Nearly every expert predicted the Detroit Tigers would battle the Royals for the AL Central title last year. The Royals fell off a cliff, but the Tigers still put up a little fight for the division. The Indians ended up running away with it by winning 94 games.
The Tigers missed a Wild Card spot by three games. I blame the back-end of their starting rotation for them missing the postseason. Their bats were alive and even Justin Verlander looked like his old self.
I thought the Tigers would make a few big moves this offseason, but their biggest transaction was trading for a platoon-option centerfielder Mikie Mahtook.
Here is the 2017 MLB season preview for the Detroit Tigers.
2016 Win/Loss Record: 86-75
Key Additions: C Alex Avila, OF Mikie Mahtook, 2B Omar Infante, RP Edward Mujica, SP Daniel Stumpf, OF Matt Murton, OF David Lough, SS Brendan Ryan & RP Mike Zagurski
Key Losses: OF Cameron Maybin, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, INF Mike Aviles & SS Erick Aybar
Interleague Schedule: NL West
Projected Starters: James McCann, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, Justin Upton, Mikie Mahtook, J.D. Martinez & Victor Martinez
Projected Starting Rotation: Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer, Mike Pelfrey & Daniel Norris
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez
Fantasy Sleeper: SP Daniel Norris – Norris didn’t have a very good year last season. He was only so-so in Triple-A, but his numbers in 13 starts in the Majors were much better. He needs to be able to miss bats a little better, but I think he could become a nice streamable pitcher in daily fantasy leagues. I do worry that he allowed 10 homers in only 69 innings last year. If he pitched in a more hitter-friendly park, that number would be more embarrassing. I expect a big leap from Norris and think he’s worth a very late round flyer and he will be a must-own in AL-only leagues.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: OF Christin Stewart – The former 2015 first-round pick hit 30 homers between High-A and Double-A last season. He could develop into a nice power hitter for the Tigers. He needs at least another full season in the minors before thinking about bringing him up. The Tigers don’t have a need for him at the moment since both corner outfielders are entrenched as starters. Keep an eye on Stewart because you could see him at some point late in the 2018 season.
Team Analysis: Detroit wasn’t very consistent last season. Certain players like Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton and Michael Fulmer were, but they had trouble stringing wins together. I blame the uneven talent they had starting games. Verlander and Fulmer had fantastic numbers by the end of the year, but the newly-signed Zimmermann started out hot (0.55 ERA in April), but got remarkably worse as the season went on. He finished with a 4.87 ERA after 18 starts. He will need to be better this season if the Tigers hope to catch the Indians.
Justin Upton had one of his best seasons as a pro in his first year in Detroit. His power stroke came back with 31 homers, but still almost struck out 200 times. I’d like to see him shorten up his swing and make more contact. He has some very good players hitting around him in the lineup.
The Tigers look like a potential World Series team on paper, but there’s something about their bullpen that scares me. They have formidable arms like K-Rod, but the rest are a motley crew. They should have went after a few more established setup men this offseason. I think it will cost them more than a few games this year.
2017 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 83.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2017 Projected Win/Loss Record: 83-79 (2nd in 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.