Detroit Tigers: Breaking Down All 22 Non-Roster Invitees

Detroit Tigers

Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Lowe (21) and starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) high five fans on their way to practice at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers players will report to Spring Training this month. With a roster featuring a significant number of carryovers, here is a look at the club’s 22 non-roster invitees heading into Major League camp.

Detroit Tigers fans will likely see a very similar starting lineup next season.

The infield, consisting of Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos, remains the same. Additionally, two of last season’s three starting outfielders also come back in J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton.

Elsewhere, starters James McCann and Victor Martinez return behind the dish and at designated hitter.

On the pitching side of things, there are also few changes.

Justin Verlander remains, and will head up a rotation that is set to include Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd.

Similar to last season, Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey are still around as depth options, while Francisco Rodriguez will once again close games.

All told, there are few significant changes to be had.

The biggest change will come in center field, where Mikie Mahtook, JaCoby Jones and Tyler Collins will battle it out to replace Cameron Maybin.

Outside of that however, the most significant battles for roster spots are likely on the bench and in the bullpen.

Much of Detroit’s bench unit from 2016—Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Erick Aybar and Casey McGehee—have departed.

Over in the bullpen, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Stumpf, Drew VerHagen, Victor Alcantara and Chad Bell could challenge for places on the team.

Despite a roster that is mostly set in stone, the Detroit Tigers are bringing a considerable number of veteran players to Spring Training as non-roster invitees.

Of the 22 players expected to join the Tigers in camp, many have Major League experience. Here’s a rundown of all 22.

Detroit Tigers

Feb 23, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Joe Jimenez (77) warms up during the Detroit Tigers spring training camp at Joker Merchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Pitching Prospects

Joe Jimenez
Age: 22
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

One of Detroit’s most promising pitching prospects, Joe Jimenez could finally make his Major League debut this season.

The flame-throwing reliever made the jump from Lakeland to Toledo last season, notching a 1.51 ERA and 13.1 punch outs per nine innings along the way.

He’ll have competition from Bruce Rondon and others, but Jimenez may just be the Tigers’ closer of the future.

Adam Ravenelle
Age: 24
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

Ravenelle, who recently ranked 16th on Motor City Bengals’ list of the top Detroit Tigers prospects, recently wrapped up the 2016 season at Double-A.

Similar to Jimenez in the sense that he’s shown the ability to rack up strikeouts in the past, Ravenelle could eventually pitch out of a Major League bullpen thanks to his fastball-slider arsenal.

Ruben Alaniz
Age: 25
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

A former starter in the Houston farm system, Alainz signed with the Tigers prior to the 2016 campaign.

In 73.2 relief frames for Erie and Toledo, the 25-year-old didn’t disappoint. All told, the reliever pitched to a 2.69 ERA while striking out 9.0 batters per nine innings.

He also limited mistakes, with just 3.5 walks and 0.1 home runs allowed per nine frames.

Given his recent success, Alainz is certainly a name to watch heading into Spring Training.

Angel Nesbitt
Age: 26
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

Angel Nesbitt has been here before.

The hard-throwing right-hander previously made Detroit’s roster out of Spring Training in 2015, and went on to appear in 24 contests for the Tigers.

However, after being sent down in early June of that season, Nesbitt never returned to Detroit.

Since then, he put up a 5.40 ERA with Toledo to end 2015 before turning in a 4.91 number with three minor league affiliates last season.

Sep 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Edward Mujica (49) pitches the ball against the Los Angeles Angels during the sixth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Edward Mujica (49) pitches the ball against the Los Angeles Angels during the sixth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran Pitchers Part 1

A.J. Achter
Age: 28
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

A Michigan State product with 45 games of Major League experience, Achter joined the Detroit Tigers earlier this offseason.

The 28-year-old’s 5.87 career FIP leaves much to be desired, but he did log a solid 3.11 ERA in 37.2 frames for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last season.

Achter will need to strike out more batters (just 4.8 career punch outs per nine frames), but he has a shot to make the team if he can keep runners off the board.

Dustin Molleken
Age: 32
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

The 32-year-old Molleken made his Major League debut last season following a career that saw him suit up for affiliates in four different minor league systems.

In 8.1 innings of work the right-hander notched a respectable 3.03 FIP and eight strikeouts. If he can replicate his 2016 3.88 Triple-A ERA, the Tigers could have another bullpen piece on their hands.

Edward Mujica
Age: 32
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

Perhaps the most intriguing veteran signed by Detroit in the offseason, Edward Mujica was an All-Star as recently as 2013.

During the campaign, he turned in a 2.78 ERA and 37 saves for the St. Louis Cardinals. Overall, the reliever owns a 3.85 ERA and a 3.88 FIP in 546.2 lifetime innings.

The veteran won’t post gaudy strikeout numbers, as evidenced by his career strikeout rate of 7.0 per nine innings. However, he doesn’t walk many batters (1.5 career free passes per nine innings) either.

Detroit Tigers

Apr 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Logan Kensing (67) pitches in the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran Pitchers Part 2

Logan Kensing
Age: 34
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

Like Molleken, Kensing appeared in a limited capacity for Detroit last season.

The veteran, who has seen time in parts of nine Major League seasons, actually made the Tigers Opening Day roster last season.

Kensing would go on to appear in three games, logging 4.2 innings. Over that span, the 34-year-old turned in a 1.93 ERA while also allowing eight hits and a pair of walks. He struck out one batter.

In 49.2 frames for Toledo, the ex-Marlin pitched to a 3.44 ERA and 8.7 strike outs per nine innings.

Jeff Ferrell
Age: 26
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief Pitcher

Another member of Detroit’s 2015 pitching staff, Ferrell allowed 12 hits, eight runs, four walks and three home runs in just 11.1 innings for the Tigers that season.

Since then, the former 26th-round pick appeared in just nine minor league games, striking out 20 batters in 11.1 innings.

William Cuevas
Age: 26
Throws: Right-Handed
Role: Relief/Starting Pitcher

Cuevas recently made his Major League debut for Dave Dombrowski’s Boston Red Sox last season.

The right-hander pitched in three games, totaling five innings. He allowed six walks, five hits and two runs while striking out three hitters.

Over the course of his eight seasons in the minors, Cuevas also has significant experience as a starter. The pitcher started 18 games for Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

All told, the 26-year-old threw 131 innings for Boston’s Triple-A squad.

While pitching for Pawtucket, the former Boston farmhand accumulated a 4.19 ERA while striking out 5.8 batters per nine frames.

Detroit Tigers

Feb 28, 2015; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner (72) poses during Photo day at Joker Merchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Catchers

Miguel Gonzalez
Age: 26
Hits: Right-Handed

Gonzalez previously got into five games with the Chicago White Sox in 2013, collecting a pair of hits in nine at-bats.

While he didn’t stick in the Windy City over the long term, the backstop has provided solid catching depth for the Detroit Tigers.

In 69 games played, the catcher hit .242 with a .638 OPS in 2015. That season saw Gonzalez suit up for both Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo.

During the 2016 campaign, the former White Sox player played exclusively for the Mud Hens. He hit .43 with a .625 OPS for the minor league affiliate.

Gonzalez also showed his value on defense, throwing out 40% of would-be base stealers for Lloyd McClendon’s club.

Austin Green
Age: 26
Hits: Right-Handed

The right-handed swinging Green wrapped up his second season at Double-A Erie in 206, registering 27 RBI, 17 runs scored, nine doubles and four home runs in 53 games played.

All told in 281 career minor league games, the San Diego product is a .255 hitter with 119 RBI, 95 runs scored, 46 doubles, 24 home runs and five triples in four seasons.

He threw out 23% of base stealers last season, well below his career average of 31%.

Grayson Greiner
Age: 24
Hits: Right-Handed

The Detroit Tigers have done a solid job of producing catchers in recent memory, with Alex Avila and James McCann both making an impact at the Major League level.

Grayson Greiner could be the next backstop to come out of Detroit’s farm system.

The 24-year-old hit .293 with 25 extra-base hits over three minor league stops last season. After ending the season with Toledo, there’s a real chance Greiner could make his Major League debut in the coming years.

He’d probably be a candidate to back up McCann in 2017 if it weren’t for the presence of Avila and James Hicks.

Long term, the 6’6” Greiner could end up being a fixture on Detroit’s bench.

Detroit Tigers

May 10, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Omar Infante (14) hits a sacrifice fly to score left fielder Alex Gordon (not pictured) in the tenth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Kansas City won 2-1 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Infielders

Dominic Ficociello
Age: 24
Positions: First Base, Second Base, Third Base, Left Field
Hits: Switch

Utility player prospects aren’t too common, but the Detroit Tigers have one in Dominic Ficociello.

A former 12th-round pick, the 24-year-old can play in both the infield and the outfield. He recently saw action in 123 games for Double-A Erie during the 2016 campaign.

Over the course of those contests, the utility player collected 105 hits, 53 runs scored, 38 RBI, 21 doubles, five home runs, five RBI, three triples and a 90 wRC+.

Omar Infante
Age: 35
Positions: Second Base and Third Base
Hits: Right-Handed
Career WAR: 14.3

Perhaps the most notable of the non-roster invitees due to his familiarity, Omar Infante could be a bench candidate for the Tigers.

The 15-year veteran enjoyed some of his finest Major League seasons in a Detroit uniform. In fact, each of Detroit’s World Series rosters this century have featured Infante.

Since leaving the Tigers as a free agent following the 2013 season, Infante hit just .238 with a .269 on-base percentage in 298 games with Kansas City.

That same span failed to yield a wRC+ north of 75 for the longtime second baseman.

Detroit will likely be hoping for a return to the form that Infante showed in his previous stint in the Motor City.

The 35-year-old turned in a 3.1 WAR to go along with a 118 wRC+ in 2013. The 2013 campaign also included a .318 batting average, a .795 OPS, 51 RBI, 37 extra-base hits and five stolen bases for Infante.

Brendan Ryan
Age: 34
Positions: Shortstop, Second Base and Third Base
Hits: Right-Handed
Career WAR: 8.3

Similar to Jose Iglesias and Dixon Machado, Brendan Ryan is an excellent glove-first shortstop.

Over the course of his career, the former Cardinal owns a 50.7 UZR and a UZR/150 at shortstop.

A .256 hitter in his first five seasons, Ryan has struggled at the plate since.

In stints with Seattle, New York and Anaheim, the veteran is just a .194 hitter in 358 games since Opening Day 2012.

Jun 24, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Efren Navarro (19) makes the tag as Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (4) is picked off at first base in the eighth inning of the game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Angels won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 24, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Efren Navarro (19) makes the tag as Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (4) is picked off at first base in the eighth inning of the game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Angels won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

First Base/Corner Outfield Options

Efren Navarro
Age: 30
Positions: First Base andLeft Field
Hits: Left-Handed
Career WAR: 0.5

A former 50th round selection in the 2007 draft by Anaheim, the first baseman went on to appear in 130 games with the Halos in parts of four seasons.

In a somewhat similar fashion to Ryan, Navarro brings value on defense.

He’s posted a 2.7 UZR and a 14.0 UZR/150 at first base. Additionally, his UZR and UZR/150 numbers in left field come in at 1.7 and 10.3 respectively.

Splitting time with Seattle and St. Louis’ respective Triple-A clubs last season, Navarro hit .275 with a .704 OPS. He also chipped in with 68 runs scored, 48 RBI and 26 extra-base hits.

Brett Pill
Age: 30
Positions: First Base and Left Field
Hits: Right-Handed
Career WAR: 0.6

After appearing in parts of three seasons with the San Francisco Giants, Brett Pill signed in Korea with the Kia Tigers.

In three seasons, the first baseman hit over .300 with at least 19 home runs and 10 stolen bases. Pill’s best year came in 2015 when he appeared in 143 games for the Korean Baseball Organization club.

During the 2015 campaign, the former Giant hit .3255 with a .372 on-base percentage, a .517 slugging percentage and an .889 OPS.

The 30-year-old also added 101 RBI, 81 runs scored, 35 doubles, 22 home runs and 14 stolen bases.

Detroit Tigers

Feb 27, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers player Mike Gerber during media photo day at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Outfield Prospects

Mike Gerber
Age: 24
Positions: Right Field, Center Field and Left Field
Hits: Left-Handed

Since joining the Detroit Tigers organization in 2014 as a 15th-round pick, Mike Gerber has done nothing but produce.

His debut season saw him make the jump all the way to West Michigan. During said campaign, the 24-year-old batted .298 with an .859 OPS.

The outfielder also chipped in with 44 runs scored, 42 RBI, 19 doubles, nine stolen bases, seven home runs and four triples.

Gerber would continue to stuff the stat sheet in his second season.

To go along with a .292 batting average and an .822 OPS, the Creighton product collected 76 RBI, 74 runs scored, 31 doubles, 16 stolen bases, 13 home runs and 10 triples in 135 games during the 2015 season.

Last season was, unsurprisingly, no different for Gerber in terms of production. The prospect turned in a .276 batting average and another OPS north of .800 at .811.

What’s more, the 24-year-old also contributed 80 RBI, 69 runs scored, eight stolen bases and six triples in just 132 games.

In another season with less outfield options, Gerber could be a dark horse to make the roster.

However, with some combination of J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Tyler Collins, JaCoby Jones, Steven Moya, Andrew Romine and Mikie Mahtook manning the outfield, Gerber could have to wait another year to crack the Opening Day unit.

Jason Krizan
Age: 27
Positions: Left Field, Right Field, Center Field, First Base and Second Base
Hits: Left-Handed

After hitting just .252 with Erie and Toledo in 2015, Krizan turned in an excellent rebound season with the two minor league clubs last season.

The outfielder, who has also started seeing time in the infield, turned in career highs in both batting average (.294) and OPS (.821).

Krizan also collected 65 RBI, 58 runs scored, 31 doubles, 10 home runs and six triples. Given his versatility, he could be a dark horse to make Detroit’s roster out of Spring Training.

Mar 29, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Alex Presley (7) makes the running catch against the Cincinnati Reds in the fourth inning during a spring training game at Maryvale Baseball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 29, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Alex Presley (7) makes the running catch against the Cincinnati Reds in the fourth inning during a spring training game at Maryvale Baseball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran Outfielders

Alex Presley
Age: 31
Positions: Left Field, Center Field and Right Field
Hits: Left-Handed
Career WAR: 0.7

A familiar face to Detroit Tigers fans from last season when he appeared in three games, Presley returns to the club as a non-roster invitee.

The 31-year-old only hit .198 in 50 contests split between Milwaukee and Detroit last season, he brings potential value as a bench outfielder.

If Presley can turn in numbers similar to those that he posted in 2011 and 2012 with Pittsburgh, the veteran could be a solid bench piece who can bring pop and speed.

In 156 games with the National League Central club from 2011 to 2012, the former Pirate hit .260 with a .428 slugging percentage. He also averaged 26 extra-base hits, 22 RBI and nine stolen bases a season.

Juan Perez
Age: 30
Positions: Left Field, Center Field, Right Field, Second Base and Third base
Hits: Right-Handed
Career WAR: 1.3

Similar to Pill, Perez saw action in parts of three seasons with San Francisco. A former 13th-round pick of the Bay Area franchise in 2008, Perez can play all across the diamond.

Last season with the Cubs’ Triple-A club, the 30-year-old scored 52 runs while chipping in with 30 RBI, 22 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases.

Like Presley, he could bring value with his blend of pop and speed off the bench—his versatility certainly doesn’t hurt either.

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