If spring training is any preview of the actual season -- it always is, right?? --the Tigers will like how things look in 2023.
Because right now, their best hitters are those they're counting on for the next decade.
Riley Greene leads the team in hits, followed by Spencer Torkelson. Followed by Nick Maton, Kerry Carpenter and Ryan Kreidler. Maton is tied for the team lead in homers, with 'the story of camp' Parker Meadows. Maton is also tied for the team lead in runs, with the speedy Akil Baddoo. Greene is tied for the team lead in RBI, with prospect Andre Lipcius.
And while this is partly the product of facing spring training pitching, it's not the product of simply playing a bunch of games. Greene, who looks poised for a breakout year, has a .997 OPS. Torkelson, who looks poised for a bounce-back year, is 'crushing the ball' almost every time he steps to the plate. Maton, who looks like the Tigers' Opening Day third baseman, has a .968 OPS.
All three of them could afford to walk more and strike out less. What young hitter couldn't? And yes, spring training stats are often deceiving. But the Tigers have to like what their eyes are telling them. If they look at up at the end of this season and see Greene and Torkelson leading the team in hits, Maton and perhaps Austin Meadows leading the team in homers and players like Carpenter and Baddoo pitching in, it will be hard not to consider 2023 a success.
The games begin for real next week. We'll see what all these feel-good signs mean then. And there isn't a story to be written about the Tigers' offense this season that doesn't include Javier Baez, whose spring statistics look more or less like last summer's. A repeat of 2022 for Baez would be a failure for all involved.
But 2023 is once again about the Tigers' youth, namely Torkelson and Greene. It's about reshaping the cub's offensive identity, as Scott Harris likes to say, with players like Maton and, maybe later, Parker Meadows and Justyn-Henry Malloy. It's about leaving all the hollow at-bats of last year behind them. If they find a gem along the way in someone like Carpenter, all the better.
Right now, on March 24, there are reasons for hope, which is all you can hope for in the spring.