Predicting the starting lineup and bench for the 2022 Detroit Tigers

(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers, Willi Castro
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Predicting the Detroit Tigers bench.

I expect to see the Detroit Tigers carry four versatile bench players who will contribute regularly plus one that may be here for just the first three weeks.

Under league rules, teams are permitted to carry 28 players on their roster until May 1st.  This will help compensate for the shortened Spring Training.  I feel that the Tigers will use one of those additional roster spots to bolster their pitching staff through the first month of the season and the other on a defensive-minded catcher.

Although most starting pitchers will be stretched out and ready to go, the shortened spring may lead to more arm injuries or tired arms early on in the first month.  Plus, the Tigers don’t expect to have newly signed starters Michael Pineda or Wily Peralta ready for the first trip through the rotation due to visa issues.

  1. Eric Haase C/LF/DH
  2. Harold Castro UTIL
  3. Derek Hill OF
  4. Willi Castro UTIL
  5. Dustin Garneau C

The first player I’d like to mention is Michigan native Eric Haase.  Haase burst onto the scene in 2021 as an over-aged rookie.  If former Tigers’ commentator Rod Allen were still around Detroit, he’d undoubtedly refer to Haase as ‘country strong’ for his ability to punish the baseball.

Haase hit 22 home runs last season plus drove in 61 while slashing .231/.286/.459.  As you can see, Haase is an all-or-nothing power bat.  He struck out 119 times over 381 plate appearances while walking just 26 times.  Haase maintained a strikeout rate of over 30% last season, which put him in the bottom 5% of the league in that category.

The Tigers’ backup catcher provided the team with a max exit velocity of 88th percentile with an average of 79 in the category, with is very good. Still, his whiff rate percentage of 4th percentile was atrocious.  The 29-year old Haase did not grade out well behind the plate when it comes to framing pitches, either coming in at the 8 percentile, which is well below league-average according to baseball savant.

Haase’s power and versatility will assure him of a bench spot in 2022.  In addition to serving as the backup catcher to Tucker Barnhart, Haase will also play sparingly in left field and find time in the lineup as the designated hitter when Miguel Cabrera needs a day off or is playing the odd time at first base.

Harold Castro is a shoo-in to make the opening day roster.  You don’t get the nickname ‘Hittin’ Harold’ for nothing.  Castro is a well-rounded defender who can play any position on the field aside from being a catcher.

That versatility is very desirable in today’s game.  During his four years in Detroit, Castro has maintained a very impressive .291 average and is coming off a year in which he slashed .283/.310/.359 in 106 games.  Throughout the spring, Castro has hit .357 over his first six games.

I don’t see the need to carry five outfielders, especially when the Tigers have other versatile options; players that can play multiple positions.  That leaves me with a decision between Victor Reyes and Derek Hill.

Reyes has the frame and tools to become an everyday player in this league but just hasn’t put it all together.  His 6-foot-5 build makes for a long-striding outfielder that can track down balls into the gap with ease, but his inconsistency at the plate and lack of power leaves us underwhelmed.  I prefer to go with the often-injured Hill to start.  Hill also struggles at the plate but has proven to be an elite defender.  Reyes would be the first outfielder up if an injury occurs.

That brings me to Willi Castro.  Willi is best suited as a middle infielder, but after struggling at times turning two as a second baseman, manager Hinch began working Castro in the outfield.  He can be the primary backup to Baez but also spell Schoop and Candelario if needed.

Castro has put together another promising spring, albeit with a small sample size he’s hit .333 in six games.

Next. Tucker Barnhart as a switch-hitter adds more value. dark

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The 34-year old Dustin Garneau should make the club on Opening Day due to the expanded rosters.  With Haase not being a great defensive option behind the plate, Garneau can fill in over the first month behind the dish when Barnhart needs a rest.