The feeling for success in Detroit is running rampant right now, as the team that the Tigers have is running out of time to make a serious play-off push. Of course, having one of the best players in baseball on your team helps significantly, aided by one of the best pitchers in the league and a former best pitcher who hopes to have a recovery season. The possibilities for the 2015 Detroit Tigers are endless, with Miguel Cabrera poised to have a major season, along with two breakout hitters from last season, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez. Pitching is again strong and hopes are that the bullpen can hold their own this season and contribute what young manager Brad Ausmus is looking for: stability. Four straight first place finishes and a World Series loss in 2012 is what the Tigers hold in their immediate history, along with a World Series appearance (and loss) in 2006. 2015 is the season the Tigers need to pull together and dominate or their time as a World Series contender may be over.
Team Overview: 2015 Detroit Tigers
Justin Verlander’s uncharacteristic 2014 season was unfortunate for Detroit near the beginning and mid-season. Despite Verlander finishing 15-12 with 159 strikeouts, his ERA was 4.54, where it hovered for most of the season, and his inconsistency pushed him back towards the back end of the Tigers rotation. Verlander’s velocity in Spring Training was recently described by Ausmus as “electric,” but he can’t quite find his slider yet, getting roughed up in his previous Spring outing for Detroit.
Making the Opening Day start for the Tigers is David Price, who struggled a bit for Detroit after being acquired at the trade deadline, going 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA. Price feels much more confident in camp this season, since he enters his first full season with the Tigers, and if his ERA drops and Verlander finds the right time to get back on track, Detroit’s rotation at the front will be dominant. Anibal Sanchez figures to be the second or third starter, depending on where Verlander ends up, and following the three of them is two newcomers: the underrated Alfredo Simon and the young gun with a chance, Shane Greene. Simon’s breakout 2014 in which he went 15-10 with the Reds was very appealing to the Tigers, who traded consistent shortstop Eugenio Suarez to Cincinnati.
The losses of Max Scherzer to free agency (Nationals) and trade of Rick Porcello to the Red Sox diminishes the power the Tigers rotation possessed last season, so the high success of last season may not immediately carry over to 2015.
He’s Here : OF Yoenis Cespedes, P Tom Gorzelanny, OF Anthony Gose, P Shane Greene, P Alfredo Simon, P Alex Wilson, P Josh Zeid
Non-Roster Invitees with chance to make roster: P Rafael Dolis, 3B Jefry Marte
He’s Gone: OF Ezequiel Carrera, OF Andy Dirks, OF Torii Hunter, P Jim Johnson, OF Don Kelly, P Pat McCoy, P Rick Porcello, P Robbie Ray, P Max Scherzer, SS Eugenio Suarez
The Tigers middle of the line-up is one of the strongest in the league, with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and new addition Yoenis Cespedes, along with speed at the top with Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis and a breakout candidate in Nick Castellanos in the seven spot. If Cabrera can continue his great success as past seasons and stays healthy, he will anchor the Detroit line-up in the three spot and provide protection to the hitters behind him. After a knee injury limited him early in the off-season, Victor Martinez is probably relegated to the designated hitter role and likely not an option at first base any longer, with non-roster invitee Jefry Marte a respectable candidate for the back-up first base position.
J.D. Martinez is going out into 2015 trying to prove 2014 wasn’t a freak season for him, in which he hit .315 with 23 homers and 76 RBIs, after never reaching the .300 mark previously and only hitting double digit homers in 2012 with the Astros (11). The Tigers could use a big season out of him and Cespedes, entering his free agency after the conclusion of 2015. A change of scenery could be big for Cespedes, who has lived up to expectations in the field but arguably not at the plate.
(Red indicates a new acquisition)
C: Alex Avila
1B: Miguel Cabrera
2B: Ian Kinsler
3B: Nick Castellanos
SS: Jose Iglesias
LF: Yoenis Cespedes
CF: Rajai Davis
RF: J.D. Martinez
DH: Victor Martinez
The lefty bat of Alex Avila will be a bat to watch this season, as Avila is another breakout candidate along with Castellanos near the bottom of the Detroit order.
1. David Price
2. Justin Verlander
3. Anibal Sanchez
4. Alfredo Simon
5. Shane Greene
Detroit has protection for their starting pitchers in the bullpen, bringing back Joba Chamberlain on a one-year contract, signing lefty specialist Tom Gorzelanny and retaining Bruce Rondon, Joakim Soria and Joe Nathan. They combine with Ian Krol and Al Alburquerque to form a solid bullpen that hasn’t lived up to expectations the previous few seasons.
Detroit has the key pieces and had enough improvement over the off-season to develop a formidable team and have a chance at competing for the World Series. If all goes right for Detroit, they can overtake the Royals for first place in the American League Central and face off with the Nationals (and former ace Scherzer) in the 2015 World Series. A first or second place (with Wild Card) finish, around 89-92 wins, seems likely for Detroit, for they are the team to watch in the AL Central this season.