Detroit Tigers: Will COVID-19 halt the progress of the pitching prospects?

(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Detroit Tigers fans don’t have much to be enthusiastic about aside from a few young up and coming highly touted arms, but will COVID-19 stunt their growth?

It feels like we are in the midst of the Detroit Tigers of the late 1990s without the excitement and anticipation of the opening of a new ballpark. Instead, it’s waiting to get a glimpse of these highly regarded starting pitchers in the system at the MLB level.

It’s this crop of young arms that give us hope when considering the future.  The Detroit Tigers have been able to stockpile these premier arms, and precisely when they are on the cusp of making it to the show, COVID-19 put an abrupt standstill to things.

Sure, Casey Mize, Matt ManningTarik Skubal, and Alex Faedo were all not expected to play much of a role with the Detroit Tigers in 2020, but we expected to catch a glimpse of each of them at some point this season at the MLB level.  The work stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic could halt the progress of the young Tiger prospects.

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During this downtime, it’s been Matthew Boyd staying in touch with the younger statesmen discussing workout tendencies, programs, and, most of all, socializing with each of the young pitching prospects to break the tension and anxiety of not competing.  If the Tigers end up holding onto Boyd, he’ll have an opportunity to anchor this group shortly. Still, with all of the trade rumors regularly married to his name, it appears he won’t get that opportunity.

Regardless of what General Manager (GM) Al Avila spews out of his mouth, the Detroit Tigers are nowhere close to the point of spending money in free agency in hopes of surrounding these talented arms with a host of bats to create offense.

Leading up to this season, Detroit added C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop.  Both are considered solid signings, especially if Avila were able to flip them at the trade deadline for additional prospects or draft capital.  Don’t confuse those types of signings with ones in the past when the Detroit Tigers were perennial World Series contenders.  Cron and Schoop don’t equal Justin Upton or Prince Fielder.

If Detroit were ready to compete, they would have signed Josh Donaldson and Yasiel Puig. Leading up to the free agency period, Avila mentioned the team was in the market for a corner outfielder and an impactful bat.  Well, the corner outfielder was Cameron Maybin, who will enjoy a third stint with the Tigers if there is indeed baseball in 2020, and Cron is considered the big bat.  Not too exciting if you ask me.

It will be fascinating to follow the Detroit Tigers in 2020 if there is baseball to see how the young arms progress and if this pause in sports will eventually help them.  Perhaps the work stoppage will actually help these young pitchers.  They are not logging miles on their arms in the minors;. However, they are not progressing as pitchers; they may have an opportunity to work out the kinks while bolstering the Tigers rotation starting in 2021 without using any of their MLB service time in ’20.

Don’t forget, 2020 is the final year of Jordan Zimmermann and Ivan Nova leaving two starting spots in the 2021 rotation for the taking. It will be wonderful to start trimming the fat on this roster.  Also, Daniel Norris may be better suited working out of the bullpen, leaving yet another place in the rotation open, and who knows how effective Michael Fulmer will be once he finally returns to action.

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During the dark days of Tigers baseball, 2021 may provide us with some hope and excitement.