Is anyone else tired of the Tigers? I know I am. It’s not so much because of their knack for eliminating the Yankees from the playoffs (like in 2011 and 2012), but mostly because they seem unable to actually win the big game. They’re like Braves were in the 90s, although at least the Braves won one title. At some point, no matter how many playoffs you make, you have to win the World Series or you become a joke. Is this the year for Detroit? I hope not, but let’s see what kind of a chance they have.
The Tigers lost three significant members of their infield this past off-season. Omar Infante (Royals) and Jhonny Peralta (Cardinals) left via free agency, and Prince Fielder was traded to the Rangers. Fortunately, for Detroit, they already know who will be replacing all three of these guys. Last July, they swung a trade with the Red Sox that netted them Cuban Shortstop Jose Iglesias. He played mostly third base in Boston, but he’s an elite defender at short and was supposed to slide over to replace Peralta. However, stress fractures in both legs might keep him out for all of 2014, so it will be interesting to see what kind of trade or signing they’ll swing. Stephen Drew anyone?
When they traded Fielder, they got back Ian Kinsler, who will replace Infante at 2B. Kinsler, who recently said he hopes the Rangers go 0-162 and had some very unkind words to say about GM Jon Danielsa, has a very intriguing power and speed combination at second, and should step nicely into this lineup. He led off in Texas, but should get a chance to hit with some more guys on base in Detroit, which could be good for everybody. Fielder’s departure opened up 1B for Miguel Cabrera, and the big Venezuelan will slide over to replace the Prince himself. This is going to open up 3B for prized prospect, 21-year-old Nick Castellanos, who was fairly impressive in a cup of coffee last season.
The Outfield was set look mostly the same as it did last year, With Andy Dirks in left, Austin Jackson in center and Old Man Torii Hunter in right. However, newcomer Rajai Davis will probably spend a lot of time in the outfield now that Dirks had back surgery and will be out for three months. Victor Martinez is technically the backup catcher to Alex Avila, but I’ll be pretty surprised if he sees any extended time behind the dish. He’s been mostly a 1B/DH for years now, and I don’t see that changing. The Tigers should prefer to keep his bat int he lineup and not risk any injury to the slugger. If Avila can bounce back to his 2012 levels, the pressure is off Martinez and everybody wins.
If I told you the Tigers had a pitcher last year that went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and struck out 240 batters in 214.1 innings, would you have guessed it was Justin Verlander? Welp, you’re wrong. It was actually Max Scherzer, who had a monster breakout year at age 28. Verlander actually had a bit of a rough start to his year, but still managed a 3.46 ERA and 217 Ks. The Tigers also had Anibal Sanchez, the league leader in ERA at 2.57 in the same rotation, so they were pretty stacked. Even fifth starter Rick Porcello had a decent year. In a bit of a strange move though, the Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Nationals this offseason. I get why they would trade him, but all they got back was reliever Ian Kroll, Utility Man Steve Lombardozzi and a minor leaguer. It was a bit puzzling. Anywho, Drew Smyly, who worked exclusively out of the bullpen last year and put up a 2.37 ERA, should probably be the guy who replaces Fister, so they’ll be OK.
The bullpen has undergone quite a bit of a makeover, however. Joaquin Benoit (Padres) is gone, as is the aforementioned Smyly (rotation). Jose Veras has departed as well. The Tigers have done plenty to replace those guys, however, signing one of the best closers in the league, Joe Nathan, to a two year deal. They also signed former Yankees idiot Joba Chamberlain, picked up the aforementioned Kroll in that Fister deal and they still have hard throwing Al Albuquerque in the mix as well as Phil Coke and Luke Putkonen. Unfortunately, setup man extraordinaire Bruce Rondon will be missing all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John. Despite all the turnover, the bullpen should still be a strength, unless Nathan’s old body gives out. I don’t see any signs of that happening, though.
Like I said, I don’t like the Tigers. If they’re just gonna lose in the playoffs, they should step aside and let the Indians, or even the Royals, get a shot at the title. There’s no sense in sticking around if you’re just gonna blow it when it matters most. That being said, I fully expect the Tigers to win over 90 games again in 2014, so I don’t know that this will quite be Cleveland’s year yet.
Can’t go wrong with Gonzalez, Ramirez and Puig. Matt Kemp is too good not to be drafted, even with the outfield logjam in Los Angeles. If he goes 40/40 again, no one will even remember who Andre Ethier is. Don’t draft Etiher, by the way. He’s bad at baseball now. On the mound, Kershaw should be the first pitcher taken in everyone’s draft, but leave him to the idiot in your league who takes a pitcher in the first or second round. Wait a few more rounds and pick up Greinke or Ryu. They are must owns as well. Everyone else you can play “wait and see” on, except for Jansen, who is a relief beast.
Featured Image courtesy of: (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
- http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10544839/ian-kinsler-intends-become-elite-second-baseman-detroit-tigers-espn-magazine?src=mobile (back)
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