Who have been the Tigers who most exceeded expectations? Who has come up short of their work in previous seasons? We take a look at Detroit’s biggest overperformers and underperformers.
Eric Haase has been the biggest overperformer in a surprisingly productive catching group. Despite his age (28), Haase has put himself at least in consideration for AL Rookie of the Year. There were no real expectations for Haase coming into the season, as he started the year in the minors with Grayson Greiner and Wilson Ramos doing the catching for the Tigers. However, injuries to both thrust Haase into a role with the major league club, and he made an immediate impact. In just his fourth game up, he had a two-homer day to lead the Tigers to a 4-1 win over Seattle. His power has been his calling card, as he has 22 home runs and a slugging percentage of .463%. Additionally, he has had a knack for the big moments. Who could forget his game-tying grand slam in Minnesota in late July? Although he has cooled off recently, Haase has played his way into a potential roster spot in 2022 on a team that projects to be much improved.
Once a highly-touted prospect for the Tigers, Funkhouser turned in a lackluster rookie campaign in 2020. Funkhouser struggled so much in 2020 that it was a legitimate worry that he may never pitch in a Tigers uniform again. These fears grew stronger once Funkhouser lost out on an opening day roster spot. However, he got the call up in early May and has been a completely different pitcher. Along with Jose Cisnero and Gregory Soto, Funkhouser has been one of the most consistent arms in the pen this season and is a big reason why the Tigers’ bullpen has seen a resurgence this season. His dominance has tailed off a bit as the season has reached its final stages, but overall September has been his only month with an ERA north of four. Going forward, Funkhouser could be a major piece in the pen for Detroit’s next window of contention.
Signed to a minor league deal to provide some starting pitching depth, nobody expected Wily Peralta to be pitching meaningful innings in 2021. Peralta had last seen big league action in 2019 with the Royals but had been bouncing around the minor leagues since the 2017 season. The injury bug biting the Tigers staff this season gave Peralta an opportunity, and he’s been the Tiger’s best starter since the call-up in early June. His ERA currently sits at 3.08 with a WHIP of 1.29 and he has given the Tigers 87 innings of high-quality work. At 32, he may not be cemented in the future plans, but I don’t think many Tigers fans would be upset with him challenging for a spot in the 2022 rotation depending on how Detroit approaches free agency.
There is not a single arm in the Tigers organization that has had as many chances at the big-league level as Joe Jiménez. This season has been no different, as Jiménez has been called up on two separate occasions. At his peak, Jiménez can be a special talent, his biggest problem has been consistency. The man was an AL All-Star in 2018, and now holds an ERA north of 6, and a WHIP over 1.5. Now, the numbers make it seem worse for Jiménez than it probably is, considering some of his percentile rankings actually grade out as pretty good, namely his K%, expected batting average, and expected slugging percentage. These rankings suggest that Jiménez has been the victim of some bad luck. He’s been up and down at points in the season, but he’ll have to be more consistent if he wants to find a role in the Tigers’ future pen.
Based on the shortened 2020 campaign, expectations were high for Willi Castro coming into the 2021 season. In 2020, he hit over .340 and had an OPS over .900. Despite his poor defense, many in the Tiger’s camp were expecting Castro to make a push as the future of one of the starting middle infield positions. However, Castro has come back down to earth. Hard. Batting just .211 with an OPS of just over .600, Castro has been one of the Tigers’ weakest hitters. It’s not a matter of luck, either. Castro ranks in the 4th percentile in the MLB in average exit velocity, and the 7th percentile in hard-hit percentage, according to BaseballSavant. The Tigers will be hoping for a turnaround season in 2022 if Castro finds himself on the roster.
Signed to give the Tigers meaningful innings out of the starting rotation, Ureña had a decent start to the season. However, things quickly spiraled out of control for the right-hander. Coming into June, Ureña held an ERA of 4.14. Through five starts in June, he posted an ERA above 12, ballooning his overall ERA to 6.22. Shortly thereafter, Ureña got hurt for over a month. Since then, he has come back in a long-relief role, often doubling up as the second man on one of the younger guys’ openers. He’s found some success in this role, but given that the Tigers were hoping for a good inning-eater out of Ureña, it is hard to see him finding a long-term home in this role, given Detroit’s other options in the bullpen.
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