Detroit Tigers 2016: Position Player Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures

Somewhat recently, Know Hitter looked at the pitchers that are locks, uncertainties, or likely departures ahead of next season.

Now it’s time to look at the hitters, where there are much fewer uncertainties. This doesn’t mean changes won’t come about for Detroit, but most of the offense is expected to stay put.

Locks

James McCann

McCann was extremely impressive as a rookie. The young backstop hit .264, while also committing zero errors in 114 games. He looks like he’ll be in the Motor City for the next decade. He may not have the offensive acumen of Ivan Rodriguez or Alex Avila (before injuries took their toll), but if he can continue to gradually improve upon his .264 batting average, he has a chance to be special. McCann also hit five triples, a pretty spectacular number for a catcher.

Miguel Cabrera

Come on, too easy.

Ian Kinsler

The former Texas Ranger has quickly become one of Detroit’s most indispensable players. He’s provided elite defense (2.9 and 2.5 dWAR in his two seasons in Motown) while at times carrying the team offensively. Kinsler managed to drive in 73 runs despite an early power outage that saw him hit only three home runs through June. You can make the case that with the exception of J.D. Martinez, Kinsler was the Tigers’ MVP last season.

Jose Iglesias

If a guy can do all this (see video below) and hit .296, you’ve got a keeper for the next decade.


Nick Castellanos

At only 23-years-old, Castellanos has already driven in 139 runs in the big leagues. Some prospects don’t even reach the Majors at that age. While a .255 batting average is nothing to write home about, Castellanos showed flashes of brilliance and greatly improved defensively. He also managed to increase his total number of hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and walks. Kid’s got a bright future.

J.D. Martinez

Maybe we’ll call the Tigers’ MVP award race a tie and hand it to both Kinsler and Martinez. For his part, Martinez proved that 2014 was no fluke. The former Houston Astro snagged a spot on the All-Star team in addition to a .282 batting average, 38 home runs and 102 RBI. Like McCann, Iglesias and Castellanos, you can plug him into the Detroit lineup for the better part of the next decade.

Anthony Gose

Gose only hit .254 for the Tigers, but provided solid defense while stealing 23 bases. He platooned with Rajai Davis in center field last year, expect a similar platoon predicament for Gose next season. The speedy outfielder will likely serve as the team’s primary source of speed.

Victor Martinez

V-Mart struggled last year, hitting .245 in 120 games. The designated hitter’s power numbers were down as well with only 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 64 RBI in those contests. With his massive contract, Martinez isn’t going anywhere. Despite the struggles, look for the Tigers’ DH to bounce back next season.

Andrew Romine

Romine seems a solid bet to make the roster thanks to his ability to play around the infield. He also adds a bit of speed (10 stolen bases) off the bench.

Tyler Collins

Even if it’s as a bench bat, Collins has proved he belongs on the team next season. The outfielder hit .266 with a .732 OPS in 60 games. As it stands, he may be the best bench bat the Tigers employ.

Uncertainties

Dixon Machado

Even if Romine makes the team, fellow infielder Machado stands a good chance of making it as well. The middle infielder’s defense has been big-league ready for years, and he showed promise in limited cup of coffee.

Rajai Davis

Davis would certainly make sense as a bench bat/pinch runner, but another team offering more cash and playing time may come calling. Additionally, the Tigers may opt for a different alternative to Gose in center. The fact remains that Davis is still a fit for the club if the stars align. It would shock no one if Davis is once again wearing an Old English “D” in 2016.

Steven Moya

Moya has all kinds of potential thanks to his famous power. He needs to work on his plate discipline however, and may be better suited at Triple-A Toledo for a season before joining the Tigers for good in 2017. If he shows well in the minors, a mid-season call up certainly isn’t out of the question.

Bryan Holaday

Whether Holaday makes the team or not is probably entirely dependent on whether new general manager Al Avila signs another catcher to backup McCann. If no other backstops are brought in, expect Holaday to serve as McCann’s deputy in 2016.

Jefry Marte

Another young player who showed flashes of potential, Marte may find himself in Triple-A. His power would certainly help the Detroit bench, but with Romine able to handle both of the positions that Marte plays, the former Oakland Athletics farm hand could be with Toledo. Still, if Marte tears it up in Spring Training, the Tigers will have a tough decision on their hands.

Likely Departures/ Departures

Alex Avila

Avila’s father/Tigers GM Al Avila has already stated that he doesn’t see resigning Alex “as a priority.” In other words, it appears that the younger Avila has played his final game with Detroit. He’ll likely sign elsewhere in search of more playing time.

Josh Wilson

Wilson was outrighted by the Tigers and elected free agency as opposed to staying in the organization. The infielder hit /316 in a 21 game cameo for the Tigers, driving in five runs in the process.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Texas Rangers 8/21/15

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Chicago Cubs 8/18/15

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The Detroit Tigers Aren’t Out of the Playoff Race Yet

Entering Friday, the Tigers sat an uninspiring 13 games out of the American League Central lead. However, they also began the day only five games back of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second wild card spot.

Why is this important?

Because Miguel Cabrera is back.

The slugger returns from a lengthy disabled-list stint and immediately gives the Tigers a massive shot in the arm (understatement of the century).

Cabrera’s numbers on the season? A .350 batting average, a .456 OBP, a 1.034 OPS (!), 15 home runs, 54 RBI and 32 extra-base-hits.

Yeah, he’s going to help the Tigers.

Detroit opens a three-game set in Houston against the Astros on Friday before facing the Cubs in Chicago before returning home to face Texas. The former Marlin slots in at third in the Tigers’ batting order. His arrival means the red-hot Ian Kinsler (.374 batting average, .979 OPS since the start of July) receives more at-bats in the second spot in the order. It also means less pressure on Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, who slide down the order. At the very least, Cabrera moves everyone but Kinsler down in the lineup, thereby lengthening it considerably.

To put Cabrera’s importance to the team in perspective, his WAR is 4.0. That’s for wins above replacement. Four wins. Add four wins to the Tigers and they would be .500 on the season.

Not only is Cabrera back, but Bruce Rondon is pitching like the pitcher most thought he would become. Rondon owns a 1.80 ERA over his last 11 appearances, striking out 14 batters in ten innings in the process.

Rondon’s resurgence gives the Tigers three dependable, late-inning arms at the end of games. With Rondon, Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy, there less of a need to feel anxious when the Tigers close out games.

Further stats of note on Rondon? His FIP (Fielding independent pitching—basically an ERA that the pitcher can control) is 2.43, lower than every reliever the Tigers have used this season. He’s also allowed only three base-runners (one hit, two walks) over his last six outings. He’s struck out 40% of the batters he’s faced over that span. In terms of his last six outings, Rondon’s opponents are managing a .259 OPS.

If he continues to pitch like that down the stretch in save-situations, the Tigers are going to be tough to beat.

The tricky part of the wild-card situation is that the do have to beat a number of teams (at least in the standings) in order to make it into October. The Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays all sit ahead of Detroit in the wild card race. That’s not to mention the New York Yankees and the Angels, who lead the race. Even with all those teams ahead of them, the Tigers can take solace in the fact that all of them (with the exceptions of Tampa Bay and Texas) have struggled as of late. New York and Baltimore are both 4-6 over their last ten respective games while Anaheim is 5-5. Minnesota is the fastest sinking ship in the harbor with a 3-7 record over the team’s last ten contests.

With Miguel Cabrera back in the fold and the back-end of the Tigers bullpen gaining some much needed consistency, the Tigers aren’t out of the playoff picture yet, not even close. Throw in some uncertainty ahead of the team in the standings and Detroit has the potential to make some noise down the stretch and once again make the postseason.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Houston Astros 8/14/15

Miguel Cabrera is back. Rejoice! Here’s the lineup as the Detroit Tigers take on the Houston Astros and starter Dallas Keuchel.

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Should the Tigers Take a Flier on Garrett Jones?

The New York Yankees recently designated first baseman/corner outfielder/pinch-hitter extraordinaire Garrett Jones for assignment. Should the Tigers take a chance on the one-time Minnesota Twin?

The book on Jones is pretty straight forward. He mashes right-handed pitching (.265 career batting average .473 career slugging percentage and .803 career OPS) and plays first base as well as both corner outfield spots. His defense isn’t anything to write home about, but his offense is what keeps him around.

Detroit could have used him when Miguel Cabrera was out injured, but with Cabrera set to return to the lineup on Friday, the team’s need isn’t as dire. Still, Jones could provide the Tigers with a feared bench bat that has been missing in Detroit for a number of years.

Jones would likely be used in a timeshare with Tyler Collins and Rajai Davis in left field, but mainly as a pinch hitter.

One thing that stood out, among others, during last season’s American League Division Series sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles was the team’s lack of bench depth. After Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez brought the Tigers within a run thanks to back-to-back doubles, the team sent Bryan Holaday, Nick Castellanos and Hernan Perez to the plate. Holaday struck out, Castellanos was walked and Perez promptly grounded into a double play.

With the season on the line, the team sent Hernan Perez to the plate. Hernan Perez! Now, Perez has some potential, but he isn’t with the team any more.

We’ve seen a number of baseball teams (looking at you Kansas City) build deep benches that help them succeed in October. Adding Jones would give Tigers a somewhat deep bench. The team would have their go-to pinch-hitter in Jones, a go-to pinch-runner in Davis, as well as a super utility option in Andrew Romine.

Jefry Marte has hit well for the Tigers while filling in for Cabrera at first (.271 batting average, seven extra-base-hits and seven RBI in 19 games), but if he isn’t playing full-time, you might as well send him to Triple-A Toledo to receive some at-bats and then recall him when rosters expand in a few weeks.

There’s also the fact that Cabrera won’t be completely ready to play full-time when he returns, so Brad Ausmus will have to spell him at first base on occasion. While Jones isn’t a Gold Glove winner at first, he has played 489 games at the position in the big leagues and can be considered a first baseman by trade. The same cannot be said of the Cabrera’s injury replacements Marte (naturally a third baseman), Romine (utility infielder, better suited for the other three infield positions) and Alex Avila (a catcher).

Throw in Jones’ .306 batting average at Comerica Park (also seven extra-base hits and two stolen bases in 11 games) and you have a solid bench option for the Tigers. He’s at least worth a look.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Kansas City Royals 8/12/15

Here’s the Detroit Tigers’ lineup as Daniel Norris takes the mound in Kansas City against the Royals. 

(RELATED: Tigers must stop being patient with the bullpen).

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Detroit Tigers: Predicting the Lineup in 2020

After trading David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes (in that order no less!), the Detroit Tigers are seem to have an eye on the future. The team will still be ultra-aggressive in winning in the short-term, but the trades of the impending free agents signal that the team is at least conscious of building a long-term winner that is more sustainable. Here’s a look at what that future might entail. Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, you’re 2020 Detroit Tigers (as it stands right now anyways…).

  • C: James McCann

Anyone under the impression that James McCann would take time to acclimate have been dead wrong. The catcher has lived up to his reputation defensively—he leads all catchers in fielding percentage (0 errors) while grading out well in defensive metrics. McCann also has thrown out 45% of would-be base stealers. The 25-year-old is hitting .282 with 22 extra-base-hits and owns a 1.3 WAR as a rookie. The Tigers seem set behind the plate for the next decade.

1B: Miguel Cabrera

By this point, Miguel Cabrera will be one of the game’s greatest all-time players. He isn’t going anywhere, regardless of his salary.

2B: Dixon Machado/ JaCoby Jones

Here’s where it gets interesting. Ian Kinsler will be 38 by this point, and the Tigers have two excellent converted shortstops ready to take the reins. Machado is currently at Triple-A, and is a plus-plus defender while Jones is at Double-A and has tantalizing potential.

Machado has already earned a cup of coffee with the Tigers this season and with a .267 batting average in the high-minors, there’s hope that he’ll offensive potential to go along with his excellent defense.

While further down the minor-league ladder, Jones possess just as much potential as Machado—if not more. The former third-round pick has raw power to go along with elite athleticism and plus-plus capabilities on defense that allow him to play most positions. This will obviously be the case with Jose Iglesias entrenched at shortstop, so expect Jones to be in the Tigers lineup come 2020, if not much, much sooner. The prospect is off to a strong start in Double-A after hitting three home runs in one game soon after arriving from Pittsburgh.  

SS: Jose Iglesias

When a 25-year-old shortstop can do this

And this

Then you’ve clearly found a keeper. Throw in the fact that Iglesias is hitting .318 this year (and in the process earning his first All-Star nod) and you might just see him in a Tigers uniform in 2025, let alone 2020.

3B: Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos is finally starting to become the hitter everyone thought he would be.

While his .237 batting average this season is far from encouraging, his recent numbers are. The third baseman is hitting .276 with seven home runs, 24 RBI and an .846 OPS since June 23rd.

Castellanos still has work to do in terms of reaching full potential, but the fact that he has almost surpassed his home run and RBI totals from last season is an extremely good sign moving forward. It seems like he’s been around for ages, but Castellanos is still only 23-years-old. When he reaches his prime, he should be a more-than-competent middle-of-the-order bat.

LF: Anthony Gose/ Christian Stewart/ JaCoby Jones

Again, another tough decision. Gose will only be 29 in 2020, so he’ll likely still be with the team if he performs well. But, by that time he’ll likely have shifted to left in order to accommodate top prospect Derek Hill.

Stewart is one of the team’s better outfield prospects. He may not be on Gose’s level defensively, but it seems that his offense will be his meal ticket in the bigs. Jones’ potential won’t be recounted again, but put it this way—he can be a plus defender in the outfield as well as the infield.

CF: Derek Hill

Hill isn’t going to be a power-hitting player in The Show, but he’s got plenty of speed to help him reach the bigs and stay there. Hill has what scouts would call “plus” speed. The prospect also possesses good plate discipline. He’ll be a dangerous leadoff-type hitter for the Tigers for years to come—not to mention a strong defensive centerfielder.

RF: J.D. Martinez

Maybe the biggest lock here not named Miguel, J.D. Martinez isn’t leaving Detroit any time. Right now its probably a safe bet to assume he’ll be with the team until he retires. The Tigers will need protection for Cabrera once Victor Martinez retires/departs, and they already have that in J.D.

Fun fact: J.D. Martinez has homered in three consecutive games three different times this season.

DH: Steven Moya

If Moya can put it together in Triple-A, this job’s his. Dude can hit the ball a mile.

Bookmark/subscribe/follow/keep on eye on Know Hitter over the next few days—coming soon, predicting the Tigers pitching staff in 2020.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Dave Dombrowski Out as Detroit Tigers’ General Manager

The architect who brought the Detroit Tigers back to baseball relevancy is no longer with the team. The Tigers announced the move just this afternoon. The announcement also revealed Dombrowski’s successor: longtime-Tigers executive/ Dombrowski’s right-hand man Al Avila.

The announcement also had a few interesting nuggets of information. The most prominent being Avila stating that “We’re confident we can make a strong push to win this year, and that we have the foundation in place to win next year and for years to come.”

This goes against Dombrowski previous statements were he essentially said the team wasn’t going to win the World Series this season.

Dombrowski will be best known not only for turning around baseball in Detroit, but for fleecing other teams in trades. He acquired Miguel Cabrera, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and David Price for relatively little given the prominence of the players. Another brilliant move? Turning the expensive Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson into Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke.

Other masterstrokes include finding gems like J.D. Martinez, Al Alburquerque and Blaine Hardy off the scrap heap.

The changing of the guard in the front office may or may not impact Brad Ausmus’ future with the team, however a late postseason push/appearance may help the manager’s cause.

Still, things are changing in Detroit (baseball-wise). It started with Jim Leyland leaving and continues with Dombrowski exiting stage left. The appointment of the already-employed Avila ensures that there won’t be much adjustment in terms of the change.

Avila’s statements about contending this year should sit very well with a Tigers’ fan base that has seen the team trade away Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria in an effort to “reboot” for next season.

Detroit’s GM is no longer Dave Dombrowski, the team will now place the baseball-decision making duties in Al Avila’s hands. Hopefully for Tigers fans, Avila can deliver a World Series-winning squad.

Detroit Tigers: Twitter Images from Baltimore Series, All-Star Game

Here’s Jose Iglesias flashing the leather at the All-Star Game.

Not to be outdone, J.D. Martinez made a highlight-reel defensive play against the O’s.

And then Iglesias did his best Martinez impression.

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