2018 finish: 64-98, third in AL Central
SI's 2019 prediction: 66-96, fifth in AL Central
Key additions: 2B Josh Harrison, SS Jordy Mercer, SP Tyson Ross, SP Matt Moore
Key departures: C James McCann, SP Francisco Liriano, SS Jose Iglesias, DH Victor Martinez (retired)
1. 2B Josh Harrison
2. RF Nicholas Castellanos
3. 1B Miguel Cabrera
4. 3B Jeimer Candelario
5. LF Christin Steward
6. DH Niko Goodrum
7. CF Mikie Mahtook
8. SS Jordy Mercer
9. C Grayson Greiner
C John Hicks
INF Gordan Beckham
OF Dustin Peterson
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
LHP Matthew Boyd
RHP Tyson Ross
LHP Matt Moore
RHP Spencer Turnbull
RHP Shane Greene (closer)
RHP Joe Jiménez
RHP Buck Farmer
LHP Daniel Stumpf
RHP Victor Alcantara
LHP Blaine Hardy
RHP Reed Garrett
LHP Daniel Norris
Injured list: OF JaCoby Jones, RHP Michael Fulmer (out for year), RHP Drew VerHagen
Movin On Up! Don’t do this to yourself. This team is bad. Looking for breakout players only sets up expectations that this collection of souls cannot possibly meet. The present is dark here, and the future is hazy. Look to the past. Content yourself with the black ink on Miguel Cabrera’s Baseball-Reference page. Isn’t that nice? But if you tune in then give Jeimer Candelario a look. He endured a nasty slump that drove his average down to .224, but still flashed some surprising power and a promising 41% extra-base hit rate.
Sell! You, if you allow the 2019 Tigers to dictate your happiness in any way. They are going to be abjectly terrible. You know that now, in March. Don’t let them hurt you. Cabrera says he’s back, but it’s hard to think he’ll regain his old form after a horrible 2017 and missing all but 30 games last year.
Appreciate this man! You, the man or woman willing to suffer with the 2019 Tigers. You are the truest sort of fan, a person who can see a lineup containing a person named Grayson Greiner and choose—over literally anything else in the world—to watch that baseball game. If Detroit ever wins the World Series again, you should be on a parade float. Outfielder Nick Castellanos will be a midseason trade candidate, but has compiled a strong 737 games as a Tiger, slashing .274/.323/.459 with 93 career homers and a 111 OPS+.
A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: It should be a rough year in Detroit, with the Tigers in the second year of a rebuild that is expected to take at least four. There aren’t much in the way of players with upside here, but one hurler getting a lot of helium is lefty Matthew Boyd. Boyd, raised his innings pitched total for the third straight season, with a career-low ERA (4.39) and a career-high strikeout total (159). He shifted his pitch mix to emphasize his slider more, throwing it nearly a third of the time, and throwing it more slowly than he had before. The combination is akin to what Patrick Corbin did on his way to a $140-million payday. That kind of end result is a lot to hope for, but a Boyd who takes the ball every fifth day and keeps his ERA around 4.00 will go a long way towards making the Tigers respectable.
MLB.TV Rating: 1.0
They rate this high because they are a baseball team and you, as a person reading this preview, presumably like baseball.
Keep an Eye Out for… Outfielder Christin Stewart slots in as the Tigers’ starting leftfielder thanks to his superb power (23 homers in the minors last season), but his defense needs a lot of work, and he’s got a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. Isaac Paredes marries exceptional contact skills (he whiffed on 22 times in 155 Double A plate appearances last year) with solid defense around the infield, giving him all the tools to be a regular. Daz Cameron, the son of longtime outfielder Mike, was the prize of the Justin Verlander trade who boasts speed, a good glove in center, and an improving bat that make him a good bet to become Detroit’s next star outfielder. Beau Burrows is your stereotypical Texas pitching prospect: built like a bull and featuring a hard and heavy fastball. His future might be in relief, though, because of control issues. Willi Castro came over from Cleveland in exchange for Leonys Martin last year and may be the Tigers’ long-term answer at shortstop thanks to his stellar glove, though he’s shown some nice results at the plate, too.
A rival scout analyzes the 2019 Detroit Tigers.
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
What’s going to happen with Miguel Cabrera? I don’t think he’s going anywhere because his contract is too big. Are they going to move Nick Castellanos? I think he’s up after this year. He’s been successful, so the question will be what they can get back for them. They need to get prospects back for their players. They can’t miss on their acquisitions.”
Who is the most overrated player on the team?
Maybe JaCoby Jones. He’s always gotten a lot of hype, but hasn’t lived up it. He got 430 at bats last year and didn’t do a whole lot. He just hasn’t made any adjustments yet at the plate. He plays defense, but good defenders [who struggle to hit] usually don’t play every day.
Who is the most underrated player on the team?
Niko Goodrum. He does a bit of everything, if he continues to progress he could help you on both sides of the ball. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark, he can steal a base. His tools are there to explode. And next year he could be the guy who’s overrated, in the same breath.
Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?
It’s Casey Mize. He has a 94-97 mph fastball, a pretty good feel to pitch, good life on his fastball and a good slider. He’s a competitor. It depends on what their timetable is, you could see him this year. I doubt it though just because they’re going to lose 100 games, they don’t want to start his clock with all the stuff going on now in baseball. And I can’t blame them. I wouldn’t either. If you’re going to lose 100 games, you might as well lose 100, keep him down in the minor leagues, keep him fresh and keep him learning, going through a routine. Don’t let him go up there every fifth day and get the s--- kicked out of him because he isn’t ready.
Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?
As a hitter, I’d say Cabrera. There aren’t any better. Position-wise, maybe not, but offensively? That kid’s always known what to do, how to do, when to do it, where to do it. He knows what’s coming. He’s just always been a very intelligent offensive player. He knows the zone. Guys like him, Joey Votto, Tony Gwynn used to be that way, they intimidate the umpires because generally, they’re right. They’ve got such a knowledge of the zone, and they have a history of not swinging at bad pitches.”
Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?
Christin Stewart. Cabrera goes about his business and does his normal routine, but Stewart’s one of those guys who wakes you up when he takes BP. If you’re going to take your kid to the game early to go shag some balls or something, just go put him in right and wait until Stewart hits.
Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.
Shane Greene would be one of them for me right now. And if I need an offensive weapon I’d take Castellanos. You can never have enough back end bullpen pieces. And obviously Mize, but he’s not on the club. And they’re not gonna give him up. I don’t know that they’d trade him for anybody, unless it was maybe someone along the lines of Tatís Jr. or Guerrero Jr., a position guy you can play every day. Pitchers are gonna break down, most of them do.
Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?
Miggy. The moment’s never going to be too big for him. He’s been in big moments, he knows how to handle himself, he’s not going to go fishin’. He knows that he’s in driver’s seat, and the guy on the mound has to come to him.
Who don’t you want in that situation?
That’s a tough one because, s---, half these guys don’t have enough experience to put out there in the first place. They’re just throwing out a bunch of names. These guys haven’t been there long enough.
Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?
Maybe Willi Castro. I know they like him a lot. When they got him in a trade from Cleveland he played really well for them. Especially if they make some moves and some positions open up, they’ve got a chance to play him every day.”
Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?
Yeah, I’d take Ron Gardenhire. He’s a stable presence, a communicator who can handle veterans and young guys. I think he’ll be good with this group of young guys.
What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?
This year? They might have the No. 1 overall pick. The next three years depends on what they can get for the guys they trade this year. They need to get some impact pieces back for the three or four guys they may trade. And then, if they hit on their draft picks, three or four years from now, they should be able to become competitive.