The Detroit Tigers went 47-114 in 2019. This was their worst season since 2003, where the Tigers went 43-119. Since winning 86 games in 2016, the Tigers have been trending down to what should have been rock-bottom last year. But there are definitely great things on the horizon for the Tigers. It’s time for the Detroit Tigers Season Preview for the 2020 season, where we take a look at the team from Motown.
The Tigers are rebuilding and had the first pick in the 2020 draft. When you add that to the four prospects currently ranked in the top 50 on MLB.COM there is a reason for optimism. The Tigers also added some veteran players, in part to still remain a fairly competitive team. They also did so to mentor their young roster, not to mention use as potential trade bait. But when Covid-19 hit, all plans changed.
With only 60 games this season it is possible to see some of the Tigers bright young stars playing in the majors this year. Nine of the Tigers top 10 ranked prospects in addition to the number one overall pick are on the initial 60-man pool.
Casey Mize is the seventh-ranked minor league prospect overall and was the top pick in the 2018 draft. In just two minor league seasons Mize is 8-4 with a 2.71 ERA and is averaging nearly one strikeout per inning. Mize pitched a no-hitter in his first Double-A start. His numbers would probably be even better had he not suffered through shoulder discomfort in mid-June last year. After returning in July, the Tigers decided to shut down their prized pitcher in August. The only question surrounding the 23-year-old is whether he can handle the workload to be a top MLB starting pitcher.
Matt Manning was the ninth overall pick in 2016. The 24th-ranked prospect has quickly moved through the Tigers farm system with a 22-17 record and a 3.04 ERA in three-plus seasons. He is very athletic despite his 6’6″ frame with a fastball that can reach 97 MPH. The 22-year-old pitcher projects as an ace pitcher.
Tarik Skubal was drafted in the ninth round of the 2018 draft and looks to be a steal. His 9-8 record, 2.11 ERA, and 212 strikeouts in 145 innings show his potential. Skubal’s makeup and skill set suggest he could be a dominant pitcher comparable to Josh Hader. The Tigers are still trying to keep Skubal in the rotation. Skubal, who is currently on the injured list, could make his debut this year if he is healthy.
2020 Number One Pick
Spencer Torkelson was the consensus number one pick in this year’s draft. His career numbers at Arizona State are eye-popping. He batted .337 with 54 homers and 130 RBI in 628 at-bats. This kid can rake, and he also walked 110 times, as his .463 OBP shows. The expectation is for Torkelson to make an appearance later in the season.
Riley Greene was drafted out of high school with the fifth pick of the 2019 draft. Having only played in Low Single-A last year, Greene is not expected to play in the majors this year. However, the talented kid will get the chance to practice with the established players on the Tigers. MLB Pipeline projects Greene as making the big league club in 2022.
Great 2020 Draft
Drafting Torkelsen alone is reason enough for loving the Tigers draft. But the remaining five picks were also very good. Catcher Dillon Dingler was drafted with the 38th pick and was ranked 24th by MLB.COM. Outfielder Daniel Cabrera was drafted with the 62nd pick and was ranked 38th.
The Tigers also drafted two third basemen. Gage Workman was drafted with the 102nd pick and was ranked 73rd, and Colt Keith was drafted 132nd overall and was ranked 87th. Only shortstop Trei Cruz was considered a reach as he was drafted with the 73rd pick and was ranked 126th.
Major League Talent
Matthew Boyd got off to a great start in 2019. But once June came around he tailed off and started serving up long balls. This does coincide with his name being mentioned in trade rumors all summer long. Boyd is still 29 and could be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher once the kids get to Detroit. With this being a strange season, it is still possible Boyd gets traded to a contender.
Michael Fulmer was the key player in the Yoenis Cespedes trade. At the age of 27, Fulmer could still be a valuable part of the Tigers future. Fulmer did not pitch in 2019 after having Tommy John surgery but is expected back on the mound this year. He is said to be looking much lighter this year, having lost weight during his rehab.
The Tigers signed several veteran players to fill up some holes and try to keep this team somewhat competitive. Make no mistake about it Tiger fans would love to have the first overall pick again in 2021. These veteran players will attempt to keep this team at least a little watchable until the kids take over.
C.J. Cron signed a one-year, six-million-dollar contract to play first base this season. Cron has hit 114 homers and driven in 365 runs in a solid six-year career. Jonathan Schoop also signed a one-year deal worth six million dollars. Over his seven-year career, Schoop has hit 133 homers and driven in 392 runs.
Cameron Maybin is back for his third stint as a Detroit Tiger. But he is coming off perhaps the finest season of his 13-year career. It’s hard to believe that Maybin has played 13 years but is only 32 years old. Maybin really stopped the bleeding in the New York Yankees outfield last year once he was acquired on April 26th. He is the kind of player who can be a useful piece on a contending team, especially with his lower salary demands.
The majority of the Tigers roster is under 30 years old. Normally this would not be considered bad. But when those players have not played well, this becomes a big issue. There is not much to look forward to on the Tigers major league roster. The two trade deadline moves the Tigers made last season so far have not shown anything. It is still too early to say these were bad trades as the Tigers moved two players they were not going to re-sign.
Nicholas Castellanos was traded for two players with only Paul Richan making the Tigers top 30 minor league players rankings. Richan is ranked at 23. The trade of Shane Greene netted Joey Wentz and outfielder Travis Demeritte. Demeritte was given 48 games where he did not play very well. He is young, at 24 years old, and should be given another opportunity this year. Wentz will not play this year as he is recovering from having Tommy John surgery.
This is a very bad baseball team. In a 60-game season, the only questions to be answered are will the Tigers win over 20 games and will they get the first overall pick once again.
Miguel Cabrera was a great player. But at 36 years old, the future Hall of Famer’s body is starting to breakdown. The two-time MVP winner had a 2012 season to remember by becoming the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown. But that was eight years ago.
Cabrera was the centerpiece of a Tigers team to make the playoffs four years in a row from 2011-2014. Now he is just overpaid and untradeable. The Tigers owe Cabrera 124 million dollars over the next four seasons. Unless the Tigers eat a large portion of his remaining salary, no other major league team is going to touch him.
Jordan Zimmermann has flat out been a disaster since the Tigers signed him to a five-year, 110-million-dollar contract before the 2016 season. When Zimmermann was a member of the Washington Nationals, he was a good pitcher who had some very good seasons. As a Tiger, Zimmermann is 25-41 with a 5.61 ERA. The only positive for the 2020 season is that this will be his last in a Tigers uniform.
To put this in perspective, the Tigers projected payroll before the Coronavirus hit hovered around the 100-million-dollar mark. Cabrera and Zimmerman’s combined salary this year is 55 million dollars. Ouch. If there is one good thing about a 60-game season with prorated pay, it is that the Tigers are not paying the full amount for Miggy and Zimmermann.
The young players are in the farm system, and the Tigers have been drafting extremely well. Not only did the virus wipe out most of the major league season, it has canceled the minor leagues. This does hurt the growth of the Baby Tigers in the minors. In addition, with only a 60-game season, it makes it hard to properly evaluate the young players in the Majors.
But Tiger fans, good times are coming. The 2020 draft was very strong, and the Tigers should be getting another top-five pick in next year’s draft. Zimmermann’s monster contract runs out after this season. The farm system has quality front-end starting pitchers. The shortened season may give the Tiger fans a brief glimpse into the future and surely better times.
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Writer and Editor. Born and bred in Brooklyn, New York. Big time Mets, NY Football Giants, Los Angeles Lakers & Notre Dame Football fan. I am also a life long WWE fan. I love to write about the 4 major sports and Wrestling. Also, I love sports collectibles especially starting lineup figures. My day job is working in advertising on the finance side. Proud supporter and survivor of the American Heart Association.