Publish date:

4 TIGERS

Author:

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP DETROIT

Poor Ron Gardenhire. He came out of retirement for this? Last year in Detroit was bad, but it's going to get worse. With all the spots up for grabs, it was a tryout camp there this spring.... Miguel Cabrera days as an MVP-caliber guy are long gone, but he's in better shape and is smart enough to be an above-average hitter until his 40s.... Nick Castellanos is one of the few guys in the lineup trending upward—he's got 30 home run, .285 potential.... Jeimer Candelario will get all the at bats he can handle, and he will surprise people. He brings 20-homer potential and some much-needed energy to this team.... Victor Martinez still gives you a quality at bat and finds ways to get on base, but you can't count on getting a full season from him. Beyond that? It's ugly, man.... Michael Fulmer lacks the strikeout upside to make him a topflight pitcher. That's why they need $110 million man Jordan Zimmermann to bounce back from his nightmare season, and I think he will. If he's mechanically off just a bit, his ball gets flat and he elevates in the zone. He can fix that.... It's only a matter of time before Joe Jiménez takes over for Shane Greene as the closer. Jiménez has improved his slider—he's a young guy with promise on a team that doesn't offer a whole lot of that.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

The Tigers' rebuilding process split up the two anchors of the team's mini AL Central dynasty. While Justin Verlander is gone, Miguel Cabrera remains. Cabrera, 34, had the worst season of his career in 2017, batting .249/.329/.399 with 16 homers. Guaranteed $192 million through 2023, the two-time MVP is essentially untradable, so his career is at a crossroads: Albert Pujols one way, Hank Aaron the other. There is reason for hope. Even in a lost year, Cabrera was well above average in exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (33rd of 334 hitters, 95.2 mph), a sign that he still has the bat speed and power to be a star, if not the .330 hitter he was for eight seasons. In what will be a long year for Tigers fans, they should still be able to appreciate one of the greatest righthanded hitters in baseball history.

OVER / UNDER

65

The rebuild is under way, but there are also enough bounce-back candidates—Cabrera, most notably—to believe they can improve on their 64 wins from 2017.

THE LINEUP

1. CENTERFIELD

Leonys Martín

.248 BA/8 HR/24 SB

2. LEFTFIELD

Mikie Mahtook

.255 BA/12 HR/8 SB

3. FIRST BASE

Miguel Cabrera

.286 BA/.497 SLG/24 HR

4. RIGHTFIELD

Nick Castellanos

.279 BA/.489 SLG/24 HR

5. DH

Victor Martinez

.269 BA/.423 SLG/14 HR

6. CATCHER

James McCann

.250 BA/11 HR/2 SB

7. THIRD BASE

Jeimer Candelario

.249 BA/15 HR/1 SB

8. SECOND BASE

Dixon Machado

.260 BA/4 HR/7 SB

9. SHORTSTOP

José Iglesias

.272 BA/5 HR/8 SB

THE STAFF

1. RH STARTER

Michael Fulmer

10 W/4.32 ERA/1.33 WHP

FANTASY BREAKOUT

2. LH STARTER

Daniel Norris

6 W/4.82 ERA/7.6 K9

A 24% K-rate over 10 games in '17 showed his upside.

3. RH STARTER

Jordan Zimmermann

8 W/5.26 ERA/1.41 WHP

4. RH STARTER

Mike Fiers

7 W/5.09 ERA/1.42 WHP

CLOSER

Shane Greene

26 SV/4.02 ERA/9 K9

THE SKIPPER

Ron Gardenhire