The Detroit Tigers were one groin injury away from winning the World Series last year. Miguel Cabrera’s injury couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Even with Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander having down years (Verlander still managed to land Kate Upton, so much respect), they still won the AL Central.
Detroit made some big moves this offseason. They traded Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler and bolstered their bullpen by signing closer Joe Nathan. They’ll miss Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante and Doug Fister, but they are replacing them with above average talent. The impact of losing them shouldn’t hurt them much. The AL Central isn’t a hard division to win this year.
Can Max Scherzer repeat last year’s Cy Young performance if Verlander has another average season?
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Detroit Tigers.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 93-69
Key Additions: 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Rajai Davis, RP Joe Nathan, RP Joba Chamberlain, 2B Stephen Lombardozzi, RP Ian Krol, OF Trevor Crowe & OF Ezequiel Carrera
Key Losses: 1B Prince Fielder, SP Doug Fister, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Omar Infante, C Brayan Pena, RP Jose Valverde, RP Jose Veras, RP Joaquin Benoit, SS Ramon Santiago, OF Matt Tuiasosopo & RP Darin Downs
Interleague Schedule: NL West + Pittsburgh Pirates
Projected Starters: Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos, Steve Lombardozzi, Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter & Victor Martinez
Projected Starting Rotation: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Drew Smyly & Rick Porcello
Closer: Joe Nathan
Fantasy Sleeper: OF Rajai Davis – It’s no secret Davis is one of the best sources of stolen bases in baseball. Detroit’s outfield is a bit crowded, but Andy Dirks injured his back and is expected to miss the first two months of the regular season. I’m not saying to pick Davis in the first few rounds, but if he’s there near the end of the draft, he’s worth it. Even if he loses his starting job when Dirks comes back. Steals is a difficult category to predict, but Davis is a sure thing. Nick Castellanos is another sleeper candidate, but he still needs some seasoning in the Majors for me to put him in this category. He’s a must-own in AL-only leagues, but will most likely go undrafted in standard mixed leagues.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: 3B Nick Castellanos – This section best suits Castellanos right now. He has been one of the Tigers top prospects the last three seasons. Detroit is moving Miguel Cabrera across the diamond to take over first base. Prince Fielder’s trade indirectly opened a spot for Castellanos. The Chicago Cubs spent most of the last two seasons trying to pry him away, but the Tigers held their ground. They are very high on him and has the ability to hit for power and average. I think he needs a few months in the Majors to adjust to better competition. He is a player you should keep an eye on. He could be a player who gets hot in June or July. Most of the Tigers top minor league prospects are middle infielders who are blocked by Kinsler and Iglesias…so you won’t be seeing them any time soon.
Team Analysis: Detroit was arguably the best team in baseball last season. If Miguel Cabrera didn’t suffer a groin injury late in the season, I’m confident that he could have won another Triple Crown and probably won the World Series. It’s amazing the Tigers won as many games as they did in a season in which Justin Verlander didn’t have his best stuff. Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister stepped up and had the best season of their careers. Going into this season, the roster did go through a facelift. They traded Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler, let Jhonny Peralta walk and improved their bullpen by signing Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain. They also traded Fister, but the starting rotation is relatively unchanged. They are just taking former starter Drew Smyly out of the bullpen to fill Fister’s vacant spot in the rotation. The key pieces are still there from last year’s team. I might be in the minority, but I like Ian Kinsler in this lineup more than Prince Fielder. Kinsler is motivated to show Texas made a huge mistake by trading him. He even said that he hopes Texas goes 0-162, which is what you want to hear from a player on your team. Detroit should easily win the AL Central and will once again be a World Series contender. Brad Ausmus has the easiest job of any new manager. It’s hard to mess up a lineup card when your team is as stacked as Detroit.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 89.5 (Prediction: OVER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 95-67 (1st AL Central)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.