2018 Detroit Tigers Season Preview

The Detroit Tigers enter 2018 in full rebuild mode after getting rid of practically everyone who made them the slightest bit of a threat. They tried to win for a year too long and it killed them.Now starts the ground up process in Detroit but hopefully it goes like the Astros rebuild did. They were rewarded with a great deal of success since they became relevant in 2006 but no ring to show for it. Time to start over and build around building blocks like Michael Fulmer, Jenner Candelairo and Nick Castellanos. They lost 98 games last year while having a 5.20 starter and 5.63 reliever ERA and it could be a few more years trending down before things get good again in the Motor City.

Key Additions:

Mike Fiers, RHP

Leonys Martin, OF

Key Losses:

Ian Kinsler, 2B

Guys at Deadline that they traded for prospects

Why they can win: The Tigers can win because they still have a nice middle of the lineup combo in Nick Castellanos, who is entering his prime, and Miguel Cabrera, who could be trending down but can still produce. Mikie Mahtook was third in the AL in triples and could be a nice leadoff bat and hopefully Jeimer Candelairo can produce like he did in September. On fire. They 2-3 decent starters who can eat innings and maybe tie a half decent rotation together.

Why they can lose: Because they stink. The run of good teams is over in Detroit, at least for now. The guys who produce are on the decline and their young guys don’t seem capable of carrying a major league team yet. They have the worst relief core in the majors and their starting pitching, although they have some big names, could struggle through a full 162. If Miguel Cabrera doesn’t show up it could be a very long year.

Bottom Line: This roster looks a lot like a 100 loss team. No depth really any where on the roster and when you lose Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler, you’re probably going to find yourself in some trouble. The trajectory for them is going straight down at the moment as they don’t have one prospect in the top 40 and good drafts coming will be crucial to them getting back to a contender

Major4 Numbers Game:

Stud: Michael Fulmer, SP

Fulmer is a rare breed for up and coming aces. The 24 year old doesn’t fit the mold of the elite under-25 stars because he doesn’t strike out everyone, nor does he try to. In two seasons he has a below-average 18.6 K%, despite having one of the highest average velo (95.6 MPH). He keeps the ball on the ground (49% GB rate), and in the park (0.71 HR/9). It is unusual to see him in so many trade rumors because of his youth, team control, and ability. You’d think he would be viewed as a future cornerstone. One concern I do have is that he has been outperforming his advanced metrics by a bit. In particular, he doesn’t induce a crazy amount of soft contact, meaning that he has been fairly fortunate in the outcomes of balls put in play.

Sinkhole: Jordan Zimmerman, SP

What an egregious contract for Zimmerman, 5/$110M. He has the same contract as JD Martinez. That is just wild, and that was considered on the low-end of projections for him as he headed to free agency. And in return, he’s provided the Tigers with an ERA >5 and a 14.5% K-rate. Zimmerman is providing horrible ROI. The part is, his contract is heavily back-loaded ($24+ million each of the last 3 years). Last year he provided a deficit in value of -$9.5 million/WAR (fangraphs). It goes to show how dangerous it is to invest heavy contracts in pitching.

Regression Candidate: Miguel Cabrera, 1B

Read what I said about Zimmerman’s contract and insert here. Poor Miggy, the toll of playing 162 games for 10+ years has now caught up with his body. He posted a negative WAR for the first time in his career, struck out more frequently since his second season in the bigs. He also posted a sub-100 wRC+ for the first time in his career (91, fangraphs). The reason we expect him to regress back to (near) career norms is his batter ball profile. He posted a well-above average exit velo (91.0 MPH) and launch angle (13.3), was 7th in the MLB in hard-hit rate (42.5%), and the second-lowest soft-hit rate (9.8) in the majors. From my understanding, he was extremely unlucky when he made contact last year. He had the biggest differential between his xwOBA-wOBA of any player, which tries to remove the luck out of his contact. Hot take: Miggy posts a wRC+ of 120 and has a WAR of over 3. Despite the dearth of talent around him, we get to see classic Cabrera one more time.

Impact Acquisition: Michael Fiers, SP

Fiers has one major problem, the long ball. He had the 5th highest HR/9 rate (1.88, minimum 150 IP). This really hurt his ERA and advanced run average (5.22 and 5.43 FIP, respectively). But he does miss bats (21.8 K%), despite subpar stuff (89 MPH avg. 4-seamer). He is on a very reasonable deal, 1/$6M, and if he provides a decent first half, the Tigers may be able to flip him for a mediocre prospect. This is a pretty standard buy-low move by a rebuilding team who is looking to get some innings.

Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):

Franklin Perez, RHP (41)

Matt Manning, RHP (61)

Alex Faedo, RHP (66)

Beau Burrows, RHP (85)

Why We Love Them: Miguel Cabrera is just the man. He had maybe the best 10 year stretch of any baseball player ever and it’s just a shame that his pace seems to be slowing. Jeimer Candelairo is also a very likable guy and if he shows he can do towards the end of last year all year he will be loved in Detroit. Other than that? Not a ton. Good park, classy logo.

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