The 2021 Detroit Tigers roster is starting to take shape more and more by the day. With 2021 Opening Day approaching in the coming months, it never seems too early to throw out an educated projection of what that Opening Day lineup will look like. Detroit Tiger fans all across the nation can all agree on one thing; the tigers aren’t a contender in 2021, unlike their rival Chicago White Sox. While that may be a very tough blow to take as a diehard, it is a realistic conclusion to embrace.
Sure, Miguel Cabrera is still around, but for how long, and in what capacity? B-List free agency pickups such as Robbie Grossman, Jose Urena, and most recently Wilson Ramos bring some possible improvement, but to what end?
If there is one thing the 2021 Detroit Tigers and their fan base have to look forward to, it’s the young potential talent and the prospects. Former first-round draft picks Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson wait patiently for their turn at the big league roster, and who knows, it could come sooner than later as both project very high (Torkelson is the number one third base prospect in MLB).
What is more exciting than the 2021 Detroit Tigers pitching prospects though? Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Tyler Alexander, the list seems to go on and on, and perhaps a veteran catcher like Ramos will help them develop. But without further ado, this is a look at what the 2021 Detroit Tigers Opening Day lineup could look like.
2021 Detroit Tigers Projected Opening Day Lineup
Starting Pitcher: Matthew Boyd
2020 saw a rough campaign for the Tigers left-hander which raises the question, “Why give him the ball on Opening Day?”. The answer is simple: he is still Matthew Boyd. Still the same strikeout artist that posted 238 strikeouts to only 50 walks in 2019. His ERA is a concern as Boyd has posted a 4.75 mark for his career, including a horrific 5.78 ERA in the shortened 2020 campaign. He also needs to keep the ball from flying out of the yard, as he is consistently in the top of MLB ranks in home runs allowed. Despite these digs, however, he is still the ace in Detroit until ace prospect Casey Mize can get some more big-league innings under his belt.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos
While 2021 saw a less than stellar year statistically for Ramos (as it did for many players due to the smaller sample size), the 33-year-old veteran has much to offer to a Detroit Tigers lineup that has needed a consistent catcher for some time. With two MLB All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger Award, and career numbers like a .275 batting average and 128 home runs, Wilson Ramos will not only start on Opening Day, but he will also help groom young Tigers catcher Jake Rogers to eventually take over backstop duties, as well as help a young crop of pitching prospects become big-league ready.
First Base: Jeimer Candelario
Young prospects are the main source of excitement in Detroit Tigers baseball these days, and none brighter than the switch-hitting Jeimer Candelario. In 2021 the 27-year old posted an impressive slash line of .297/.369/.503. While those are nowhere near Freddie Freeman or Jose Abreu-type numbers they are impressive for a Tiger. Candelario will see time at third base as well for Detroit, but will likely be groomed as a first baseman primarily moving forward to take over for aging superstar Miguel Cabrera, and to make way for former first overall pick Spencer Torkelson.
Second Base: Niko Goodrum
Like Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum is another exciting young switch-hitter for the Tigers who plays what seems to be every position except pitcher and catcher. A career .234 batting average does not excite anyone and is a very clear part of Goodrum’s game that needs to be improved upon.
There is no denying the athleticism, versatility, and energy that the 28-year old brings to the Detroit lineup. Goodrum can only go up from 2021 when he batted a measly .184 with five home runs, and Tiger fans surely seem to think he will do just that. Speed, sneaky pop in the bat, particularly from the left side and a very solid glove at several positions are all things to be expected from Niko Goodrum in 2021.
Third Base: Willi Castro
Another promising young talent on the 2021 Detroit Tigers roster, Willi Castro can play several positions around the infield. For opening day though, it would make sense for new manager AJ Hinch, to put the versatile 23-year old at the hot corner. In the 2020 campaign Willi Castro hit .349 in 129 at-bats, a very exciting sample for Detroit Tiger fans to witness.
Now with a full season at the big league level looming, can he replicate similar offensive output? Opening day says third base, but expect Castro to see time at shortstop and second base as well if players like Niko Goodrum and Travis Demeritte don’t consistently hit.
Shortstop: Harold Castro
Yep, another guy with the last name Castro. This time its the slightly older of the two, Harold Castro who seems to have the slight edge in athleticism over teammate Willi, will be the 2021 Detroit Tigers starting shortstop. In 2020 Harold only saw 49 at bats, but he hit .347 and slugged .429.
His versatility sees him in the outfield, at shortstop, second base, and third base, but more importantly for the Tigers, he provides what could be a very promising left-handed bat. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and pan out for this young 2021 Detroit Tigers team.
Left Field: JaCoby Jones
JaCoby Jones has been a player that the Detroit Tigers have seemingly stuck by through thick and thin. In his five years in the big leagues (all with Detroit), Jones has only posted a career .217 batting average, .281 career on-base percentage, and has slugged .384; it’s blatantly obvious offense isn’t what he is paid for.
On the flip-side, he has a .991 fielding percentage and only six career errors. As baseball fans know though, the defense isn’t what wins championships in today’s game. So while Jones’ days in the starting lineup will be shared, he will likely see opening day due to his experience and defensive capabilities.
Center Field: Victor Reyes
With his speed, switch-hitting abilities, and solid glove, Victor Reyes is one of the brightest spots for the 2021 Detroit Tigers. In 2020 he posted a respectable .277 batting average in 202 at-bats, while also stealing eight bases. While the Tigers aren’t known for their running game, new manager AJ Hinch may look to use the athleticism in the lineup with the likes of Reyes, Jones, Goodrum, and both Castro’s to put pressure on opposing defenses and manufacture runs in a power-limited lineup.
Even with young prospect Daz Cameron lurking in the minors hoping to someday man centerfield like his father Mike did years ago; Victor Reyes looks to be someone that the Tigers will keep around for years to come.
Right Field: Robbie Grossman
One of the newest faces to the 2021 Detroit Tigers roster, Robbie Grossman brings experience, a switch-hitting bat, and a respectable career on-base percentage of .350 to this offense. Throughout the season Grossman will likely find himself in a platoon of Tigers outfielders until someone clicks. Power potential is not something to expect with Grossman, nor is a .300-plus batting average. In the spacious confines of Comerica Park, and with a new coaching staff, who knows what 2021 will bring for Grossman. One thing is certain, expect to see the new face in the Opening Day lineup.
Designated Hitter: Miguel Cabrera
Saving the very best for last, the 2021 Detroit Tigers will as always, display their superstar and face of the franchise, Miguel Cabrera (likely in the three-hole) on opening day. The future MLB Hall of Famer is now 37-years-old and simply cannot hold up to the workload of being an everyday infielder for the Tigers. Lucky for him, he is surrounded by a young athletic roster with plenty of role players to allow him to do what he does best – mash baseballs.
With 487 career home runs, this will likely be the magical year that “Miggy” inevitably joins the 500 HR club, and he will start toward that milestone by DH-ing on Opening Day, and likely throughout the year with a spot start here and there at first base.
All in all, the 2021 Detroit Tigers are nothing to write home about just yet. Will they be young? Yes. Will there be some excitement? Yes. Will new manager AJ Hinch bring some improvement upon the 2020 season? Absolutely. But as the old saying goes, “You can’t fall out of a basement window.” The Tigers will battle for the bottom two spots in the AL Central most likely, but expect a glimpse of what is to come as players like Casey Mize, Isaac Paredes, and more come up throughout the year to show what they’ve got.
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