They started the off-season by showing their hand too early, proclaiming that they were trying to get younger and trim the payroll. As a result, the only player they really ended up moving in the off-season so far has been Cameron Maybin.
After the Winter Meetings, the Tigers changed their tune, and Al Avila stated that they were still going to make a run at the playoffs. With Kansas City, Chicago, and Minnesota looking stagnant, or worse, compared to last year, the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians seem prepared to duke it out in the American League Central again. Without Cameron Maybin in the lineup, what will this team look like going into the new season? Here’s a look at a projected lineup for the upcoming season.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B – Kinsler seems to embody what you want out of a solid lead-off a man. He has the ability to hit for an average of nearly .300, he gets on base with an overall OBP of about .400, and he has enough pop in his bat to knock double-digit home runs for the team. When Avila mentioned getting younger and trimming payroll, Kinsler-to-the-Dodgers became an everyday whisper. Those talks eventually died out and the Dodgers got their man from Tampa Bay, instead. While there is no certainty Kinsler won’t be moved by the end of the season, look for him to be Detroit’s lead-off guy in 2017.
- Justin Upton, LF – This is where Brad Ausmus intended for Upton to hit at the start of the season. His first year wearing the Old English D was a rough one, to say the least. He did get home the last four weeks of the season, but throughout most of the summer, he was tough to watch. As the season began, people claimed he is a “streaky hitter” and the once he “gets hot, he stays hot”. For a team that was trying to compete, though, the only thing he seemed to be consistent at was striking out. Hopefully, this year he can be a spark at the upper-third of the lineup for the Tigers. If he is successful and can replicate his last four weeks of last season with a fresh start in 2017, he brings speed, and power to the top of the lineup for Detroit.
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B – One day, Miguel Cabrera will slow down enough to not be placed smack-dab in the middle of a successful lineup. 2017 will not be that year, though. Miguel Cabrera pumped out 38 home runs last year, the first time in three years he reached the 30 home run mark. He continues to hover around the 200-hits mark, and still has the ability to drive in 100+ runs. He has been consistent enough to represent his team at the All-Star Game 11 times in his 14-year career. If Miguel Cabrera remains healthy, look for more stability for Miguel Cabrera as he remains planted in the heart of the lineup.
- Victor Martinez, DH – Compared to his All-Star season from three years ago, Victor Martinez’s numbers last year were down a bit. The biggest areas of weakness were his OBP and his OPS. His batting average was below .300 (he hit .289), his doubles were down, as were his hits. At age 38, and having dealt with injuries over the past few years, his body continues to slow down. But to start the season, Brad Ausmus will most likely continue placing Martinez at the four-spot behind Miguel Cabrera.
- J.D. Martinez, RF – He missed about 40 games last year after colliding with a right-field wall in the middle of the season, but the Tigers are hoping for a productive, complete season from J.D. Martinez. In his first at-bat off the disabled list last year, Martinez delivered for the home crowd, delivering a home run on the first pitch he saw against the Chicago White Sox’s Chris Sale. Ever since 2014, the Tigers managed to catch lightning in a bottle with J.D. Martinez. Martinez is entering a contract year, so expect him to continue to do big things in the middle of the Detroit Tigers lineup.
- Nick Castellanos, 3B – While he only played in 110 games last year, he made the most of his time, when healthy. Castellanos still averages a strikeout per game, something that he continues to need to work on. He did, however, have the highest SLG and OPS of his short career. Also, he hit 18 home runs, the most he has hit in the Big Leagues so far. A product of the Tigers’ farm system, he is a player who has been held in high regard by the organization for a number of years now. If he can remain healthy, this should prove to be the most productive season of his career, as he continues showing improvement from one year to the next.
- James McCann, C – It’s tough to keep discussing the “if he was healthy” scenario, but the Tigers really struggled to keep their players on the field last year. James McCann was no exception to that. He only played in 105 games last year, and he was not nearly as successful as he had been in his first full season during 2015. McCann hit for a .221 batting average, his SLG dipped nearly 30 points, and his OPS dropped 50 points. He managed to hit double-digits for the first time, but also managed to strike out more times in 2016, despite having fewer at-bats. In 2015, McCann showed signs of being a solid hitting catcher. If he health is not an issue, there’s no reason he cannot get back to those numbers of two seasons ago.
- Jose Iglesias, SS – Iglesias managed to stay on the field in 2016, playing in the most games in his career (137). With his legs finally healthy, he managed to 26 doubles last season, as well as score a career-high 57 runs. This is a contract year for Iglesias, much like J.D. Martinez, so look for his offensive numbers to continue to rise. While the rise in doubles is a good sign, hopefully, he can steal more bases in 2017. He has only swiped double-digit bases one time (2015) in his career.
- Tyler Collins/Jacoby Jones/Steven Moya/Mike Mahtook, CF – Centerfield is really the only puzzle piece in the Tigers’ lineup. There’s even been talk of Anthony Gose getting another shot at Centerfield for the Detroit Tigers. Centerfield is going to be a position that is up for grabs in Spring Training. Whoever earns the starting nod for the Tigers is going to most likely end up being the number nine hitter to start the season.