2013 Record: 93-69 (1st Place AL Central, – GB)
The Tigers have undergone drastic changes since losing the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox. Detroit won their third straight AL Central title last season, but failed to make it to the World Series once again. The Tigers haven’t won the World Series since 1984 and haven’t made an appearance since 2006, so these changes are necessary if they hope to win one soon.
Ian Kinsler (5yrs/$75 mil)
Joe Nathan (2yrs/$20 mil)
Rajai Davis (2yrs/$10 mil)
Ian Kinsler is a great pick-up in regards to both contract and hitting. The Tigers dumped Prince Fielder’s massive contract for Kinsler, freeing up a ton of space for Detroit to make moves. Kinsler is also consistent behind the plate; batting in 72 runs in each of the last two seasons. Although he isn’t the offensive powerhouse Fielder is, Kinsler should still contribute greatly to the batting order.
Joe Nathan may be 39-years-old, but that didn’t stop the former Rangers closer from saving 43 games last season. The Tigers lost closer Joaquin Benoit in the offseason, but Benoit only had 24 saves last season. Nathan is a great improvement from Benoit with his sub-1 WHIP and 1.39 ERA. Nathan will round out the Detroit bullpen and should help them maintain consistent performances to close the game.
Outfielder Rajai Davis signed with Detroit in December of 2013, which may have been one of the quietest moves of the offseason. Davis is a great base runner, tacking up 40+ steals in 4 of the last 5 seasons. Detroit will definitely enjoy Davis’s ability to run the bases, giving them many more opportunities to score.
1B Prince Fielder is the biggest lost to the Tigers this season. He provided security behind Miguel Cabrera in the batting order, and was a huge threat to all pitchers. Fielder has had only 1 season with less than 100 RBI since 2007 and has more than 30 HRs in all but 1 season during that same span. Detroit will most definitely miss the offensive potential Fielder brings to the plate in the upcoming season.
Manager Jim Leyland retired at the end of last season, and this is a big loss for Detroit. Leyland led the Tigers to two pennants in eight seasons, so a new coach will definitely change the Tigers’ game this season. Rookie manager Brad Ausmus will head the new-look Tigers with high expectations.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Miguel Cabrera is always a player to keep an eye out for, especially coming off of a near repeat triple-crown season. The less obvious answer, however, is 22-year-old Nick Castellanos. He will be taking Cabrera’s spot at third as Cabrera moves back to first this year. Castellanos is a patient power hitter standing at 6’4” 210 pounds, and this rookie has incredible potential in Detroit. He leads the league in doubles and is tied for RBI in spring training this year, and is making great contact with the ball. We’ll see what he can do under the guidance of Cabrera and the rest of the Tigers’ batting staff in the upcoming season.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
The rest of the rotation includes Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly. They lost Doug Fister in the offseason, but still somehow manage to have arguably the best top three in the league. Porcello and Smyly are still developing pitchers, but have consistently improved over the last few years. Look for Detroit to still have a successful year this year, most likely on top of the AL Central for the fourth year in a row. As an Indians fan, it pains me to say this, but Detroit, as they have been recently, will be tough to stop. Their season hinges on a few things: a successful new manager, a breakout rookie 3rd baseman, and high quality pitching at the end of the rotation. The Tigers still have a few minor tweaks to work out before becoming World Series champions once again, but they will most definitely be in the hunt.