How bad can a division get? Well, the AL Central is going to try to set the bar, with the Tigers as the whipping boy.
Make no mistake, this team is awful. Say what you want about the Royals or White Sox, but both those teams are at least somewhat fun to watch. The Royals have every fast guy on the planet in their lineup, and the White Sox have two of baseball’s best recent prospects currently in the bigs. The Tigers have none of that.
The only young, exciting guy the Tigers have currently is Jeimer Candelario. Coming over from the Cubs in the Justin Wilson trade, Candelario had 19 homers for the Tigers last year. However, he still had a sub-100 wRC+, didn’t quite get to a .400 slugging percentage, and didn’t have anything close to a gold glove.
here's Jeimer Candelario taking a 102 MPH fastball oppo for a walk-off home run because Major League baseball players are complete freaks and we are lucky to watch them do things every day for eight months every year pic.twitter.com/infPEUE6o9
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) September 8, 2018
Candelario should be able to be fine as a hitter, even if he never breaks out into a star at the plate. However, a league average hitter who’s only real strength is power can’t be a top-two hitter in a competitive major league lineup. Candelario is Detroit’s second-best hitter, and he will more than likely be the best come August, which is not a good sign.
The reason I say that is because Nicholas Castellanos, Detroit’s best hitter, is almost certainly going to be traded. Castellanos blossomed into a borderline star last year for Detroit, slashing .298/.354/.500 with a 130 wRC+. While Castellanos probably won’t repeat those numbers in 2019, he is going to be good enough to get a really nice haul at the deadline.
Hi, my name is Nicholas Castellanos. Back home they call me Big Nick and I hit dingers. pic.twitter.com/xbfpyY3O6E
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) August 21, 2018
Jose Iglesias, Detroit’s second-best player last season, left to take a minor-league deal with the Reds. Iglesias doesn’t deserve a minor-league deal, but it does say something about this team that their second best player last year doesn’t get one of the 1200 major league deals available. Iglesias was replaced with former Pirate Josh Harrison, a worse defender whose ceiling as a hitter is the same as Iglesias’s.
The only logical explanation for this move is if Isaac Paredes, a SS prospect who Al Avila and his staff are very high on, comes up to the bigs this year. However, after only reaching AA last season, that won’t be happening anytime before the dog days of summer.
It’s been a couple of years since we have been able to talk about Miguel Cabrera as a potential impact player, but it’s difficult to project what he’s going to do this year. On one hand, Miggy was really good last year when he was actually out there. On the other hand, he just had major surgery at 35 years old and wasn’t good at all during his last full season. If Cabrera keeps up his form from the first 38 games last year, it might be enough to stop Detroit from being a complete laughingstock, but you can’t bet on that.
Christin Stewart, Detroit’s #6 prospect and #1 hitter, is their last real notable hitter. Stewart has power to all parts of the field and didn’t sacrifice plate discipline at all to gain that power. Stewart had a 138 wRC+ in AAA last year before looking pretty good in a 17 game stint in the majors. He definitely has some kinks to work out, including hitting more line drives than he is right now, but he should have a pretty solid year for Detroit.
Tigers rookie Christin Stewart hit his first career MLB home run. pic.twitter.com/0WZDgBtT07
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 20, 2018
Outside of those guys, there really isn’t much here. JaCoby Jones is decent, Jordy Mercer had a veteran bat you can’t really count out, but I’m not sure where else Detroit is going to get offensive production from. And it isn’t like they can count on their pitchers to win them games either.
I was so high on Michael Fulmer going into last season, riding on that cutter to become an all-star and potential Cy Young candidate. I figured that Chris Bosio, who turned Jake Arrieta and his cutter into baseball’s best pitcher, would work his magic with Fulmer. However, Bosio was fired a couple of months into the season for making a racist comment, and Fulmer didn’t thrive.
Michael Fulmer, 99mph Fastball Movement (isolated). pic.twitter.com/f57KznT4KC
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 1, 2017
Manager Ron Gardenhire brought Rick Anderson, his long-time pitching coach from Minnesota, out of retirement to rejoin his staff in Detroit. I’m excited again for Fulmer, who is already good at not walking batters, to work with a guy in Anderson who is known for teaching up control. That being said, I don’t expect any of these guys to make a massive jump like I expected Fulmer to last year.
Matthew Boyd was good last season for Detroit, but not ace good. He wasn’t even #2 pitcher good, though he was a pleasant surprise. He’s going to be a serviceable pitcher again for the Tigers, but in an ideal world, he wouldn’t be their number two. It’s concerning that he is.
Jordan Zimmerman is meh. That’s about all there is to say about him. Daniel Norris got really unlucky last year, but his actual performance wasn’t that of a good starter. Matt Moore has only had one good season since 2014 (which was 2016) but has had some really good seasons in his career before then. This rotation isn’t good, but it does have the potential to be a coherent unit should everything go right.
Their bullpen, however, is a massive question mark. Joe Jimenez is the one big guy in the pen for Detroit, finishing last season with a 2.91 FIP. His fastball is unquestionably elite. His slider showed flashes of the same last season. However, what if yet to been with Jimenez is whether or not he will be able to control those pitches effectively. If he can’t, it may be a long season for him.
Even if he can, it is going to be a long season for the Tigers. This team simply isn’t good, and it isn’t going to get better. I do like their farm system, and they are going to be really good soon, but that’s not going to be the case in 2016.
In a way, the Tigers are going to look like the actual city of Detroit. Completely broken down, yearning for what used to be.
Record Prediction: 59-103
Team MVP: Jeimer Candelario