innings pitched with a 4.33 ERA, which is not great, but hopefully, Cisnero can be a reliable arm for manager Ron Gardenhire.

After that, the rest of the arms get sketchy; it’s minor league arms fighting for spots and a Rule five draft pick. Bryan Garcia will be returning into the bullpen after producing a 12.15 ERA overall of 6.2 innings pitched in 2019. Garcia was not great at all with the Tigers, so hopefully, in 2020, things turn around of he may end up back in Toledo as he did in 2019.

Also returning from the 2020 season is reliever Gregory Soto who is looking to make a name for himself as a flamethrowing bullpen arm. He struggled with finding the strike zone in 2019, with a BB/9 rating of 12.0% while having plenty of punch outs.

The hope would be that Soto finds the strike zone and can be a force in the Tigers bullpen and possibly blossom into the likeness of Diego Castillo from the Tampa Bay Rays. Soto could be the one-inning opener to lead the way for someone like Daniel Norris, or a late-game flamethrowing reliever.

After appearing in twenty-five games in 2020, David McKay will also be returning to the bullpen. He produced a 5.47 ERA over 26.1 innings of work while pitching for the Mariners and Tigers. If and when the season picks up, McKay should find himself as a part of the Tigers bullpen.

Making his return to the Tigers for another season will be Tyler Alexander, who is going to be the long-relief option and spot starter. The left-hander has proven that he can hang with big-league talent, being a reliable arm.

Alexander found his way into thirteen games with the Tigers (eight starts), accumulating 53.2 innings pitched. He would produce a 4.86 ERA while punching out 47 hitters in his innings of work. He should have no issues being a stable arm out of the bullpen for the Tigers.

Rounding it out is Rule Five draft choice, Rony Garcia, who comes from the New York Yankees. This means that he will have to stick with the Tigers and will be in the bullpen for the 2020 season.

He has not cracked his way out of Double-A ball with the Yankees, but he will get the big-league promotion. In 105.1 innings of work at the Double-A level in 2019, making twenty starts, producing a 4.44 ERA.

The bullpen is not going to be any better than it has been, which shows that the rebuild is still well underway and far from over. The hope would be that someone like Farmer or Jiménez attract some trade offers to boost the minor league system even more.

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But, all-in-all the Tigers bullpen is still going to be awful and struggle. Again, hopefully, they can stay in more games with continued good performances from Alexander, Farmer, and  Jiménez.