2020 Fantasy Baseball: Detroit Tigers Team Preview

Full fantasy baseball stat projections for Tigers hitters and pitchers. What to expect from Miguel Cabrera, Matt Boyd and more.
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Detroit Tigers

The Tigers finished more games out of first place (53.3) than they won (47) in 2019. They had the worst record (47-114) in baseball and have had three consecutive losing seasons. Their last postseason appearance came in 2014. Detroit only has 16 playoff appearances in the team’s 119-year history with four World Series titles (1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984).

Last year, they struggled to score runs (582 – 30th) with only 149 home runs (29th) and 556 RBI (30th). Detroit’s batters struck out 1,595 times (major league-high) with only 391 walks (second-lowest total). Detroit ranked 28th in ERA (5.24) with 31 saves.

In the offseason, the Tigers signed 1B C.J. Cron, 2B Jonathan Schoop, and C Austin Romine. Their starting lineup lacks speed while all options would rank below the league average at their positions. Detroit didn’t add one pitcher over the winter. They continue to wait for their young core arms to emerge from the minors.

Vegas posted an over/under of 59.5 wins for the Tigers in 2020. They look miles away from contending while waiting to lose some of their top-end contracts before piecing together a better offense. Detroit wants to develop their pitching from the minors. Once their core or arms look competitive at the major league level, they will address the missing pieces to their offense.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF Victor Reyes

Reyes hit .299 over 2,348 at-bats in the minors with 22 home runs, 314 RBI, and 90 stolen bases over seven seasons. His approach at the plate (strikeout rate - 15.3 and walk rate - 6.5) isn't high enough at this point in his career to offset his low output in power and limited upside in speed. In 2019 at AAA, Reyes did look stronger (10 HRs over 289 at-bats), which led to growth in his contact batting average at AAA (.368) and the majors (.396). After a quiet 83 at-bats (.229 with no HRs, four RBI, and one SB) with the Tigers to start 2019, Reyes turned into a much better player over his final 45 games (.337 with three HRs, 21 RBI, and eight SBs over 193 at-bats). His walk rate (4.8) remained short while his strikeout rate (21.9) hovered around league average.

Trending toward a 10/15 player with expected help in batting average. His size (6’5” and 215 lbs.) does give him a chance to build off his improved power in 2019 (13 HRs over 56 at-bats). Borderline OF5 in deep leagues with an ADP of 376. The Tigers don’t have much on the roster, so Reyes may bat leadoff to start the year.

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2. 2B Jonathan Schoop

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-bats totals. His AVH (1.847) was a career-best while supporting another 30 home run season.

Last year 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 404 as the 41st second baseman. Schoop could be a value pick on the right team structure.

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3. DH Miguel Cabrera

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 season, his AVH (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 against 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 415, which is the 70th corner infield option. His failure was somewhat due to bad knees, and he expressed interest in getting in better shape. Worth a flier as his batting average can still help, and he’s been a stud before.

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4. 1B C.J. Cron

Heading into his seventh year in the majors, Cron has never had over 501 at-bats in a season. His power (55 home runs over 959 at-bats) emerged over the past two seasons with Tampa and Minnesota. He hit .266 over the first half of 2019 with 17 home runs and 54 RBI over 301 at-bats before going down with a right thumb issue in July that required surgery after the season. Even with his injury, Cron produced six home runs and 20 RBI over 84 at-bats in August. In essence, he lost almost two months of playing time.

His bat worked well versus left-handed pitching with 11 HRs and 31 RBI. Even with a negative batting average for the last three years (.248. .253, and .253), Cron did have a league average strikeout rate (21.4) in 2019, with minimal walks (5.8 percent). His HR/FB rate has been about 20.0 in each of his past two seasons (21.4, and 19.5) while being supported by his AVH (1.945 and 1.853). His next step is regaining some of his lost loft (fly-ball rate – 36.3 and 39.0 in his career). I expect the most at-bats of his career, which will lead to 80-plus runs, 35-plus home runs, and 85-plus RBI. His batting average could move to league average. Cron has an ADP of 282 in January.

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5. OF Chrstin Stewart

Stewart had almost identical seasons over the last three years in the minors. In 2016, he hit .255 with 30 home runs and 87 RBI followed up by .256/28/86 and .263/25/80 seasons. Last year, he had his first meaningful opportunity with the Tigers. His strikeout rate (24.8) came in higher than his minor league resume (23.0) and he took a step back in his walk rate (8.2 – 12.5 in the minors). He missed some time with hamstring and concussion injuries.

Stewart didn’t have one month of value with the Tigers. He also failed to provide an against either right-handed (.232) or left-handed (.236) pitchers. The Tigers selected him in the first round of the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .264 with 98 home runs, 297 RBI, and 12 stolen bases in 1,740 at-bats. His defense will limit him to left field. His AVH in the minors points to 35 home runs while having a limited ceiling in batting average. For now, only a waiver wire player with a lot to prove in the majors. 

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READ MORE: 2020 Detroit Tigers Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Matt Boyd

Boyd showed growth in two different areas in 2018 and 2019, but he still finished with a combined 4.48 ERA over 63 starts. Two years ago, he set a career-best in batting average against (.228 – .247 in 2019 and .259 in his career). His improvement last season came via his strikeout rate (11.6 – 8.4 in 2018 and 8.8 in his career). Boyd had his best value over his first 14 starts (3.08 ERA, 15 walks, and 105 Ks over 84.2 innings) while serving up 10 home runs. His season ended with failure in 10 of his final 18 starts, which led to a 5.81 ERA, 133 Ks, and 29 home runs over 100.2 innings.

Boyd continues to pitch up in the strike zone (fly-ball rate – 44.9) with a massive spike in his HR/FB rate (18.2). His AFB (92.5) fell in the range of his previous two seasons. Boyd gained his edge with an explosive slider (.188 BAA with 113 Ks over 250 at-bats). Not one of his other pitches (four-seam – .269 BAA, changeup – .262 BBA, and curveball – .381 BAA) offered an edge. The combination of his high strikeout total (238) and improving walk rate (2.4 – career-low) will draw interest in the fantasy market, but there is more disaster than upside in this arm. Priced as an SP3 (ADP – 165) in the high-stakes market, but I’ll avoid his risk unless he’s traded to a contender.

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SP2 Daniel Norris

Over the last two seasons with the Tigers, Norris went 3-18 with a 4.77 ERA and 176 strikeouts over 188.2 innings. In 2019, his walk rate (2.4) had growth, but his strikeout rate (7.8) came in flat with continued problems with home runs allowed (1.6 per nine). Other than one bad start (six runs and eight baserunners over 5.1 innings), he flashed over his first 11 games (4.18 ERA). Norris allowed two runs or fewer in six of his next 11 starts, but he posted a 5.21 ERA with 11 home runs allowed over 65.2 innings. 

The Tigers decided to limit his inning per start over his final nine contests, which led to some progress (3.33 ERA, .208 BAA, and 27 Ks over 27 innings). Norris pitched exactly three innings in each of those games while serving up five home runs. Most of his failure came against right-handed batters (.279 with 20 HRs over 456 at-bats). Last year, he induced more ground balls (42.6 percent) with disaster in his HR/FB rate (15.7). His AFV (91.1) is weaker than his earlier years in the majors. Both his slider (.211 BAA) and changeup (.225 BAA) showed life, but batters drilled his fastball (four-seam – .310 BAA and sinker - .338 BAA) as well as his curveball (.353 BAA). Over the last seven seasons in the majors, Norris has a 4.36 ERA and 510 Ks over 460.1 innings. 

His only upside season came in 2014 between High A and AAA (12-2 with a 2.53 ERA and 163 Ks over 124.2 innings). His checkered path makes him tough to trust, but there are some signs of progress in 2019. Only a waiver wire dart. 

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CL/RP Joe Jiminez

The first thing that bothers me about Jimenez is his weight issue (270 lbs.) at the age of 24. The second is his issue with home runs allowed (2.0 per nine) in 2019. Over the three seasons in the majors, he has a 5.41 ERA and 177 strikeouts over 141.1 innings. His walk rate (3.5) remains too high, but he did add more value to his strikeout rate (12.4).

In his first opportunity to close over the final two months, Jimenez did pitch better (3.06 ERA and 23 Ks over 17.2 innings). He converted nine-of-10 save opportunities. He struggled against lefties (.262 with five HRs over 103 at-bats) and his AFB (95.5) is trending down, but batters hit just .220 against his four-seamer. Jimenez gains his edge by his plus slider (.186 BAA). In the minors, his arm did offer more value (15-7 with a 1.56 ERA, 241 Ks, and 56 saves over 167.1 innings). Jimenez has an ADP of 220 in the early draft season. Not a layup, but not dead in the either. He has a live arm with more upside in strikeouts if Jimenez gets in better shape and throws more strikes. A floor of 25 saves with a chance to pick up 100-plus strikeouts.

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Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Detroit Tigers Team Outlook

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