Detroit Tigers: Four Tigers Named All-Rookie Second Team

Detroit Tigers pitcher Casey Mize
Photo credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Casey Mize

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.

Tarik Skubal

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.

Akil Baddoo

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.

Eric Haase

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.

Tigers Owner Hinting At Aggressive Offseason

“I am very much supportive of the approach that [Avila] and his team have taken of building a young core of talent and now having the desire to bring in high-impact players to fill that team out”

“This winter?”

“Undoubtedly that could happen this winter.”

Folks, it just may have arrived.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for the historic Hamtramck Stadium, Tigers owner Chris Illitch announced that the Detroit Tigers could become fierce competitors this offseason to bring in pieces to solidify the Tigers as championship contenders yet again. 

The Tigers have not seen a winning season since 2016 (86-75) a feat which they may achieve this season.  However, Illitch’s words elicit more than just hope for the continuous improvement of a rebuild.  Fans might be lucky enough to enjoy an aggressive offseason that will allow the Tigers to make significant strides competitively.

Is it premature to position the Tigers in such a position?  Not with the current foundation in place.

Torkelson and Greene are knocking at the door,  Miguel Cabrera has found a resurgence after several injury-filled seasons, and the young trio of Mize, Skubal, and Manning has already given us enough glimpses into a future rotation of three quality young starters.

Not to mention the emergence of rookie sensations in Akil Baddoo and Eric Haase.

The current state of the Tigers is a young ambitious roster, powered by a multidimensional and resilient offense.  Where they lack in a middle-of-the-order presence, they overcome with timely hitting and athleticism.  

If the front office is ready to make a move, where should they start?

It has been long documented the Tigers should go after one of the premier shortstops in this free-agent class.  Following the pitching-heavy 2021 draft, it appears they will do as such as the middle infield remains a glaring weak spot.

Potential Candidates

Carlos Correa 

Age – 27

2021 Salary – $11.7 Million

2021 Slash – .271/.367/.474

Correa has been the fan consensus for a while, and for good reason.  He would be reuniting with his former manager AJ Hinch and would fill the need for a middle-of-the-order impact bat.  His power numbers will most likely decline coming from the hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park, but his other offensive tools and glove will stabilize the lineup.

Corey Seager

Age – 28

2021 Salary – $13.75 Million

2021 Slash – .268/.365/.420

Seager would be a tad risky due to his injury history.  But when healthy, his glove and his bat are as dependable as any at his position.  In the Tigers lineup, Seager would fall closer to Jhonny Peralta or Ian Kinsler. A fantastic addition, but might not necessarily be the immediate impact bat they need.

Javier Baez

Age – 29

2021 Salary – $11.65 Million

2021 Slash – .286/.290/.483

If your opponent ran out a lineup of nine Javier Baez’s for a game, you would be completely exhausted by the 5th inning.  Baez is chaos personified on a diamond.  He can play short or second at an elite level while putting steady pressure on both the pitcher and the defense.  Some would look at his affinity to the strikeout as a negative, but after watching Miggy and V-Mart lead the league in double plays for their careers, it might be a refreshing result.

Honorable Mention – SS
Brandon Crawford – The most reliable defensive player of our generation not named Yadier Molina.

Andrelton Simmons – Remember debating him vs Jose Iglesias?

Trevor Story – Good bat, down year.

Jose Iglesias – Come home, my son.

Other Impact Bats

Kris Bryant

Age – 30

2021 Salary – $19.5 Million

2021 Slash – .266/.358/.506

The former MVP would likely have to find a new position if the Tigers offered. Otherwise, if he wishes to return to remain at third, the Tigers would have to make a decision with Spencer Torkelson. But despite that, Bryant is the exact kind of hitter every lineup needs.

Freddie Freeman

Age – 31

2021 Salary – $22.4 Million

2021 Slash – .289/.393/.501

Freddie Freeman could end up being a perfect fit in Detroit.  Schoop has played himself into a larger contract with an immediate contender, and the 2020 MVP could step in as the new centerpiece.  However, with Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. giving the Braves an incredible discount, Atlanta might just hand Freeman a blank check.

It will take more than just one or two offensive pieces for the Tigers to emerge as contenders.  The bullpen desperately needs to be addressed and the rotation is lacking a bonafide ace.  

If Illitch and Avila are both prepared to push the poker chips to the center, a reunion with Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer might not be completely out of the question.  

The bottom line, the light at the end of the tunnel is right in our faces.