The driving force of what made the 2021 season so refreshing was the explosion of a young rookie core. Furthermore, it came from a balanced group of pitchers and position players, giving the Detroit Tigers potentially a look at a well-rounded and talented future. As a result of their breakout seasons, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Akil Baddoo, and Eric Haase were selected to MLB Pipeline’s 2021 All-Rookie Second Team.
Mize, the former number one overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, should be no surprise to Tigers fans, as his blue-chip status was confirmed in his first full season in the bigs, holding opposing hitters to a .234 average in 150 innings pitched.
He also notched 118 strikeouts, including punching out seven in five innings against the Yankees on May 28th. Next season Mize will be off his rookie innings limit and contend to surpass 200 k’s in a season.
Left-handed strikeout artist Tarik Skubal joined Mize from the 2018 draft class to provide effectiveness the Tigers have not seen from the left side since Dontrelle Willis and the only good five innings he ever pitched in Detroit. Skubal, also on an innings limit, racked up 164 strikeouts in 149.1 innings pitched. His mid 90’s fastball and sharp breaking ball were dominant all season, including an eleven punchout performance in only five innings against the White Sox on June 5th.
Next season with the training wheels off, expect to see the young Mize and Skubal make a massive leap forward in their continued development.
The next player receiving all-rookie acknowledgment was arguably the most exciting player on the Detroit Tigers, Akil Baddoo. Baddoo, a rule 5 draft steal from the Twins, captured the attention of Tigers fans in his very first major league plate appearance when he homered to left field on the very first pitch he saw.
The five-tool outfielder continued his electric momentum the entire season, providing a spark with his bat, legs, and defense. In only 124 games, Baddoo clubbed 13 home runs with seven triples, second-best in all of baseball. He also swiped 18 bags, providing another asset that has been unfamiliar in Detroit.
Detroit’s outfield is projected (by me) to be the strength of both the Tigers’ defense and offense, and Baddoo is a major reason why.
Rounding out the Tigers All-Rookie squad is hometown hero and catcher Eric Haase. An injured Jake Rogers provided the opportunity for the 28-year-old Dearborn native to finally showcase his major league power. Haase had been with the Cleveland Indians big league club since 2018 but had never appeared in more than ten games. Ninety-eight games with the Tigers, however, and the catcher slugged 22 home runs, including a game-tying grand slam against the Twins on July 27th.
The catcher position has been a revolving door for the Tigers for the past several seasons. Detroit has refrained from a long-term commitment to anyone not named Alex Avila. Jake Rogers’ health — and his mustache — will remain a concern for the foreseeable future, but the Tigers are in a great position otherwise with Eric Haase behind the plate.
MLB Pipeline aside, the argument could be made for several of these rookies to receive Rookie of the Year votes. Had the Tigers been a contender, they certainly would have. However, without the contributions of this core, fans would have been counting down the days to Lions training camp in June.
Al, you have assembled a great unit of young and talented players. Break out the checkbook and don’t be stingy.