Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Detroit Tigers


The Detroit Tigers went from the cellar in 2015 to a step away from the playoffs in 2016.  With a rebound like that, will they continue to climb the ladder in 2017 or fall back to a few rungs?

My 2016 Predictions
1st in AL Central, lose in ALCS
Jordan Zimmermann will win the AL Cy Young.

2016 Results
86-75, 2nd in AL Central
I correctly predicted that 2015 was a one year plunge down the AL Central standings.  What I, and many others, did not predict was the meteoric rise of the Cleveland Indians that kept the Tigers from winning the division.  Without the Indians, I may have had this right on last year.  The one thing I did not get right at all was Jordan Zimmermann.  He started the year off hot, but injuries derailed a promising season.  Who knows, he may have ended up in the Cy Young race.

Additions / Subtractions
In past years, the Tigers have signed marquee free agents like Zimmermann and Justin Upton, or pulled blockbuster trades for guys like David Price and Yoenis Cespedes.  This offseason was bizarrely quiet.  The Tigers return almost the exact same roster as last season.  The one difference is Cameron Maybin moving on to the Angels, and the low level trade for Mikie Mahtook, an outfielder struggling to make the roster for the Rays.

Most Important Hitter
Justin Upton
It was a shock to a lot of people when Justin Upton signed with the Tigers last offseason.  Then, he went on and had a terrible start to 2016.  His numbers ended up respectable, but he needs to have a much stronger year this year for the Tigers to contend.  Upton has always been on the brink of being a superstar, but he has never found himself thought of as one of the game's best.  At 29 years old, he still has a few peak years left, but his window is closing quick.

Most Important Pitcher
Jordan Zimmermann
They brought in Zimmermann last year and paid him like an ace to complement Justin Verlander.  Instead, injuries derailed his season, much like a good portion of his career so far.  With the resurgence of Justin Verlander and emergence of Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann could make this pitching staff great.

Player to Watch
Joe Jimenez
The Tigers do not have a lot of top prospects knocking on the big league door, but one that has a chance to have a huge impact at the big league level is Joe Jimenez.  Francisco Rodriguez has a limited number of bullets left as the closer for the Tigers.  Joe Jimenez appears to be his successor once he is ready.  This could have as early as mid-season 2017.

2017 Prediction
3rd in AL Central
The Tigers are getting old.  Their window is closing quickly.  Miguel Cabrera is 34, Justin Verlander is 34, Ian Kinsler is 35, and Victor Martinez is 38.  With the talent of some other teams in this division, and the age of the Tigers, it is looking like the window for this Tigers team is just about closed.  If it isn't closed, this is possibly the last year they can compete before they make some wholesale changes.

Fearless Prediction
Brad Ausmus will be fired mid-season.
I'll be honest, Brad Ausmus has not been the greatest manager in the world.  At the same time, a roster of stars on the wrong side of 30 with a first time manager is not quite a fair situation.  There was a lot of talk that Ausmus wasn't even going to make it to 2017 in Detroit.  However you want to look at it, the manager is usually blamed for an underachieving team.  Ausmus will not last long.  Look for Lloyd McClendon, the man who should have replaced Jim Leyland in the first place, to fill in as interim manager if Ausmus get the ax.

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