The Detroit Tigers are in contention for a playoff spot in 2023, and even though that is partially due to a very weak American League Central, it has been a step forward for the Tigers in 2023.
Detroit sits at 25-27, coming off of a disappointing 66-96 season in 2022, the Tigers hope some of their young talent along with some veterans who have supplemented the roster can help them contend.
With the Minnesota Twins not looking like a team that will run away with the division by any means, and the Cleveland Guardians and Chicago White Sox not looking strong, the Tigers have an opportunity to make some noise in the 2023 season.
Despite being in contention in the American League Central, there have been some disappointing performances from players on the Tigers' roster to start the season, particularly from three players. Let's get into them.
3. Spencer Torkelson
The Tigers are betting a lot on Spencer Torkelson, he is supposed to be one of the top players of this core, and lead the team to its first window of contention since 2014. This does not mean all hope is lost for Spencer Torkelson's future, but he has not produced up to expectations yet in his MLB career.
Spencer Torkelson has improved as a hitter this season, but is still below league-average. Torkelson currently has an 89 wRC+ this season, which is 11% under league average, according to Fangraphs. During his rookie season in 2022, Torkelson recorded a 76 wRC+, so is a step up this season.
Given what the Tigers hoped he would be, that is still disappointing. They need him to be well above-average as a hitter. However, that does not mean that all hope is lost. When looking at the Statcast data via Baseball Savant, there are some encouraging trends for Torkelson.
Torkelson has a solid average exit velocity that sits in the 81st percentile in the league, according to Baseball Savant. He also has a good hard-hit rate, which is in the 85th percentile. His xwOBA, expected batting average, expected slugging, barrel rate, whiff percentage and chase rate are all encouraging as well.
There is still hope for Torkelson to develop, but as of now, it has been disappointing.
2. Miguel Cabrera
It is not exactly a surprise that Miguel Cabrera has not been good for the Tigers this season. He has not been a productive player for them since the 2016 season.
Miguel Cabrera is currently batting .169 with a 32 wRC+, according to Fangraphs. He currently has 0.8 WAR as well.
Although Miguel Cabrera is certainly loved by the organization and many of the fans, it is getting hard to watch. It does not make it any easier knowing that the Tigers are on the hook for him through the 2025 season. He has vested options for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, according to Spotrac.
For a team that is trying to start a new era, it is tough to have a player like Cabrera on the contract that he is on.
1. Javier Baez
Javier Baez is another Tigers player who has disappointed compared to the contract that he is on. The difference is that the Tigers signed Baez before the 2022 season, hoping he would be an impact player along with a veteran presence for a young team.
That has not been the case, and the performance has been worse in the 2023 season for Javier Baez. He currently has a 66 wRC+, which is down from 90 in 2022, according to Fangraphs.
Javier Baez signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Tigers prior to 2022. He has an opt-out after this season, but with his performance, there is little reason to believe he will opt out of the contract with the Tigers. He is under contract for four more seasons after this one, if he does not exercise the opt-out.
The Tigers need more from their veteran shortstop in 2023.