The Tigers had a quiet offseason in Scott Harris’ first winter as president of baseball operations. The new front office head seems content to take a season to evaluate the organization before reevaluating where to invest to return to playoff competitiveness in 2024 and beyond.
Throughout the lineup, the club has players trying to carve out long-term roles. MLBTR looked through various outfield possibilities a couple months ago. The infield might be a little more settled, with the likes of Spencer Torkelson, Jonathan Schoop and Javier Báez seemingly in position for regular playing time. There’s a fair bit of uncertainty about how manager A.J. Hinch will divide reps behind the dish, as Detroit allowed last year’s primary backstop Tucker Barnhart to depart in free agency after a down season.
Turning to the players who remain in Detroit:
Jake Rogers, 27, one minor league option remaining
Rogers’ defense has caught the attention of evaluators for years. Prospect writers credited the Tulane product as a plus or better defender, praising his athleticism, receiving, arm strength and acumen for handling a pitching staff. Those strong defensive reviews have been paired with longstanding questions about how much he’ll contribute at the plate. That has manifested at the MLB level, as the righty-swinging Rogers has only a .182/.264/.378 line with ten home runs but a massive 38% strikeout rate in 73 big league games.
Those were split between 2019-21, as Rogers lost all of last year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He’s healthy again now and has gotten into 11 Spring Training contests. He hasn’t yet topped more than 40 big league games in any season but his defensive reputation could earn him an extended look at some point.
Eric Haase, 30, zero options remaining
Haase was arguably Detroit’s best offensive player last year, at least on a rate basis. Among Tigers’ hitters with 200+ plate appearances, he was the only one who produced at an above-average level by measure of wRC+. Haase hit .254/.306/.443 through 351 trips to the dish. His strikeout and walk numbers weren’t great but he connected on 14 home runs. That came on the heels of a 22-homer showing over just 98 contests the prior year.
The former Cleveland draftee clearly brings above-average right-handed power upside. Even with fairly modest on-base numbers, he’s a strong offensive catcher. Haase has never really established himself on the other side of the ball though. Statcast has graded him as a well below-average pitch framer and placed him near the bottom of the league with regards to keeping balls in front of him. He’s shown solid arm strength but not particularly polished receiving.
Haase is athletic enough to take some time in left field. He’s logged 216 2/3 innings there over the past two seasons and could continue to factor into the outfield. He’s out of options and brings some much-needed power to the Detroit lineup, so he’ll be on the roster, though it doesn’t necessarily have to come at catcher given his defensive question marks.
Donny Sands, 26, two options remaining
Sands, a Yankee draftee, has been in the professional ranks for over seven years. An eighth-round pick out of high school in 2015, he’s very slowly climbed the minor league ladder. Sands didn’t advance past the low minors until 2021. A solid showing between the top two minor league levels that year caught the attention of the Phillies, who acquired him that offseason. The right-handed hitter spent almost all of last season with Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate, raking at a .308/.413/.428 clip with a massive 15.7% walk rate and solid 18.2% strikeout percentage over 242 plate appearances.
The Phils didn’t have an opportunity for Sands at the MLB level. J.T. Realmuto is entrenched as the starter, while Garrett Stubbs and Rafael Marchán make for quality depth options. Sands only appeared in three big league contests — his first MLB action — as a September call-up. This winter, the Phils packaged him with Nick Maton and Matt Vierling in the Gregory Soto deal.
Sands hasn’t gotten a look at big league pitching. He’s 26 and has never been a high-profile prospect. Still, there’s nothing left for him to prove against minor league arms. The Tigers can keep him in the minors through 2024 but they might be best served seeing what they have sooner than later. Detroit has a pair of interesting catching prospects — Dillon Dingler and Josh Crouch — who have reached Double-A and could play their way onto the MLB radar by ’24. It’d behoove them to know where Sands fits in that hierarchy before those younger players are in consideration for roster spots.
Andrew Knapp, 31, not on 40-man roster
Knapp signed a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite over the offseason. He’s a known quantity for Harris, who was part of the Giants’ front office when the switch-hitter played for San Francisco last season. Knapp, who had played solely for the Phillies before a nomadic 2022 campaign, was also kept off the field by Realmuto at Citizens Bank Park. He’s never really produced when given intermittent big league opportunities, hitting .209/.310/.313 over 325 games. He’s the most experienced catcher in camp but not presently on the 40-man roster.
Mario Feliciano/Michael Papierski
Feliciano and Papierski each logged brief MLB action in 2022. The former appeared in two games for the Brewers, while the latter got into 39 contests between the Giants and Reds. Detroit snagged both off waivers this offseason but didn’t keep either player on the roster. The Tigers non-tendered Papierski before re-signing him to a minor league deal; Feliciano was run through waivers within two weeks of being claimed. Neither hit especially well in Triple-A last year. They’ll be in the organization as upper level insurance but seem behind the group of Rogers, Haase, Sands and perhaps Knapp on the depth chart.
Somebody needs to give Feliciano a shot eventually.
I mean Haase should probably get a shot at full time C duties with Sands backing him up. Not any ideal LHB behind either atm and Knapp is more just insurance.
Sands hasn’t hit at all this spring, while Rogers (a very good defensive catcher) has hit very well. Sands should get playing time only if Haase or Rogers gets hurt.
I would take AAA track record over 20 ABs or whatever at ST. Higashioka was the best hitter in ST a year ago and we know that didn’t correlate whatsoever to the actual season.
Not going to happen that way. Haase and Rogers will make the team out of spring training, with Sands serving as an injury replacement. Tigers will want to see more of Sands before bringing him up.
Haase has been the front runner all along for the starting position. Rogers deserves a shot at the backup as that was what he was when he had to have TJ. The Tigers should have Sands on standby at Toledo if for some reason Rogers isn’t fully ready yet.
For Love of the Game
Rogers has had a monster spring. He’s ready.
I’m a Jake Rogers fan (that mustache haha)
I’ve said for the last 2 seasons, the verdict on the Verlander trade is still delayed until we find out whether Jake reaches his potential. Franklin Perez, too. This, I’m sure, is his final year, unless he finally stays healthy and makes some big strides in his development.
For Love of the Game
Verlander won two Cy Youngs and a World Series ring with the Astros. The Tigers hope that Jake Rogers will finally stick six years after the trade. Daz Cameron was released and Franklin Perez has barely played. I’d say the verdict is definitely in.
This may be an ignorant question, but I’m not as familiar with the Tigers catchers as others. Nonetheless, why wouldn’t the Tigers just use Haas & Rogers in platoon roles? They also have the option of using Haas as a DH moving forward since he is good offensively.
For Love of the Game
I think that’s what they’ll do. Some teams carry a third catcher on the 26 man roster, but I’d say in the Tigers case that is a useless insurance policy. Toledo is an hour from Detroit if an emergency call-up is needed.
I’d use Rogers as my primary catcher with Haase getting decent time behind the plate or in LF or DH.
Most likely what they will do.
Motor City Beach Bum
Haase and Rogers to start. When Rogers gets hurts give Sands a chance. I’m still intrigued by Feliciano…he was playing some 1B/DH in Spring training. I’m not sold on Dingler. Right now I find Crouch more interesting but still lots of time for both to develop.
Dingler’s not ready and wasn’t heading north in 2023, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything to either be sold on or not. I’ve heard wonderful things about Crouch but Dingler is ahead of him in the pecking order. Can that change? Of course, but that’s the way it stands, imo and he’s higher on all of the prospect lists I’ve seen. Dingler should be at either Erie or Toledo to start as Crouch should be assigned to Erie.
Rogers will get 2/5 to start the season, but will earn the majority of reps, and Haase will get some time at other positions. Stop with the pitch framing nonsense already. That’s on the umps, not the C. Sands starts at AAA until needed.
Rogers deserves to start. He is the better catcher and IMO will have better OBP. The article was a tad misleading about his bat…..he DID have a hard time hitting in ’20, but in ’21 when playing regularly just before he got hurt, he was getting on base, hitting HRs and driving in runs.
Rogers will have to earn the starting catcher job. Not to say he can’t or won’t, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Rogers was the #1 C on the team in 21′ before he got injured. He outhit Haase in 21′ with a higher OPS and Rogers has picked up where he left off and is outhitting him in Spring training too. I don’t think its a stretch to think Rogers catches 100+ games and Hasse is at 40ish + some OF/DH time.
Tigers are out of the race before it begins. I assume they will give their older players as much early playing time as possible to build trade value, and by midsummer their Catching situation will look very different. Why not play Rodgers at C and Haase at DH mostly and a couple days a week at C? If they play well, they will be moved by July.
I like the idea of them keeping Haase as the starter until the deadline or something. But also I remember that the Cubs couldn’t find any takers on Willson Contreras last year. Catching for a staff requires familiarity, and it’s hard to do that with 2 months remaining. Especially when your defense isn’t strong enough to begin with
I also think they have a lot of young arms, and putting a guy back there who isn’t getting them extra strikes is not helping them. Haase’s defense is fine aside from framing, and he’s an interesting value play if you believe robo umps are coming.
Haase couldn’t block a beachball if it bounced in front of him. Cleveland keep him in the minors for a reason.
Not sure why they wouldn’t let Rogers attempt to establish himself. If he can approach 100 ops+ he’ll be a solid everyday C. Haase really doesn’t hit enough to be a regular on a good team and Sands’ upside is a useful corner utility player who can catch a bit. Is there room on their mlb roster for Sands to fit as a 200 ab utility guy?
Haase isn’t particularly good defensively, but his hitting way above average for a catcher.
Seems like a pointless article. Hasse is the starting catcher and Jake Rogers is the backup, pretty cut and dry as proven by the spring training results. Seems like more of a January article. Might want to check on the number of innings Haase played in the outfield. Looks like a typo.
Tough read. The Tigers have a dozen catchers yet they don’t have any.
Haase is a DH who doesn’t hit enough to justify holding that role on a decent team. But he is Detroit’s masher. Agree with the poster who noted Haase can’t block a beach ball. It really is difficult watching him at catcher. Can’t imagine pitching to him with any confidence.
They’ve got to trot Rogers out there just as long as they can. After that, try Sands.
But, regardless, I’m sure that Haase will end up as their primary because the Tigers are “yikes haha”.
Besides, how often can Haase DH for Detroit? Will the Ghost of Miggy agree to sit it out 162 times as should be the case? Forget the outfield for Haase. He’s a tough watch out there as well, plus Detroit needs to determine if their young outfielders have it or not.
Being assigned this task was like a punishment assignment for Anthony Franco. “Yikes haha” indeed.
Motor City Beach Bum
Carpenter will soak up DH at bats too. Meadows should be the DH next year when Miggy retires…his OF defence sucks. Rogers is a much better defensive catcher but Haase has had a good 2 year run with the bat. 6th ranked catcher offensively last year I thought I read. One of the few positives we had on offence
I guess the Tigers front office is going to pick names out of a hat to fill their catching spots? I mean, we’ve got a collection of career minor league catchers. 110+ losses
For Love of the Game
I’ll take the under on that bet, REBB (fewer than 110 losses). Bragging rights at the end of the season on the over/under 110 losses? Do we have a bet?
Kind of a misleading article. If Rogers does what he did in 21′ he’ll be the top catcher in the big leagues. In 21′ he was hitting .802 OPS and led the MLB in CS% at an unbelievable 57%. So far in Spring training it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat leading the Spring Training in Barrells and Hard Hit Balls according to Mike Pitriello.