Here’s what the role will be for every Detroit Tigers player on the Opening Day roster

Tigers’ 28-man roster became official Wednesday

Javier Baez #28, Jeimer Candelario #46, and Spencer Torkelson #20 of the Detroit Tigers converse during a Grapefruit League spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at BayCare Ballpark on March 30, 2022 in Clearwater, Florida. (Julio Aguilar, 2022 Getty Images)

DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers announced their final roster moves of the offseason Wednesday, revealing the 28 players who will make up the Opening Day roster.

Most of the decisions have been determined for weeks, but injuries in the bullpen and April roster expansion opened the door for a few extra players to travel north from Lakeland.

Here are the 28 players who made the Opening Day roster, along with a breakdown of their roles.

Tucker Barnhart

Role: Starting catcher

Al Avila traded for Barnhart the day after the World Series because he wanted to solidify the team’s defense behind the plate and bring in a veteran who could handle a young pitching staff.

Barnhart might not be a plus offensively, but he’ll be an upgrade in every other area.

Eric Haase

Role: Backup catcher, backup left fielder and pinch hitter against left-handed pitchers

Haase doesn’t have an everyday role to start this season, but he’ll still frequent A.J. Hinch’s lineup cards. The team’s runaway leader in home runs on a per-at-bat basis should be in the lineup against almost every left-handed pitcher, and his versatility will be a weapon for Hinch late in games.

Dustin Garneau

Role: Backup catcher

The Tigers are carrying a third catcher thanks to Hasse’s versatility, but it’s unclear how often Garuneau will play. Hinch might want to give Barnhart afternoon games off on Thursdays and/or Sundays.

He was a solid fill-in after the Tigers acquired him in 2021, but don’t expect anything spectacular at the dish.

Spencer Torkelson

Role: Starting first baseman

From college baseball to his first professional season to an everyday big leaguer, Torkelson’s rise up the baseball ladder has been a rapid one.

At the start of spring training, Torkelson’s quest to make the team was among the top storylines, but anyone who paid attention could see he belonged within the first couple of weeks. He’ll likely start the season in the bottom third of the lineup, but if his minor league track record is any indication, that might not last long.

Jonathan Schoop

Role: Starting second baseman

Everyone is talking about Detroit’s new additions and how much they’ll help the team defensively, but the same argument can be made at second base. Schoop played most of 2021 at first base to accommodate the makeup of the roster, but now he gets to return to his natural position at second.

Schoop is a very good defensive second baseman, especially when it comes to turning double plays -- an area in which the Tigers struggled greatly last season. His streaky bat is frustrating, but at times, Schoop can be the best hitter in a lineup.

When he’s feeling good, Schoop will be a luxury lower in the order this season, and when he’s cold, it won’t be as damaging as when he struggled in the No. 2 slot.

Jeimer Candelario

Role: Starting third baseman

The team’s best hitter over the past two seasons, Candelario has blossomed into the player the Tigers envisioned when they traded for him in 2017. He led MLB in doubles a year ago, and while that might be hard to duplicate, there are no signs his steady production will decline.

Candelario is about average defensively at third base, but having Javier Baez and Torkelson playing in the same infield should help everyone in that regard.

Javier Baez

Role: Starting shortstop

Who knows what to expect from Baez this season? His profile can yield such a wide range of outcomes, especially at the plate.

Baez will be a massive upgrade for the Tigers defensively and on the base paths. If he can just keep his strikeout rate at a reasonable level, his power and speed will also make him a plus in the heart of the lineup.

Hinch likes his new shortstop at No. 3 in the order, but if he struggles and Torkelson gets off to a hot start, that swap could be one to keep an eye on.

Harold Castro

Role: Utility infielder and emergency outfielder

Castro is the type of player whose value can transcend his numbers. No, he’s not a power threat, and he’s about average at every infield position he plays. But he’s developed a knack for coming through in big at-bats, and Hinch likes that he can backup multiple positions.

Akil Baddoo

Role: Starting center fielder

The injury to Riley Greene will force Baddoo into center field. He was much better defensively in left last season, but the Tigers don’t have many other options unless they want to make Victor Reyes an everyday player.

Baddoo was a different player this spring. Instead of the on-base machine who could draw walks at the top of the order, he was more of an all-or-nothing, extra-base hit or strikeout guy. While the power numbers are nice, the Tigers would much rather he post a higher OBP and sit at the top of the order for the entire season.

Robbie Grossman

Role: Starting right fielder

Grossman is the top candidate to replace Baddoo in the leadoff spot if the youngster struggles, but to start the season, it appears he’ll be somewhere between 2-6.

As a switch hitter coming off a 20-20 season, Grossman is one of the more underrated players in Detroit. His low batting average lends itself to some criticism, but nobody should care about that considering he posted an excellent OBP.

Austin Meadows

Role: Starting left fielder

The subject of this week’s blockbuster trade, Meadows didn’t get a chance to don the Old English D in the spring, but he’ll be the everyday left fielder on Opening Day, assuming he’s back to full health (he had missed Tampa Bay’s last few games with injury).

Meadows is a prototypical left-handed power threat. He’s not a great defender, and his approach can generate more weak contact (popups, lazy fly balls, etc.) than fans realize. But this was an excellent addition to the lineup and will give the Tigers a legitimate power threat for the next three seasons.

Victor Reyes

Role: Fourth outfielder

Reyes is pretty much the outfield version of Castro. He’ll hit for a decent average, but it’s mostly an empty batting average without power or walks.

He can play all three outfield positions, and he’s serviceable in center, which is a plus considering the questions about Baddoo there. His at-bats could evaporate when Greene returns, so Reyes will need to start the season off hot.

Miguel Cabrera

Role: Everyday designated hitter

Cabrera’s appearances at first base should be few and far between this season. He’ll be a huge storyline in April as he chases 3,000 hits, but the Tigers are hoping he can provide a little more power.

Cabrera had a few epic blasts in spring training, but that’s been missing from his profile for years, and as a result, Hinch is finally ready to move him down to No. 5 or No. 6 in the lineup.

Eduardo Rodriguez

Role: Ace

The Tigers are getting a very good starting pitcher in Rodriguez, but he’s never before been asked to be the ace of a staff. That’s exactly what the Tigers are hoping for this year, though, as he gets the nod on Opening Day in Detroit.

Rodriguez was excellent in the spring -- throwing strikes, missing bats and limiting hard contact. Moving out of Fenway Park should only help to improve his numbers from last season (which should have been better in the first place).

Casey Mize

Role: Middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher

Can Mize, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, develop into a true ace at the MLB level? Not with last year’s strikeout rate, he can’t.

Mize always skewed more toward efficiency than swing-and-miss as a prospect, but his first full MLB season was a little too much of the former. The underlying numbers suggest Mize got a bit lucky in 2021, and he’ll need to be much better as a sophomore.

The splitter was improved this spring, and considering that’s what earned Mize 1-1 honors, it’s a good first step.

Tarik Skubal

Role: Middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher

Skubal seems to be the most likely of the three young Tigers starters to break out this season. He has the strikeout rate to get through any lineup, as evidenced by his dominance against the mighty Toronto Blue Jays in his final spring start.

Home runs were Skubal’s undoing as a rookie, and he’ll need to be careful working up in the zone again this season. But out of all the pitchers on the roster, he has the highest upside.

Matt Manning

Role: Back-end starting pitcher

Baseball folks keep lumping Manning in with Mize and Skubal, and that’s a dangerous game. Last season, he paired a low strikeout rate with a tendency to give up hard contact, and the results weren’t pretty.

Some of his spring starts looked like more of the same: struggling to get on top of his curveball, leaving pitches in the middle of the zone and laboring to put hitters away with two strikes. We’ll see if Chris Fetter can get him turned around before Michael Pineda arrives and forces the team to make a tough decision.

Tyler Alexander

Role: Fifth starter

Alexander likely would have started the season in the bullpen if not for Pineda’s visa issues delaying his build-up. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the worst of the team’s five starters.

It was an exceptionally strong spring training for the soft-throwing lefty -- one run, three walks and two hits allowed in 8.2 innings -- and while nobody really talks about him, he’s pretty much always been solid in whatever role the Tigers throw him in.

The most likely scenario is that Alexander returns to long relief when Pineda comes up, but if he’s pitching well and Manning is struggling, that might not be a given.

Gregory Soto

Role: Closer

Hinch knew he was asking a lot of Soto when he officially named him closer earlier this spring, but the pressure has increased tenfold after Jose Cisnero, Kyle Funkhouser and Andrew Chafin hit the injured list.

Without those three relievers, Soto might be asked to pitch more often, or perhaps even get six outs on occasion. He’s one of the only proven relief pitchers in the Opening Day bullpen, and the Tigers desperately need him to be dominant, no matter when Hinch calls his name.

Michael Fulmer

Role: Set-up

Unless Soto is called upon before the ninth inning, Fulmer’s job will be to get the ball to him when the Tigers have a late lead.

Spring training didn’t go as planned for Fulmer. His velocity was way down, and he looked much more hittable than during his dominant 2021 season. Hinch relied on Fulmer heavily last season, and he’ll likely need to do so again in 2022. Fulmer’s health will be a storyline to watch.

Alex Lange

Role: Late-inning reliever

When spring training started, Lange figured to be the sixth- or seventh-best reliever in the bullpen. Now, he’s the team’s most trusted commodity behind Soto and Fulmer.

Lange was excellent down the stretch last season. After his recall in last August, he allowed just three runs in 18.2 innings, striking out 18 batters. The Tigers need that version of Lange from the start.

Joe Jimenez

Role: Late-inning reliever

Once the top relief pitching prospect in the organization, Jimenez has been derailed by walks during his MLB career. Last season, he allowed 35 free passes in just 45.1 innings -- only his 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings kept him in Detroit.

If there was ever a time for the Tigers’ 2018 All-Star representative to put it all together, this is it.

Rony Garcia

Role: Middle relief

Garcia allowed 19 earned runs in 21 innings as a rookie in 2020 before missing most of 2021 with injury. This spring, he allowed seven earned runs in six innings.

That Garcia made the Opening Day roster without much discussion is an indictment on the depth of this bullpen.

Jason Foley

Role: Middle relief

Like Garcia, Foley figured to be on the Opening Day roster as soon as the two extra spots were announced, but he hasn’t exactly earned a vote of confidence.

He’s only thrown 10.1 innings at the MLB level, striking out six batters and allowing five walks. His minor league numbers weren’t much better last season -- a 4.41 ERA, 1.529 WHIP and 4.9 walks per nine innings.

Will Vest

Role: Bullpen

The Seattle Mariners let Vest go back to the Tigers (they had selected him in the Rule 5 draft) midway through 2021 after he allowed 24 earned runs in 35 innings. The 26-year-old struck out just 27 batters and walked 18.

Jacob Barnes

Role: Bullpen

Over the past three seasons, with five different teams, Barnes has posted a 6.58 ERA, 4.92 FIP and 1.550 WHIP.

His strikeout rate during that span is 10.1 batters per nine innings, but an elevated walk rate (4.2 per nine) offsets some of that upside.

Elvin Rodriguez

Role: Long relief

A starting pitching prospect in the organization for years, Rodriguez will likely be used when Tigers starters have short outings.

His minor league numbers as a starter are solid, but Rodriguez has only appeared in one Triple-A game. Pitching out of an MLB bullpen this season will be a tall task.

Drew Hutchison

Role: Long relief

Though Hutchison was surprisingly effective in a few appearances for the Tigers last season, don’t expect that to continue.

He struck out just 10 batters and walked 11 in 21.1 innings last year -- his first MLB action since 2018.


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.