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Tigers Q&A with Ashley MacLennan

MLB: New York Mets at Detroit Tigers
Victor Martinez runs for his life
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Russell

Ashley: You write about the Rays. I write about the Rays. You also write about the Tigers. Plus one for you, so let’s do a Q&A for the series. Dibs on Rays side of things!

Ashley MacLennan

Alright let’s do this. I’m anticipating a Tigers/Rays showdown for the ages.

You were at the recent series against Boston (that involved a beautiful revenge inside the park home run, might I add), what did you see the guys doing differently that has led to their recent run of success?

Danny Russell

What helped the Rays the most may actually be what never changed: the managing team’s confidence. Kevin Cash has proved himself to be a quality manager in his fourth year on the job (this season having traded out the coaching staff he inherited from Joe Maddon for his own), and throughout the 1-8 run to start the season he displayed a quiet confidence in his players, as did all the staff. It was jarring when the Rays were in a tailspin to see him calm and collected, but on the other side of an eight game winning streak, it comes as no surprise that the Rays got there. (edited)

The Tigers have a different look in the manager’s office too this season, and here I appreciate that you pay attention to two teams, because you can tell me this answer through active comparison: What do you make of Ron Gardenhire. Was he the right hire to tend the Tigers garden? (I welcome your boos at that one)

Ashley MacLennan

Omg Danny, it’s too early for bad garden jokes. I think Gardenhire was actually the perfect guy for the Tigers in this current rebuild. I wasn’t thrilled with the pick initially (I was actually championing Gabe Kapler at the time, who the Tigers never even interviewed). I think Gardy provides a levelheaded old school approach to things that is proving to be really beneficial to the young up-and-comers. I think it’s laying the groundwork for a great future team where the Tigers can then decide to get risky with a different, more modern-era leader if they should choose to. I also think bringing in Chris Bosio as pitching coach was the best decision the team made all off season.

The Rays are seeing a youth movement of their own with guys like Mallex Smith, Daniel Robertson, and even Johnny Field making some great strides in recent weeks. Smith especially has been advantageous in the wake of Kevin Kiermaier’s injury. Do you think these young guys are maybe revitalizing the team in unexpected ways?

Danny Russell

Wait why Chris Bosio? I don’t know his story.

Ashley MacLennan

Bosio was the pitching coach for the Cubs as they went through their own little restructure. He helped Jake Arrieta get his shit back together. He’s not as by-the-book as other pitching coaches. He would put starters in the pen in spring training, he’s willing to try different things to help guys build their confidence. I like him.

Danny Russell

Given his experience that does seem like a solid hire.

Ashley MacLennan

He’s great.

Danny Russell

The youth is revitalizing the team through success. Names like Robertson and Smith (who were bench players last year), Field (who was an org soldier), and Joey Wendle (who was acquired from the Athletics for a minor league catcher to be the starting second basemen) are notable because they are all performing way above expectations on offense while meeting the Rays admittedly sky-high expectations on defense. They’ll come back down to earth eventually, probably, but it’s notable that none of those names are top prospects from the system.

The Rays are primarily fielding a motley crew of veterans this season because it is a bridge year for prospects to be promoted. The real youth movement hasn’t even started yet.

I can only assume the 2018 Tigers also look very little like what future iterations should hold?

Ashley MacLennan

The 2018 Tigers do feature a handful of guys you can expect to see around when the team contends again in 2020 or 2021 (I’m being optimistic but I don’t think the time frame is out of the question).

Guys like Jeimer Candelario, who was a sensational pick up at the trade deadline last year, thanks Chicago Cubs. He’s really been excellent and I think if he stays healthy and consistent he’ll be the Tigers third baseman of the future. Miguel Cabrera will be around until he retires.

If the Tigers don’t decide to trade him, Michael Fulmer will still be with the team just as the “new” good years begin, but I have a feeling they may deal him. I think some of the guys currently in the minors: Dawel Lugo for example, will also be long-term Tigers players, but they certainly don’t have the standout depth in the minors the Rays do. Can the Tigers have Adames back?

Danny Russell

Hell no! We’ve already lost our top two pitching prospects to Tommy John this season (Top-100 notables Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon) so Adames is the bluest chip we’ve got. Besides, we already gave you Mikie Mahtook, who I assume is worth 7 WAR now.

Ashley MacLennan

Mikie Mahtook got shipped to the minors, where he continues to struggle, but on the plus side it gave JaCoby Jones a shot and he is RUNNING with it.

Brendan McKay, let’s talk about this for a second. In spring training Keith Law said he might actually have better two-way potential than Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani, as we’ve seen, has been tremendous. Do we think the Rays will continue developing McKay as a two-way player right into the majors now that Ohtani has proven it’s possible?

Danny Russell

McKay will absolutely keep developing as a two way player until he can’t do both any longer. The pitching results have been particularly sterling, but he’s also still in Class A ball with three minor league levels left to climb. And it’s still early. He might be good, but it’s one day at a time until he is. Nothing about him is a guarantee right now.

Ashley MacLennan

OK, lightning round for this upcoming series!

Danny Russell

The Tigers have a three man bench due to a six man rotation, why’s that?

Ashley MacLennan

Because they love to live dangerously. Also, that may very shortly change as I predict Daniel Norris is about to be moved to the DL.

Danny Russell

What’s it like having a Machado on your team?

Ashley MacLennan

I mean, he’s a lower grade Machado than some of the other options, but Dixon has been pretty consistent. I think he’ll be around a couple more years while the prospects build up reps in the minors. He also really managed to confuse some folks when the Tigers played the Orioles and the Os lost because of something Machado did, lol.

Danny Russell

Who should the Rays be afraid of on this Tigers team? (Non-Miguel Cabrera Edition)

Ashley MacLennan

Well Miggy might be benched if his biceps keep acting up, so stay tuned, but I’d say the Rays might want to watch out for Matt Boyd on Tuesday, and also for Candelario.

Danny Russell

So there’s a real possibility Miggy won’t play?

Ashley MacLennan

Hard to say. I could see them sitting him today... not sure how serious the injury is.

Danny Russell

Detroit is basically Canada and it’s still April. It’s not snowing today is it?

Ashley MacLennan

One, I am personally offended. Two, no it’s really nice in Detroit right now, and might touch the high 70s for Tues/Weds games, so the Rays should feel right at home if the sunlight doesn’t confuse them.

Danny Russell

The Rays getting confused by sunlight is like the Tigers getting confused by Tigers... no wait they should be confused by real tigers while playing the game.

And maybe run...

Last question: If all of the 2018 Tigers were running from a Tiger which one would get eaten?

Ashley MacLennan

Victor Martinez.

Danny Russell

Ok. In retrospect that was an easy answer.