After a bad 2015 season (74-87), the Tigers rebounded to play well last year (86-75) while failing to reach the playoffs for the second straight season. Detroit has a winning record in eight of the last 11 years. They finished sixth in the American League in runs scored (750) and HRs (211).
The Tigers lost only a couple of secondary players to free agency – C Jarrod Saltalamacchia and SS Erick Aybar. Detroit added C Alex Avila for catching depth. They traded OF Cameron Maybin to the Angels for SP Victor Alcantara.
Their starting rotation has strength at the front end with potential upside if Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd make a step forward. They struggled in ERA (4.24 – 11th in the AL) with plenty of risk in the bullpen (4.22 ERA – 24th). Detroit had 47 saves, 30 wins, and 20 losses from their relievers in 2016. The Tigers will have the same cast of characters in the bullpen 2017.
The core of the starting lineup looks the same except for the centerfield position. This team’s success will hinge on the production of Miguel Cabrera.
1. 2B Ian Kinsler
After four down seasons, Kinsler regained his power stroke (28) in 2016. Overall, it was his second-best season in the majors. Ian scored over 100 runs for the fifth time in his career with a tremendous run rate (52). His swing continues to produce a high volume of fly balls (44.5 percent) while his HR/FB rate (12.5) rebounded from four straight short seasons (2012 – 7.9, 2013 – 6.7, 2014 – 6.5, and 2015 – 5.0). Kinsler had a career high K rate (16.9) with his third straight year with a below career average walk rate (6.6). The best part of his season came in April (.330), May (.303), and September (.367). Ian was very good against lefties (.309 with seven HRs and 18 RBI) with solid success against RH batters (.281 with 21 HR and 65 RBI in 465 at bats). His success will raise his bar on draft day in 2017 so a Fantasy owner must decide between one hot year or his career path between 2012 and 2015. There’s no doubt Kinsler has talent, but his approach and game do appear to have some fade. My bar is a 15/75/15 player with a neutral batting average. I’m drafting him based on his 2017 expectation rather than his 2016 success.
Martinez had a steady first two and half months of the season (.285 with 12 HRs and 39 RBI) before breaking his right elbow. After six weeks or so on the DL, J.D. played well over the last two months of the season (.332 with 10 HRs and 29 RBI in 208 at bats). He had almost equal success against righties (.307) and lefties (.306). Despite his success in batting average (.307), Martinez still has weakness in his K rate (24.8) with growth in his walk rate (9.5). His HR/FB rate (18.0) has been in a tight area over the last three seasons (2014 – 19.5 and 2015 – 20.8). In 2016, he struggled when batting second in the batting order (.226 with nine HRs and 23 RBI over 133 at bats). The Tigers don’t have a strong option to hit second in 2017. Martinez makes the most sense due to his rising walk rate. His swing should produce 30+ HRs with solid production in runs and RBI. His strength in batting average is helped by a huge CTBA (.425) since moving to Detroit (2014 - .441 and 2015 - .402).
3. 1B Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera moved to within three seasons of reaching 3000 hits for his career. He needs 481 hits to hit that milestone. Miguel has over 100 RBI in 11 of the last 12 seasons with eight years with over a .300 batting average. His downtick in runs (92) was due to some weakness behind in the batting order. His K rate (17.1) and walk rate (11.1) came in line with his career average. Cabrera had his best success in September (.349 with 10 HRs and 27 RBI) while hitting over .300 in three other months (May - .333, July - .314, and August - .333). He had success against both RH (.321 with 29 HRs and 87 RBI over 446 at bats) and LH (.302 with nine HRs and 21 RBI over 149 at bats). His HR/FB rate (22.1) returned to favorable area after two down seasons (2014 – 14.0 and 2014 – 15.8). Rock solid foundation to a Fantasy team with an edge in batting average, power, and RBI.
4. DH Victor Martinez
One of the best opportunities in the game is hitting behind Miguel Cabrera. Twice over the last three seasons Victor delivered solid value in HRs (32 and 27). His K rate (14.8) was a career high while remaining in a desirable area. Martinez took fewer walks (8.2 percent – 9.2 in his career). His best success came over the first three months of the year (.322 with 14 HRs and 43 RBI). His production just about repeated over the second half of the year (13 HRs and 43 RBI) with fade in his batting average (.257). Victor doubled his HR/FB rate (14.8) from the previous season (7.2) for the second time in four seasons. Solid major league hitter who still has game at the age of 38. His baseline should be a 20/80 skill set with an edge in batting average.
5. Justin Upton
There was a whole lot of empty in Upton’s stat line over the first two months of 2016 (.217 with three HRs and 11 RBI) while striking out 72 times in 197 plate appearances (36.5 K rate). Justin could have been found on the waiver wire in early June in many shallow leagues. Over the last four months of the seasons, he hit 28 HRs with 76 RBI highlighted by a huge September (.292 with 13 HR and 28 RBI). At the end of the year, he had a 28.5 percent K rate. This was his highest rate since 2008 (29.0). His walk rate (8.0) came in below his career average (10.1). Upton has become more of a fly ball hitter (43.0 in 2016) over the last three years while his HR/FB rate (18.3) has been on the top of his range in three of his last four years (17.9 in 2013 and 2014). Justin struggled against both RH (.249 with 23 HRs and 59 RBI over 409 at bats) and LH (.236 with eight HRs and 28 RBI over 161 at bats). A solid source of power with his batting average having risk due to his rising K rate. A fresh start should do him good.
6. 3B Nick Castellanos
There was clear growth in Castellanos’ skill set in 2016. His CTBA (.390) made a nice step forward with a rising AVH (1.744). His K rate (24.8) remains below the league average (20.4) with a short walk rate (6.3). Nick had a high level of success against righties (.315 with 13 HRs and 45 RBI over 295) with plenty of work to do vs. LH pitching (.207 with five HRs and 13 RBI over 116 at bats). Over the first three months of year, he hit .301 with 14 HRs and 42 RBI. Castellanos was hit by a pitch in early August leading to minimal at bats (23) or success (.174 with one RBI) over the last two months of the season. He’s turned into a FB hitter (43.0 – career high) with two straight seasons of improvement in his HR/FB rate (13.7). Nick was on the verge of a 25/85 season with a positive batting average. I’d like to see a low K rate to give him a higher floor in batting average. Getting closer to being a solid Fantasy asset. His runs will be short until he hits in a higher slot in the batting order. Next step: 30 HRs with 90+ RBI.
7. C James McCann
James suffered an ankle injury four games into the 2016 seasons leading to three weeks on the DL. He struggled in May (.154 with one HR and seven RBI over 65 at bats). Over the next three months, McCann had 10 HRs and 33 RBI over 188 at bats while coming up short in batting average (.245). His K rate (29.2) was much weaker than expected based on 2015 (21.2) and his minor-league resume (18.6). James struggled against RH pitching (.201) with his power coming vs. lefties (.258 with nine HRs and 26 RBI over 120 at bats). Over five years in the majors, he hit .263 with 18 HRs, 156 RBI, and 17 SBs over 1308 at bats. McCann doesn’t have the bat to be a full-time starter in the majors. Possible double digit HRs with a correction in his batting average with a better approach at the plate.
8. OF Tyler Collins
By default in mid-January, Collins will be slated to start in centerfield for the Tigers in 2017. Tyler struggled in limited at bats (two-for-20) in April before being shipped back to AAA after flipping the bird to fan. Over the second half of the season, Detroit gave him 116 at bats leading to a .258 batting average with four HRs and 14 RBI. Over six years in the minors, Collins hit .260 with 63 HRs, 289 RBI, and 55 SBs over 2020 at bats. His K rate (18.8) was reasonable in the minors with an above average walk rate (9.3). Tough to expect him to win a starting job when he’s spent part of the last three years at AAA (.246 with 27 HRs, 112 RBI, and 25 SBs in 915 at bats).
9. SS Jose Iglesias
Iglesias remains a low value bat in the majors. His CTBA (.285) was more than 50 percentage points lower than 2015 (.336), which kills his upside in batting average. In addition, his Judy-like AVH (1.319) crushes any chance of offering value in power. Jose is tough to strikeout (9.8 percent) with a short walk rate (5.5). In April, August, and September, he hit only .255 with no HRs and seven RBI. His swing produces a high volume of ground balls (51.4 – 54.6 in his career) with a tiny HR/FB rate (3.4). No real Fantasy value in any format.
OF Anthony Gose
Gose hit his way out of the majors in 2016 (.209 with two HRs and seven RBI over 91 at bats). His K rate (37.6) was out of control while jumping by more than 10 percentage points in one year. His failure led a double downgrade to AA. Over 340 at bats in the minors, Anthony hit .203 with seven HRs, 40 RBI, and 17 SBs. In five years in the majors, he hit .240 with 12 HRs, 69 RBI, and 57 SBs over 1128 at bats. In the mix for playing time in center, but he needs to make better contact.
Stewart had a massive season in 2016 (.255 with 30 HRs and 87 RBI). His K rate (24.2) invites risk while showing a middle of the batting order approach (15.9 walk rate). The Tigers selected Christin in the first round in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. Over one and half seasons in the minors, he hit .266 with 40 HRs, 131 RBI, and eight SBs over 699 at bats. Stewart should start the year in AA with a quick promotion expected to AAA. His defense will limit him to left field.
C Alex Avila – A hamstring injury limited Avila to 169 at bats in the majors in 2016. He had a massive K rate (37.3) with a continued fade over the last four seasons. Alex will take a ton of walks (18.2 percent). Over eight years in the majors, he hit .240 with 73 HRs and 293 RBI over 2253 RBI. Possible C2 with double digit power and plenty of batting average risk.
IF Andrew Romine – Over the last three years with Detroit, Romine hit .238 with six HRs, 43 RBI, and 30 SBs over 609 at bats. Low-value reserve player with job loss risk and his best asset with be base stealing.
OF JaCoby Jones – The Tigers gave Jones a late season call up leading to six hits in 28 at bats with two RBI. He struck out 12 times, which gives him plenty of risk early in his career. Over four years in the minors, JaCoby hit .269 with 47 HRs, 203 RBI, and 58 SBs over 1400 at bats. He has a 20/80/20 skill set with more growth needed in his K rate (27.3 in the minors). He has a half season of experience at AAA on his resume (.243 with three HRs, 23 RBI, and 11 SBs over 292 at bats) with 57 games played in centerfield. Former shortstop prospect who has a chance to be in the mix in CF in 2017.
OF Steven Moya – Last June Moya flashed his upside when he hit .324 with four HRs and six RBI over 34 at bats. Unfortunately, he struck out 38 times in 94 at bats in the majors (38 percent K rate). Over eight years in the minors, Steven hit .254 with 120 HRs, 438 RBI, and 40 SBs over 2934 at bats. Moya has a huge K rate (28.8) with a short walk rate (5.0) in his minor-league career. Free swinger who needs to improve his approach in the majors to win a starting job.
1. SP Justin Verlander
Verlander regained his elite form after an injury season in 2015 and a poor showing in 2014 (4.54 ERA). His K rate (10.0) was his second-highest rate of his career with solid success in his walk rate (2.3). Justin had a much stronger fastball (94.3) than his previous two years (2014 – 93.3 and 2015 – 93.4) with batters only hitting .230 against it. Both his slider (.169 BAA) and curveball (.165 BAA) were edge pitches. He dominated lefties (.188) with a high level of success vs. RH batters (.225). As impressive as his final stats look, Verlander did struggle over his first 16 starts (4.30 ERA). His arm was electric over the last three months of the season (2.27 ERA with 147 Ks over 123 innings). Some of his struggles in 2016 were due to the Tigers pushing him late in games. His ERA was 4.66 after the 6th inning. Last year Justin pitched more up in the strike zone leading a career high fly ball rate (47.7 – 40.7 in his career) and fade in his HR/FB rate (10.9 – career high). His second half in 2016 drew plenty of interest from Fantasy owners giving him a top 10 ranking in 2017. Special arm with he’s on top of his game. Possible sub 3.00 ERA with 225+ Ks.
2. SP Michael Fulmer
Fulmer looked to be a year away from the majors after pitching great at AA (10-4 with 2.53 ERA and 124 Ks in 136 innings) in 2015. He struggled in three starts at AAA in 2016 (4.11 ERA) while flashing upside in Ks (20 in 15.1 innings). In the majors, Michael struggled over his first three starts in May (7.53 ERA and 2.10 WHIP). About this time of the year, Fulmer developed an edge changeup (.167 BAA). In his minor-league career, he was primarily a two-pitch pitcher (fastball/slider). The third pitch added to his arsenal allowed his arm to make a huge step forward. Over his next ten starts, Fulmer had a 0.83 ERA with 55 Ks over 65.1 innings. He did have some fade after the All-Star break (3.94 ERA with 60 Ks over 82.1 innings) even growth in his command (1.6). His K rate (6.6) did regress over this period. Michael had the most success vs. lefties (.222). His AFB (95.8) offers upside while batters struggled to hit his slider (.197 BAA) as well. Over six years in the minors, Fulmer had a 3.31 ERA with 385 Ks over 398 innings. He’s never thrown a pitch at AAA in his career. Ace upside with more K ability with more experience in the majors. He should be in line for 15+ wins with 175 Ks and a sub 3.25 ERA.
3. SP Jordan Zimmermann
Jordan had his worst season of his career in the majors (4.87 ERA) with a sharp decline in his K rate (5.6). Over his first ten starts of 2016, Zimmermann pitched at a high level (2.58 ERA with 46 Ks over 66.1 innings). He struggled in four of his next five starts (23 runs and 43 base runners over 29.1 innings) leading to trip to the DL with a neck injury. After a disaster start (six runs and eight baserunners over 1.2 innings) in his return to the majors on August 4th, Jordan was back on the DL with a back issue. His AFB (92.6) was below his best success from 2012 to 2014 (94.6). His slider (.239 BAA) and curveball (.185 BAA) still offer an edge while batters drilled his four-seam fastball (.339 with a .604 SLG). Zimmermann didn’t have surgery to correct his neck injury, but he’s been taking injections in the offseason to improve the issue hopefully. Over eight years in the majors, Jordan has 79-57 record with a 3.45 ERA and 969 Ks in 1199.1 innings. His best asset is his command (1.9 walk rate in his career). His resume is strong enough where a bounce-back season should be expected. Neck injuries are tricky, so I would pay close attention to his velocity this spring and his injury status.
4. SP Anibal Sanchez
Sanchez regressed in each of his last three years as his pitches have had a lot less value in the strike zone. His K rate (7.9) and walk rate (3.1) fell in line with his career average, but his command is trending backward after peaking in 2014 (2.1 walks per nine). RH batters (.310 with a .541 SLG) crushed him. Anibal had an ERA over 4.00 in every month with his back start in April (6.08 ERA) and May (7.09 ERA) tied to a huge failure in his walk rate (4.6). Over his last 11 games of the season, he has allowed 12 HRs over 58.2 innings. His AFB (91.8) fell for the third straight season (2013 – 94.2, 2014 – 93.0, and 2015 – 92.4). Batters hit .310 vs. his four-seam fastball with failure in HRs coming from each pitch (sinker – 7, changeup – 4, slider – 6, curveball – 4, and cutter – 2). Fading arm with a ton of downside risk. With no injury news, a Fantasy owner can’t find a reason to believe in a bounce back season. Over the last two seasons, Sanchez allowed 59 HRs over 310.1 innings (1.7 per nine).
5. SP Daniel Norris
Norris started the 2016 season on the DL with a lower back injury leading to only one appearance (no runs in one inning) in the majors over the first 11 weeks of the seasons. Daniel threw the ball well in his first two starts with the Tigers at the end of June (4.50 ERA with 13 Ks in 10 innings). He suffered an oblique injury in his next outing, which led to another five weeks on the DL. Over the last two months of the season. Norris had a 3.04 ERA with 55 Ks over 56.1 innings. His K rate (9.2) was well above his early major league resume (7.9) while being just short of his minor-league career (9.8). His walk rate (3.7) has been short in his minors with improvement with Detroit (2.9) in 2016. He pitched well against lefties (.214) with plenty of work against RH batters (.290). His AFB (93.9) showed more life last September (94.7). Norris had success with his secondary pitches in the majors (slider - .228 BAA, changeup - .228, and curveball - .180) with risk coming from his command of his four-seam fastball (.270 with 13 HRs in 248 at bats). His minor-league resume (4.17 ERA with 475 Ks over 43.1 innings) isn’t pretty, but he pitched well at three levels in 2014 (12-2 with a 2.53 ERA with 163 Ks over 124.1). Upside arm which is getting closer to being major league relevant.
SP Matt Boyd
Boyd has been unimpressive over his two seasons in the majors (7-11 with a 5.64 ERA and 125 Ks in 154.2 innings). In between the cracks, Matt did flash upside over ten outings in July and August (5-0 with a 2.55 ERA and 46 Ks over 49.1 innings). Unfortunately, he gave away all of his gains in September (14 runs, 27 baserunners, and four HRs over 18.2 innings) while showing failure as well in May (8.24 ERA). Boyd held serve against lefties (.172) while needing a huge step forward against RH batters (.276 with 15 HRs allowed over 312 at bats). His AFB (92.0) came in below the league average. Matt showed he can get major batters out with his changeup (.222 BAA) and slider (.167 BAA). He struggled with his sinker (.321 BAA) and curveball (.300 BAA). Boyd has winning league resume (2.44 ERA with 335 Ks over 336 innings). This lefty will fly well below a starting lineup for many Fantasy owners. His arm looks close, but Boyd needs to do a much better job keeping the ball in the ballpark (2.0 HRs per nine in the major). Backend flier with a Fantasy owner needing a short leash if he struggles out of the gate.
Over a year and a half in the minors, Tyler has a 2.13 ERA with 138 Ks over 173.1 innings. Tyler has plus command (1.3 walk rate) with minimal upside in Ks (7.2 per nine). Alexander has a low 90s fastball with some work to do with his secondary pitches. Tyler has six starts at AA (3.15 ERA), which means he’ll most likely start the year at the same level in 2017. Possible quick mover, but Alexander doesn’t look like an impact arm.
For the fifth time in his career, Rodriguez saved over 40 games. His stuff lost value in 2016 leading to a rising walk rate (3.2) and sliding K rate (8.0). Francisco had success against RH (.225) and LH (.204) batters. He struggled in April (5.19 ERA) and September (5.23 ERA) while pitching at a high level over the other four months (2.29 ERA with 35 Ks over 39.1 innings). His AFB (90.1) was career low with fading value for the fourth straight season. Batters struggle to hit his changeup (.158 BAA), curveball (.118 BAA), and four-seam fastball (.225 BAA). His failure is tied to his sinker (.417 BAA). Veteran closer with 430 career saves. Tends to do more with less, but he could off road at any moment.
RP Bruce Rondon
Rondon started the year on the DL with a hamstring injury leading to him earning his stripes in the minors. Bruce revamped his throwing motion at AAA while getting in better shape. He threw the ball well in June (1.29 with seven Ks over seven innings) after being recalled to the majors. Batters banged him around pretty good in July (seven runs, 11 baserunners, and three HRs over eight innings). His arm made a nice step forward over the last two months of the seasons (1.69 ERA with 26 Ks over 21.1 innings). He dominated lefties (.159) while offering edge against RH batters (.207). His AFB (98.0) has triple-digit upside. Batter struggled to hit his slider (.118 BAA) and four-seam fastball (.211 BAA). Over eight seasons in the minors, Rondon has a 2.73 ERA with 297 Ks in 260 innings. His slow path for success in the majors has been his command (5.1 walks per nine in the minors – 3.0 in 2016 with Detroit). Flamethrower with closing upside once he figured out how to throw more strikes.
RP Alex Wilson
Over the last two seasons with the Tigers, Alex has a 2.58 with 87 Ks in 143.0 innings. His command (2.6 walk rate) took a step back in 2016 (1.4 in 2015) while continuing to offer no upside in Ks (6.0 per nine). Wilson has risk vs. RH batters (.261) while failing in walks against lefties (13 over 113 at bats). He pitched well in April (6.1 shutout innings with no walks and eight Ks) before falling on his face in May (12 runs and 26 base runners over 13.1 innings). Alex regained his form over the next two months (1.13 ERA with only 12 Ks in 24 innings). His AFB (92.7) was below his previous success (93.5). Wilson has one pitch of value (sinker - .177 BAA) with batters drilling his four-seam fastball (.313 BAA). No chance of closing with minimal upside.
Kansas City Royals
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