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As our first action with our division rival begins today, we checked in with Ashley MacLennan for some knowledge about our fellow ALC rebuilders
Hey, because who knows a 100-loss team like another (near) 100-loss team, why shouldn’t our first View From the Other Side of the season be with the Detroit Tigers?
I’ll be honest: I’m not going to take any credit for initiating our misery commiseration, that’s all BYB and Ashley. But thanks to her for reaching out, and she was kind enough to take on a few questions lobbed back eastward.
In addition to writing for nearly every SBN baseball site out there (seriously, Ashley, why no White Sox writing? We’re cool), MacLennan this year started a YouTube series on baseball basics, 90 Feet From Home.
It took Ashley one sentence to basically bellyache over her ownership’s miserly, inactive ways, which means the White Sox truly aren’t alone in this what the hell is the plan universe. At least Rick Hahn signed one of his own players to an extension, and has talked with others! Plus, Ashley name-checks Nico Goodrum, whose late homer through sleet or slush or something a season ago capped Detroit’s opening-series sweep of the White Sox in Chicago.
South Side Sox: So, fellow rebuild sufferer, how’s it going?
Ashley MacLennan, Bless You Boys: It’s going … well? Ish? The main problem I have with the Tigers rebuild at the moment is that the team seems stuck in the mindset that they can develop from the farm without spending any money or making any real trades. They didn’t move Michael Fulmer when there was interest last season. Nicholas Castellanos was vocal about interest in a trade and they didn’t move him. They seem more interested in trying to get one-year deals with guys like Mike Fiers they can flip at the July trade deadline rather than making any aggressive moves to bolster the farm or sign young, long-term talent. They’re also one of the few teams who haven’t signed any extensions ye,t in this season of extensions. Matthew Boyd and Castellanos would seem like interesting targets to me.
At least they aren’t as depressing (so far) this year as they were last season.
Who’s the top prospect you’re salivating over seeing in Detroit?
I have two. Casey Mize, of course, who is the pitcher the Tigers claimed when they “won” the first selection in the draft last year. He’s poised to be a No. 1 or 2 starter and based on everything I’ve seen, the hype looks real. The other one is Jake Rogers, a Tigers catching prospect. There’s something about him that really has me excited, even though all the reports on him indicate he might never be a quality hitter. I don’t care, I’m a catching apologist to the core and I think he’s just going to be a lot of fun.
The team Tigers seem more anonymous than ever to White Sox fans. Is the roster filled with mostly AAAA players, or are there a couple of guys in the mix in the majors now who could be part of the next great Tigers team?
I am a huge Niko Goodrum fan. He was one of those “Who?” guys last season who ended up exceeding all expectations for Tigers fans. On an otherwise dismal (aside from Castellanos) team, Goodrum managed a 103 wRC+, which, yeah, not dazzling, but considering it was -63 the previous year in brief appearances with the Minnesota Twins, I’d say he was a pleasant surprise. He’s also a really good dude, and the kind of utility player I think would thrive given a full time position at, say, second base.
Other fun guys to watch: JaCoby Jones and Castellanos. Jones is incredibly inconsistent at bat, but holy cats he’s fun to watch in the outfield, and Nick is the closest thing the team has to a “star” outside of Miguel Cabrera.
Who’s the guy on the club (or very close in AAA) who is a lock to be a White Sox (and MLB) menace for years to come?
If he stays with the team beyond this year? Castellanos. As for pitching, if he continues to build on his present success? Matthew Boyd.
Has Gardy wore out his welcome yet? Does he have a 10-year managing run in Detroit in him, like a Jim Leyland or Sparky Anderson second- or third-phase career? And if not, and Gardenhire is only good for a little bit of time as Tigers manager, is there someone being groomed to take over?
Ron Gardenhire is 100% the right person to be leading the Tigers through this initial wave of the rebuild. He has an old-school approach that is actually beneficial with such a young team, especially one that doesn’t have a strong foundation of veterans the way it once did. He’s the kind of guy who can show a young team how to follow the lead of their manager and trust the process even when things are bad. That said, when his time is up after next year he might get a one-year extension, but beyond that they’re going to need to look to someone with an analytical eye. I was really big on wanting Gabe Kapler during the last search, but maybe someone in the Rays system might be interesting. They seem to be grooming a good group of managerial candidates down there and I like the way they approach young teams.
Which White Sox player do you think will be the biggest threat in this coming series?
Tim Anderson. Red-hot, might beat up on our bullpen.
How far do you think the Tigers are from contending again? How well do you think they’ll do this year?
I’m not pessimistic, but not as enthusiastic as I once was about this. At the current speed and trend the Tigers might compete by 2022? But that said, I’d love to look dumb about this when they pull a 2017 Twins and somehow manage to snag a wild card spot in a year or two.