The Detroit Tigers were far from a championship team when the 2021 season was all said and done, but they showed flashes of being a contender with better-than-expected play from several of their young players.
The team finished 77-85 on the season, good for third place in the AL Central; three games in front of the Kansas City Royals and four games in front of the Minnesota Twins.
The Tigers were three games over .500 at home, however, at Comerica Park where the outfield fences are daunting.
They finished with a .521 winning percentage in the second half of 2021, adding to optimism for this year’s team among the Tiger faithful.
If the Tigers are to take the next step in the 2022, they’ll need several players to step up their games this season, including the middle of their lineup, which seems to feed off of each other well but doesn’t boast an established All-Star caliber talent in the prime of his career.
With Opening Day set for April 8 at Comerica Park, we decided to take an early stab at projecting the Tigers’ 2022 starting lineup.
Detroit Tigers Projected 2022 Starting Lineup
The Tigers’ projected 2022 starting lineup features a relatively famous new face in shortstop Javier Báez, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal with Al Avila’s club this offseason.
Sports Illustrated called the move “risky, yet sensible” for the Tigers, as Báez is expected to become an immediate upgrade on both offense and defense in the middle of the infield.
The Tigers had the tenth youngest team in the majors last season, and the youth movement could continue in the near future with several young prospects like infielder Spencer Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene in line to make contributions next.
Without further ado, here is the projected lineup, based on MLB.com‘s recently revealed projections:
1. Akil Baddoo, CF
A 2016 Competitive Balance (CB-B) draft pick of the Twins in 2016, Baddoo looks like he’s found a home in the Motor City.
The fans love him thanks to his dazzling array of diving catches and flair for the dramatic.
Baddoo hit .259 with 13 home runs and 55 RBI last season. While there are concerns about his strikeout totals and a possible sophomore slump, he looks set to become a fixture in the team’s lineup for the next few years or more based on his 2021 breakout campaign.
2. Robbie Grossman, OF
The six-foot, 216 pound outfielder surpassed expectations for the Tigers last year with 23 home runs and 67 RBI.
In 2022, cutting down on the strikeouts and improving his .239 batting average are among the tasks at hand for the 32-year-old from Cypress, Texas.
Grossman signed a two-year, $10 million deal in 2022 and is now in a contract year.
While he’s probably not destined for All-Star status, he could be a difference maker if the Tigers are going to make a serious run at a playoff spot in 2022.
3. Javier Báez, SS
Báez could help solidify a young lineup by hitting third, although moving from Citi Field in New York to Comerica Park is expected to be a major adjustment.
With 87 RBI last season for the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, Báez could add even more pop to a lineup that has home run and RBI potential throughout.
4. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
At age 28, Candelario is ready to make the leap from a dangerous young hitter to a bona fide star in his own right in 2021.
Whether or not he will reach that lofty status depends largely on the performance of those hitting around him, as well as his ability to cut down on strikeouts (135 last season).
The 2021 Tiger of the Year tied for the league lead in doubles, and he could increase his RBI totals if Báez is everything he’s cracked up to be this season.
5. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
Schoop hit .278 last year with 22 home runs and 84 RBI, and figures to be a fixture in the middle of the lineup for the foreseeable future.
While it’s tempting to slide Miguel Cabrera into this spot because of the veteran presence he provides and his renewed optimism toward a winning season, the guess here is that A.J. Hinch goes with the guy who has been more productive lately in this spot.
6. Miguel Cabrera, DH
The Tigers’ youth movement is firmly underway, but Cabrera still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
With the ability to focus on hitting and a renewed optimism for a winning season, the bet here is that Miggy will have a bounce-back season and hit above the .270 mark.
Cabrera had 75 RBIs last year, and it’s likely that he will improve upon his .256 batting average even at 38 years of age.
7. Spencer Torkelson, 1B
Torkelson hit 30 home runs across three minor league stops last season, and he’s been turning heads early on in the Tigers’ minicamp.
If he can translate some of that power to the Major League Level, the Tigers could have themselves an exciting complementary player this season.
8. Tucker Barnhart, C
A two-time Gold Glove winner, Barnhart (acquired from the Cincinnati Reds via trade) also has knack for clutch hits and knows how to handle a pitching staff.
He will help solidify a position the Tigers have been scrambling to fill for years by allowing Eric Haase to move into a backup role.
9. Victor Reyes, CF
Reyes, a former Rule 5 pick, will have to fend of a challenge from 2019’s number five overall pick Riley Greene, but he has what it takes to secure the job in 2022.
Reyes hit .258 last season to go with 10 doubles and five home runs, and has been busy working on his game during the offseason Winter Leagues circuit.
Don’t be surprised if Greene makes a move for this job midseason, but for now, Reyes should bat ninth and start the season in center field.
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