Detroit Tigers: Four Spring Training Invitees Most Likely To Make Opening Day Roster

Detroit Tigers

May 16, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) receives congratulations from right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) after he hits a home run in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers fans have seen relatively few moves this offseason. The club’s roster could look similar to 2016’s group of players. Here are the Spring Training invitees most likely to make the team.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has so far made three moves of note since the regular season ended.

Avila dealt Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for pitching prospect Victor Alcantara. He also selected left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf in the Rule 5 Draft.

The most recent move came in the form of signing longtime Tiger Alex Avila to serve as James McCann’s backup.

With so few changes to the Major League roster, the Tigers won’t have many new faces challenging for roster spots.

Obviously, a new center fielder will be needed to take Maybin’s place, but that is the only starting spot up for grabs.

Considering Detroit already has JaCoby Jones, Tyler Collins and Anthony Gose as center field candidates, it may be difficult for a Spring Training invitee to carve out a role with the team.

However, five players invited to Major League Spring Training stand out as the most likely to make the team.

The Tigers announced in a press release on Wednesday morning that 22 players had been invited to camp. Here are the four most likely to make the Opening Day roster.

Mar 25, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Edward Mujica pitches during the sixth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 25, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Edward Mujica pitches during the sixth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Edward Mujica

Age: 32
Position: Relief Pitcher
Seasons of Major League Experience: 10

As it stands, the best way for a player to crack the Detroit Tigers roster is likely in the bullpen or on the bench.

A proven commodity at the Major League level, Edward Mujica has arguably the best chance to make the team out of Spring Training.

The reliever owns a solid 3.85 career ERA. That number includes a stretch from 2009 to 2014 that saw the pitcher notch a 3.40 ERA in 429.1 innings for five different franchises.

If he can pitch like that out of the gate, the Tigers will have a hard time keeping Mujica off the roster.

While many of the pitchers Detroit invited to Spring Training have spent time as relievers, the former Cardinal comes with the added bonus of boasting experience as a closer.

During the 2013 season with St. Louis, Mujica appeared in 65 games. He finished 49 en route to tallying 37 saves and a 2.78 ERA. The 32-year-old made the All-Star team that season.

The pitcher has also turned in three different seasons where his SIERA came in under the 3.20 mark. Overall, Mujica hasn’t posted a SIERA over 4.00 since the 2008 campaign—which was his first full season in the Majors.

If the former All-Star can post similar numbers for the Tigers, he could become an integral part of Brad Ausmus’ relief corps.

Detroit Tigers

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

Joe Jimenez

Age: 21
Position: Relief Pitcher
Seasons of Major League Experience: 0

Another pitcher with a chance at making the Detroit Tigers bullpen, Joe Jimenez could make his Major League debut early in the 2017 season.

The top prospect reached Triple-A last season and could eventually form a frightening closing combination with Bruce Rondon.

In 126 career minor league innings, Jimenez has fanned 204 batters, good for a robust 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings. The pitcher’s ERA also sits at a sparkling 1.59.

In addition to striking out batters almost at will, the reliever also has done well to limit damage. His ERA is obviously a bright spot, Jimenez has allowed just 40 walks in his four seasons as a professional. In that same time span, he’s only been tagged for four home runs.

Still just 21, the future is extremely bright for Jimenez, who throws a blazing fastball. If he can dominate with his off-speed offerings, the sky is the limit where the right-hander is concerned.

With Rondon, Shane Greene, Alex Wilson and Mark Lowe in camp, Jimenez will certainly face competition in establishing himself as a key reliever. However, the talent is there.

Other right-handed options include Myles Jaye, Angel Nesbitt, Logan Kensing, Dustin Molleken, Mujica, Warwick Saupold and Anibal Sanchez.

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

Mike Gerber

Age: 24
Position: Outfielder
Seasons of Major League Experience: 0

We interrupt the reliever portion of this article to bring you an outfielder with a shot at making the Detroit Tigers roster next season.

Mike Gerber, long one of the team’s more intriguing prospects, certainly has a chance in center field.

He’ll face competition from in-house candidates JaCoby Jones, Tyler Collins and Anthony Gose. Spring Training invitees Jason Krizan, Alex Presley and Juan Perez will also play a role in things, however Gerber could make the team.

Jones is still developing. Collins, who profiles more as a corner outfielder, struggled defensively (-11.4 UZR/150) in center last season.

There’s also Gose, who is coming off a 2016 that saw him hit just .203 with a .588 OPS in 90 games split between Toledo and Erie.

In other words, Gerber has a chance—especially if he can continue to produce as he has in the minors.

Since making his professional debut in 2014 with Connecticut, the outfielder has displayed a knack for stuffing the stat sheet.

In 2015 with West Michigan, Gerber collected 76 RBI, 74 runs scored, 31 doubles, 16 stolen bases, 13 home runs and 10 triples. He also hit .292 with a .822 OPS that season.

The 2016 campaign saw the outfielder move to both Lakeland and Erie. In 132 games split between the two, he batted .276 with a .811 OPS.

Gerber also chipped in with 80 RBI, 69 runs scored, 30 doubles, 18 home runs, eight stolen bases and six triples.

What’s more, the 24-year-old also has experience in center field.

If the top prospect can continue to contribute across the board against a higher level of competition, he could crack Detroit’s Major League roster.

May 5, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Alex Presley is congratulated after hitting a two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

May 5, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Alex Presley is congratulated after hitting a two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Presley

Age: 31
Position: Outfielder
Seasons of Major League Experience: Seven

Yet another potential center field option for the Detroit Tigers, Alex Presley actually suited up in three games for the club last season.

During those three games, the seven-year veteran logged five plate appearances. He only collected a single hit in Detroit, but showed promise with Toledo.

In 41 games with the Mud Hens, Presley hit .296 with a solid .400 on-base percentage. The outfielder also added a .563 slugging percentage while accounting for 23 runs scored, 14 RBI, 10 doubles, four stolen bases, three home runs and three triples.

These are mostly in line with his career numbers at the minors’ highest level. The former Brewer is a .305 batter at Triple-A, with an .811 OPS in 424 lifetime games.

While he’s logged plenty of time in the minors, Presley does have relatively significant Major League experience. His best season came back in 2011.

During that campaign, the outfielder batted .298 with 27 runs scored, 22 extra-base hits, 20 RBI and nine stolen baes in 52 games.

Presley has shown in the past that he can bring a solid blend of on-base skills and speed.

If he can produce at a similar rate to 2011 (1.1 WAR, 122 wRC+), the Detroit Tigers will be in good hands where center field is concerned.

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