New faces dominate Detroit Tigers lineup in first spring training game vs Florida Southern
Infield prospects Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara in starting lineup
DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers will take the field Friday against Florida Southern to officially kick off spring training.
Spring will have a very different feel for the Tigers this year, as a franchise that has contended for the postseason for more than a decade begins a complete rebuild.
FIRST PITCH: 1:05 p.m. ET at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida
Tigers fans have become accustomed to big names in the starting lineup, especially in the starting rotation and the heart of the batting order. That will change in 2018, as a new crop of young players gets a chance to step up.
Players such as Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander are gone, and prospects have taken their places.
On Friday, the Tigers' starting lineup will look like this:
Alex Wilson is scheduled to start on the mount.
The top three hitters are familiar names, as JaCoby Jones, Mikie Mahtook and James McCann were all significant contributors last season.
Jones, 25, struggled in 56 games last season, striking out in 65 of 141 at-bats (46 percent strikeout rate) and notching just seven extra-base hits. He stole six bases, but finished with a .510 OPS and a negative WAR.
Jones was acquired from the Pirates when the Tigers shipped Joakim Soria to Pittsburgh in 2015.
Mahtook, 28, was supposed to be a platoon player last season, but turned into an everyday outfielder after trade deadline moves left the Tigers' lineup bare. He ended up playing in 109 games, batting .276, with 12 home runs, 15 doubles and a solid .787 OPS.
McCann, 27, enjoyed a nice offensive season in 2017, hitting 13 home runs and 14 doubles. His .733 OPS and solid defensive skills made him a valuable catcher.
Alex Wilson typically pitches out of the Tigers' bullpen, but he's also known to earn an occasional spot start. He appeared in 66 games last season, striking out 42 batters in 60 innings. His 1.37 WHIP and 4.50 ERA were a step back from the previous two seasons, when he was the most reliable arm in the bullpen.
Wilson will look to return to the form that made him a 3.5 WAR player from 2015-2016.
The rest of the Tigers' starting lineup is made up mostly of non-roster invites. Chad Huffman, Dominic Ficociello, Jason Krizan and Kody Eaves received spring training invites, despite not being on the 40-man roster.
Dawel Lugo is the No. 15 prospect in the Tigers' system after being acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks for J.D. Martinez. Lugo is 23 years old and hit 13 home runs and 27 doubles in the minors last season.
Here's the prospect report on Lugo from MLB.com:
"Lugo has a quick bat and is very direct to the ball. He doesn't walk much, but he rarely strikes out and has a natural ability to hit the ball through the middle of the field and to right-center. There is some natural strength, and the more he recognizes what pitches are his, the more he will drive the ball and continue to add some over-the-fence power. Lugo had been a shortstop for the first several years of his career but made a nice transition to third in 2016. He has a very strong and accurate arm from different angles, showing an ability to make plays on the run. He still needs to refine his footwork, but he could eventually be an above-average defender at the hot corner.
"Lugo looked like a future utility man, but the progress he's made points to a potential everyday job in the big leagues. Some of that might depend on if his bat profiles at the hot corner, but that's seeming more and more like a possibility."
Sergio Alcantara, 21, was also part of the Martinez trade. He's the No. 25 prospect in the Tigers' system, thanks to his defensive skills.
Here's the prospect report on Alcantara from MLB.com:
"Alcantara will be able to defend at the Major League level. He's a no-doubt-about-it shortstop, with the strongest arm in the system combined with good hands and above-average range, even though he doesn't have a ton of speed. Offensively, he has a solid approach, drawing walks and not striking out very often. He is continuing to work on adding strength, and while power will never be a part of his game, he needs it so he can at least find the gaps more frequently.
"Alcantara doesn't need to develop a ton of offense to be a big league contributor thanks to his outstanding glove work. The hope is he'll use his strong showing in the Dominican over the winter as a springboard up the organizational ladder. How much the bat develops will determine if he can be an everyday shortstop in the future."
The Tigers acquired several exciting prospects last season, namely Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers, the return from Houston in the Verlander deal. Detroit also has a trio of talented right-handed starters -- Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows -- ranked in the nation's top 100 prospects.
Lugo and Alcantara are less exciting prospects, but they'll get the first chance to make an impression in spring training, starting Friday against Florida Southern.
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