By Connor Lannen
We are officially less than a month away from the Detroit Tigers taking the field against the New York Yankees for the first spring training game. If any team has motivation to look forward to spring training it is the Tigers.
The Tigers, being such a young team, have many question marks around who will be the everyday starters. On Wednesday, Detroit’s hole at catcher was filled as they reached a one year $2 million deal with former New York Mets catcher, Wilson Ramos.
Ramos will go into camp as the projected starter but will get some competition from prospects, Grayson Grenier and Jake Rogers. With the Ramos deal only being for one year, it is expected that he is being brought in to mentor Rogers, who many believe will be the catcher of the future in Detroit.
I asked GRCC head baseball coach, Michael Eddington, about what he looks for in players on his team. “We really concentrate on pitching/catching/middle infielders. We look for guys that want to be good, coachable, (and have) upside.” Eddington said, in an email. Ramos checks off some of the same criteria that Eddington looks for when bringing in players to the GRCC baseball team.
Ramos is a two time All-Star and has been one of the better hitting catchers in the league, over the past decade. Last season was an off year for Ramos, which explains how the Tigers were able to lock him up at such a bargain price.
Ramos, 33, is looking to rebound in the Motor City and hopefully get one last long-term contract to finish off his career.
“Veterans and leaders are very important,” Eddington said. “Means more getting feedback from players than coaches. They need to be the role models.”
The Tigers need the leadership and experience that Ramos brings and will be looking for a spark in the offense at the catching position. After the consensus best catcher in the league, J.T. Realmuto signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, the free-agent catcher market was not very deep.
The Tigers have shown with the signing of Ramos as well as the signing earlier in the month of Robbie Grossman, that they are not looking to be immediate title contenders. Tigers general manager Al Avila has targeted value free agents with upside to go along with all of the high rated prospects and young players that the Tigers have.
Yesterday, the MLB Pipeline unveiled their top 100 prospect list. The list has many Tigers fans enthusiastic as Detroit is home to five of the top 25 prospects. That list of Tigers consists of No. 3 1B/3B Spencer Torkelson, No. 11 RHP Casey Mize, No. 21 OF Riley Greene, No. 24 LHP Tarik Skubal and No. 25 RHP Matt Manning.
Mize and Skubal made appearances for the Tigers in the shortened 2020 season and look to be key contributors to the 2021 clubhouse. Torkelson, Greene and Manning have yet to appear in an MLB game but could make the team following a successful spring training.
“I think the Tigers are on the right path – very good young pitchers. I believe in three to four years they will compete for league champions.” Eddington said. I agree with Eddington’s estimate, if the young pitchers and prospects can make an immediate impact that timeline of three to four years to get back to the pinnacle of the league is not unrealistic.
There will be many new faces playing at Comerica Park this season and the veteran signings of Ramos and Grossman look to be key elements of the team. Spring training and the MLB season look to start on time with no problems unless COVID-19 protocols change.