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Motor City Kitties: Detroit Tigers 2017 Preview

Detroit finished the 2016 season with a record of 86-75, ending the season eight games behind the division-winning Cleveland Indians. The Tigers are anchored by superstar Miguel Cabrera at first base and former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on the mound, and the front office has surrounded these two with savvy veterans on both sides of the baseball. This is a team that has been in “win-now” mode for the last few season without reaching their ultimate goal, and that window of opportunity may soon come to an end. This is a make or break year in for the Tigers.

Mike Illitch.jpg

The most significant subtraction to the Tigers’ organization this offseason was the passing of longtime owner, Mike Ilitch. A moment of silence for a special member of the baseball family…

Other Notable Additions & Subtractions

The Tigers started the offseason by trading outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Anaheim Angels in exchange for minor league righty Victor Alcantara. In November the front office announced a reunion with backstop, Alex Avila, who began his career in Detroit before spending last season with the White Sox. This left Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the odd man out, and he signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Tigers also parted ways with shortstop Erick Aybar who signed a contract with the San Diego Padres.

The Tigers concluded their offseason by reaching an agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Mikie Mahtook in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. To clear a roster spot for him, the Tigers designated Anthony Gose for assignment. Mahtook will compete for the starting job in centerfield. The Mahtook trade was the highlight of the Tigers offseason but certainly is not considered a game-changing deal. Overall the Tigers had a stable roster from 2016 that didn’t need much tweaking, and the front office had a fairly quiet offseason as a result.

Ian-Kinsler-2.jpg

Kinsler is a model of consistency at the top of the Tiger’s lineup

Projected Opening Day Lineup

  • Ian Kinsler (2B)
  • Victor Martinez (DH)
  • Miguel Cabrera (1B)
  • JD Martinez (RF)
  • Justin Upton (LF)
  • Nick Castellanos (3B)
  • Tyler Collins (CF)*
  • James McCann (C)
  • Jose Iglesias (SS)

 

 

I've spotted Miggy's weakness - Imgur

Miggy is a beast.

 

Projected Opening Day Rotation & Notable Bullpen Arms

 

  1. Justin Verlander

    2nd best upton

    The best Upton in Detroit wears a bathing suit.

  2. Jordan Zimmermann
  3. Michael Fulmer
  4. Daniel Norris
  5. Matt Boyd*
    • Mike Pelfrey
    • Anibal Sanchez

 

  • Closer – Francisco Rodriguez
  • Setup – Alex Wilson
  • Setup – Justin Wilson
  • Relief – Bruce Rondon
  • Relief – Mark Lowe
  • Relief – Buck Farmer
  • Relief – Shane Green*
    • Joe Jimenez
    • Kyle Ryan
    • Blaine Hardy

*denotes Spring Training position battle

Prospects to Know for 2017

The Tigers farm system has some talent but the high upside prospects remain in the lower levels of the minors with no likelihood of making an impact in 2017. The two names to keep an eye on for this season are Joe Jimenez and JaCoby Jones

JaCoby Jones

Jones is a converted infielder out of LSU that is now playing the outfield. He debuted at the end of last season and played both the outfield and some third base. Offensively, he is an above-average runner with some raw power that hasn’t yet translated into games. The problem is his serious strikeout problem; last season he posted a 30% strikeout rate in Triple-A. He is competing for the center field job in Spring Training but will likely serve as a utility type player. He may not get consistent at-bats every day, but he could offer some cheap steals to owners in daily leagues that can plug him in when he gets a start.

Joe Jimenez

Jimenez is a 22-year-old reliever with a two-pitch mix that offers future closer potential. He has a plus fastball that touches 100 and mixes in a slider that flashes plus. He needs to refine his fastball command which gets away from him at times but he has a deceptive delivery and electric stuff. Jimenez is competing for a spot in the Tigers bullpen this season and could offer some value in holds leagues along with strikeout upside.  But, with options remaining, he will likely spend time in Triple-A to start the year before getting the call.

Key Spring Training Position Battles

Centerfield:

Mikie-Mahtook-Detroit-Tigers.jpg

Mahtook hopes to rejuvenate his career with the Tigers.

  • Mikie Mahtook
  • Tyler Collins
  • JaCoby Jones
  • Anthony Gose

The two front runners for the centerfielder job are Tyler Collins and the newly acquired Mikie Mahtook, and neither option is outstanding as both had below replacement level production last year in their age 26 seasons. This competition has the makings of a platoon as the lefty, Collins, and Mahtook, a righty, will likely split time with a little bit of JaCoby Jones sprinkled in for good measure. The opportunity is there for any of the three to run away with the job if they take off while the others fall behind, but based on their track records that seems like an unlikely outcome.

Fifth Starter:

matt-boyd-mlb-detroit-tigers-kansas-city-royals-590x900

Boyd has all the tools to take the job but needs to put it all together.

  • Matt Boyd
  • Mike Pelfrey
  • Anibal Sanchez

Sanchez has been dismal so far this spring and this is slowly becoming a two-horse race between Boyd and Pelfrey. Boyd is a young, unproven lefty that has been in the league for a few years now but still hasn’t solidified himself in the Tigers rotation, while Pelfrey is the savvy veteran that has been in the league for over ten years with mixed success. Boyd offers the higher upside and Pelfrey the high floor, and both guys are likely to get starts for the Tigers this year.

Bullpen:

  • Shane Greene
  • Joe Jimenez
  • Kyle Ryan
  • Blaine Hardy

With the previous experience he has in their bullpen, it feels like one spot in the middle of this bullpen is Shane Greene’s to lose. Joe Jimenez is knocking on the door but he could use a little more development time in Triple-A. These are the only two that present any sort of fantasy value, and only in holds leagues, as the others are middle relief, mop up type guys.

Final Thoughts

The top of the Tigers roster features a collection of fantasy baseball catalysts that owners have come to rely on. Miggy, Ian Kinsler, and JD Martinez all appear poised to remain premium players at their respective positions, and while Justin Upton and Victor Martinez have regressed from their elite status in recent years, their presence in the Tigers lineup still offers plenty of opportunity for run production. Castellanos is draftable but given the depth at third base, you can find someone better. Finally, I would stay away from Collins, Mahtook, McCann and Iglesias in all but the deepest of leagues.

Verlander is a clear ace that can anchor a pitching staff and Fulmer, coming off his AL Rookie of the Year, isn’t too far behind him. He doesn’t miss enough bats to offer the high strikeout upside but is a steady contributor in the other categories. Zimmermann could go undervalued by owners after the difficult, injury-plagued season he had last year and may be worth a flier later in the draft if he’s still around. My sleeper from this staff though is Daniel Norris. The Tigers may have an innings limit on the twenty-four-year-old lefty in his first full season in the bigs, but he offers high strikeout upside and I see him as one of this year’s breakout pitchers.

This is a crucial season for the Tigers as a franchise. They have the veteran stalwarts needed to pursue a championship run.  But, as they can attest, it takes a lot more than names on paper to make this dream a reality. The 2017 season feels like it’s one last run for this Tigers team that has been together for a few seasons now. If the trade deadline rolls around at the end of July and the Tigers aren’t within reasonable striking distance, we could see the front office make some moves toward rebuilding the franchise for future success and names like JD Martinez and Ian Kinsler may find themselves in new homes.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 5th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #77 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we break down both Central divisions. We will discuss potential lineups, rotations, bullpens, and any minor league potential for each team along with a heavy fantasy spin.

Our guests this week are Hernan Batista, and Jesse Ellison. Jessie is the owner of Ellison Baseball Instruction in S.E. VA. You can visit his organization at ebicamps.com. Hernan is a frequent guest on our shows, and an experienced MLFB league member.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 12th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #78 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we break down both West divisions. We will discuss potential lineups, rotations, bullpens, and any minor league potential for each team along with a heavy fantasy spin.

Our guests this week are Kevin Bzdek and Kevin O’Hara. Kevin Bzdek is one of our newest additions to our baseball writing staff in 2017. His articles publish every Friday morning. Kevin O’Hara is a big dynasty baseball fan and a moderator for the fantasy baseball community on reddit.com.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

Native Mainer. Ski the East. I enjoy dynasty league formats and am partial to Latin American prospects. Currently living in the Dominican Republic.

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