Fantasy Baseball: Detroit Tigers Sleepers and Breakouts - Sports Illustrated

Detroit Tigers Fantasy Sleepers and Breakouts

A Detroit Tigers-specific fantasy breakdown of the sleepers and breakouts, including some young pitchers you need to keep an eye on.
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Breakout

SP Casey Mize, DET

Last summer, Mize looked like a lock to make the Tigers’ rotation out of spring training in 2020 after allowing eight runs and 41 hits over his first 75.2 innings in the minors. Over this span, he posted a 0.95 ERA and .159 BAA with 11 walks and 73 strikeouts while winning eight games with no losses.

Mize landed on the injured list in mid-June with a right shoulder issue. When he returned to the mound in July, his stuff lost value (6.61 ERA, .292 BAA, and 1.564 WHIP).

Over his final two seasons at Auburn, Mize went 18-8 with a 2.77 ERA, 25 walks, and 265 strikeouts over 198.1 innings.

Detroit drafted him first overall in 2018. With the Tigers in no position to win this year, they won’t push Mize too hard, but there is no doubt he is on the fast track to the majors.

He has a plus command with electric upside in strikeouts. Mize locates his fastball well in and out the strike zone while offering a top of the line swing and miss split-finger fastball. He’s developing a feel for a cutter while owning an elite slider as well.

In the early draft season, fantasy owners are sleeping at the wheel based on his ADP (540). I expected him to make a 2018 Chris Paddock push in drafts in March while still being a value wherever he falls.

Controlling WHIP wins overall championships, which is Mize’s best asset coming to the majors. His shoulder issue is a slight concern, but no innings cap in 2020 does open the window for him to start the year in the majors in July. The minor league systems won’t have the right structure this season, which gives Mize an even better chance of spending the whole summer in Detroit.

Deep Sleeper

SP Tarik Skubal, DET

Skubal can’t match the pedigree of the top two arms in the Tigers system in draft value, but he finished with a better year in 2019 (2.42 ERA and 179 Ks over 122.2 innings).

His rise to stardom came via growth in his command (walk rate – 2.7) and an electric strikeout rate (13.1).

In his final year in college, he walked 6.3 batters per nine, pushing him to the ninth round in the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft.

His fastball has a high 90s upside while working with a slider/curveball combination of breaking pitches. Skubal needs to develop his changeup while also proving he can repeat his command at the higher levels of the minors. His next stop should be AAA with a viable ticket to the majors if he builds on his 2019 success.

Sleeper

SP Matt Manning, DET

The Tigers drafted Manning with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 June MLB Amateur Draft. His stuff has progressively gotten better with each year of experience in the minors.

In 2019, he made 24 starts at AA, which led to an 11-5 record with a 2.56 ERA and 148 strikeouts over 133.2 innings. Manning finished the best walk rate (2.6) of his career, but his strikeout rate (10.0) came in lower than his career average.

Over four seasons in the minors, he has a 3.04 ERA and 410 strikeouts over 331.2 innings. Manning brings to the table a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball. His changeup should develop into a winning piece of his arsenal in the majors.

With 133.2 innings under his belt last year, Manning looked poised to reach the majors by June. His recent ADP (591) puts him in the free-agent pool in all waiver wire leagues in 2020. He’s a must-follow as he could be on a similar path as Mize this year. Manning offers buy and hold upside.

Value

1B Miguel Cabrera, DET

It’s almost sad writing about Cabrera after his disappointing last three seasons (.270 with 31 HRs and 141 RBI over 1,096 at-bats). In 2004, I was fortunate enough to draft him in the sixth round of my first high-stakes draft. He helped lead me to a league title after batting .294 with 33 home runs and 112 RBI.

Last year his average hit rate (1.410) continued to plunge downward with leadoff batter feel. His run rate (22) turned into a high liability due to a weaker supporting cast and slower wheels.

Cabrera now has a league-average approach (strikeout rate – 19.7 and walk rate – 8.7), but he did produce a respectable RBI rate (16).

His bat still had some life in batting average vs. lefties (.340 with four HRs and 20 RBI over 97 at-bats). Despite empty power numbers (12 HRs) in 2019, his hard-hit rate (44.7) ranked 66th in baseball.

Realistically, his HR/FB rate has been under his career average (18.3) in five of his last six seasons (14.0, 15.8, 13.4, 13.6, and 9.7).

Cabrera needs 185 hits to reach 3,000 and 23 home runs to reach 500. This draft season Cabrera has an ADP of 419, which is the 63rd corner infield option. His failure was somewhat due to bad knees, Cabrera came into spring training in much better shape, lighting a flicker in his draft value candle. Worth a flier as his batting average can still help and he’s been a stud before.

Comeback

2B Jonathan Schoop, DET

Over the last year or so, Schoop found himself in some messy situations to earn every day at-bats with the Brewers and the Twins. Despite his regression in playing time, he maintained his power for the fourth straight season when considering his at-bat totals.

His average hit rate (1.847) was a career-best while supporting another 30-home run season. In 2019, he had a rebound in his contact batting average (.350), but his batting average (.256) still came in as a liability partly due to his rising strikeout rate (25.0 – 23.0 in his career).

Schoop doesn’t take many walks (4.3 percent), which suggests a fifth or sixth place hitter in most lineups.

He played the best against left-handed pitching (.277 with nine HRs and 23 RBI over 112 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (19.7) was a career-high.

If a fantasy owner solves batting average and speed early in a draft, Schoop should work well as a power-hitting middle infielder. An outside chance at a neutral batting average with 80 runs, 30 home runs, and 80 RBI while coming off the board at pick 333 as the 29th second base option makes him a value for the right team structure.

His opportunity with the Tigers should lead to everyday at-bats while hitting in a favorable part of the batting order.

READ MORE: 2020 Detroit Tigers Team Preview