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Early ZiPS projections predict Tigers will not finish in last place

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We’re not last! We’re not last!

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

We’re a long way away from Opening Day 2018 — 144 days, to be exact — but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start getting excited about the upcoming season. The Detroit Tigers won’t be any good, but even bad baseball is miles better than no baseball. Various projection systems will come out as we get closer to the season, and other pundits will eventually offer their predictions for the upcoming year.

Baseball analyst Dan Szymborski, creator and proprietor of the ZiPS projection system, gets to work earlier than others. He released his first batch of ZiPS projections on Friday, offering a quick look at how the 2018 season could unfold. To no one’s surprise, our Tigers are slated to finish 15 games behind the first place Cleveland Indians, and are given a 2.3 percent chance to reach the postseason.

But there’s good news! First, the Tigers are not projected to finish last in the AL Central. That “honor” goes to the Kansas City Royals, who are slated to win just 69 games. The Tigers are projected at 72-90, an eight-game improvement on their 2017 record.

Unfortunately, this might not last. Szymborski’s early projections do not take current free agents into account for their old teams.

As is my tradition, I run a "State of the Franchise" projection for all of Major League Baseball at the start of the offseason. This does not mean that these are the official 2018 projections that you'll see in March, but they are where each team stands with only the players currently under contract. That means no Jake Arrieta for the Chicago Cubs, no Yu Darvish for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and no Eric Hosmer for the Kansas City Royals.

So, that 69-win projection for the Royals will change if they choose to re-sign even one of Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, or Eric Hosmer. The same goes for every other team in baseball except for the Tigers, who have almost no free agents to speak of.

Until then, let’s enjoy the Tigers not being in last place!