Potential Unsung Heroes for the Tigers in 2024: Including Sneaky Solution at 3B?

Detroit Tigers Unsung Heroes

The anticipation for Tigers baseball is growing rapidly with spring training just days away. 2024 is the best opportunity the Tigers have had to win the AL Central in close to a decade. Obviously, they will need to lean on proven stars like Spencer Torkelson, who recently had this to say in an interview…

“Everyone knows we can win this division.”

Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson in an interview on 97.1 the ticket, the home for Detroit Tigers baseball

Riley Greene, if he can stay healthy, will be a big piece to the puzzle for the Tigers, and Tarik Skubal has the potential to be an AL Cy Young candidate this season. Those players are pieces they have to lean on this season, but there are always going to be players that exceed expectations, some more than others, and those players can be a big reason why the Tigers are a competitive team in 2024.

So who are some under-the-radar players that can become unsung heroes for Detroit this season? Let’s dive in!

Justice Bigbie

Tigers prospect Justice Bigbie taking a swing at spring training in Lakeland, Florida

We kick off the list with a prospect some of you readers may have never even heard of. Justice Bigbie went from a 19th-round pick to being on the doorstep of his MLB debut. If he has a good showing in spring training, Bigbie might kick that door down sooner rather than later. Bigbie’s emergence after the 2022 season is nothing short of remarkable. A lot of credit has to go to Kerry Carpenter’s personal hitting coach, who has transformed two Tigers prospects from being trapped in the minors to at least giving them a legit shot at getting to the majors. Kerry Carpenter is already there, and his story is very similar to Bigbie’s because Carpenter once struggled in the minor leagues before getting help from a personal hitting coach who helped him break out and put up big numbers. With the way Carpenter was playing, it was only a matter of time before he put on a Detroit Tigers uniform. Now, Carpenter has established himself as a mainstay on the Tigers’ roster. There’s no reason to think Bigbie can’t do the same thing. He slashed .269/.347/.380 in 2022 but had a breakout 2023 season slashing .343/.405/.537 with 20 home runs. Bigbie is primarily an outfielder, but with the Tigers outfield already being crowded, it’s tough to imagine him taking a spot from someone in the outfield right off the bat. Can Justin Bigbie be the solution at third base? He’s played both corner infield positions professionally and the Tigers are desperate for some clarity for that position this season. I’m not saying he’ll earn that spot out of spring training, but if the Tigers’ options for third base struggle early on, it might not be long until they feel the need to give Bigbie a shot.

President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris had this to say about Justice Bigbie:

“He rakes. You want to talk about work ethic and adjustability translating into performance, there aren’t many better examples than Justice out there. He’s put himself in the big-league conversation at some point in the near future.”

Scott Harris on Justice Bigbie nearing MLB debut

Bigbie might be the player we need to keep a very close eye on this spring.

Mark Canha

Veteran Mark Canha with a moon shot home run for the Brewers in a game on the road against the Cubs in 2023

Veteran outfielder Mark Canha is really the only notable addition to the Tigers’ lineup in 2024, which is somewhat surprising since there were a lot of inconsistencies in Detroit’s batting order last season. Early on, the Tigers were getting some fantastic performances from their starting rotation but would ultimately lose those games because of the lack of run support offensively. I’m not yet convinced that Canha will be good enough to stay on the roster for the entirety of the 2024 season, but it’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward move. Detroit acquired Canha in a trade. If you’re like me, you’re not asking for power numbers from Canha. The best outcome for Detroit is that Canha is consistent and finds ways to get on base. He wasn’t performing great with the New York Mets and was traded mid-season to the Brewers, but once he got to Milwaukee, something clicked, and he was consistent and put up solid numbers for the Brew crew in his time there. Canha ultimately slashed .266/.367/.403 splitting time with the Mets and Brewers in 2023. If he’s able to contribute to scoring runs consistently, it’ll be a good trade on Scott Harris’ resume.

Javier Baez

Javy Baez hits a walk-off double to right against the White Sox

Javier Baez is the most polarizing professional athlete playing in Detroit right now. Going back to the off-season leading into the 2022 season, if someone said that in 2024 Baez would fall into the category of a potential unsung hero headed into his third year with the Tigers that people would look at it as an indication that this deal would be one that the fans will be dreading for some time. I say that because many Tigers fans were hoping that Baez would be the star of Detroit’s lineup, someone who would finally provide the spark they had needed desperately. Not to mention that shortstop left a gaping hole on the Tigers’ roster before the addition of Baez and that Detroit’s lineup lacked a lot of the pieces they have now. If he can become even a little version of his former self who was once runner-up in MVP voting, I don’t see what’s stopping the Tigers from running away with the division. Unfortunately, I don’t see Baez making that big leap toward re-entering the MVP conversation, but we know he has it in him, so in conclusion, there is always hope.

Shelby Miller

If you’re picking the Tigers to win the AL Central, a big part of why is their pitching depth, and the potential for their starting rotation led by Tarik Skubal and free agent signings Kenta Maeda & Jack Flaherty. The bullpen has some upside as well, but it has a lot to prove. The two biggest pieces in that bullpen, in my opinion, are Alex Lange and Shelby Miller. They both are in the same boat, though and share similar struggles. Lange and Miller have a great arsenal and a lot of upside but aren’t always the most dependable. If they can be more reliable this season, they can be a big part of why Detroit becomes competitive again. The Miller signing excites me. He appeared in 36 games and finished with a 1.71 ERA, 0.905 WHIP, and 3.68 FIP. Over those 36 games, he collected 42 strikeouts and 19 walks. The thought of him working with Chris Fetter, one of the best pitching coaches in baseball, and someone who has brought multiple veteran pitchers careers back to life, has to be a scary thought for challengers in the AL Central.

Reese Olson

Olson didn’t start the season on the Tigers roster. He earned the spot through the Tigers’ farm system. He made his debut in June against the Chicago White Sox, and in that game, he had a no-hit bid going. The rest of his 2023 season was solid. He struggled a little bit in August before a phenomenal finish to his rookie campaign. Olson finished his rookie year with a 3.99 ERA, 111 ERA+, 4.01 FIP, and 1.119 WHIP. He struck out 103 batters while walking 33. The Tigers 24-year-old starter has an arsenal that features a 4-seam fastball that reaches 95 MPH on average, 85 MPH on an average slider, 88 MPH on an average change-up, and 79 MPH on an average curveball. He will be working with Chris Fetter in his first full year, and I believe we’ll see Olson establish himself as a mainstay for the Tigers and become part of the long-term plan for success.

Gage O'Leary

I'm one of the writers for ITD Baseball, I cover the Detroit Tigers and I hope to have a career in sports some day.

Leave a Reply

Texas Rangers Roster Transactions | Inside The Diamonds

Texas Rangers Roster Moves 4/16

The Texas Rangers have made a call up today.

Read More

Chicago Cubs Down on the Farm 4/8-4/14

Take a look at how the Cubs top prospects and farm teams did this past week in action!!

Read More
Reid Detmers Dominating to Begin 2024

Reid Detmers Dominating to Begin 2024

The Los Angeles LHP has gotten off to a hot start to begin the 2024 season.

Read More