Watching the 2017 Detroit Tigers has been an exercise in futility. On paper, they have enough talent to match up with nearly any team in the American League. If their veterans could remain healthy and productive, it’s not unreasonable to think that they could have challenged for a playoff spot — if not the still-up-for-grabs AL Central crown.
Unfortunately, those veterans have been neither healthy nor productive. Victor Martinez’s OPS is under .700 now, while Miguel Cabrera is not much better at .751. Ian Kinsler’s bat has also fallen off, and J.D. Martinez is now playing for another organization.
Worse yet, the Tigers’ young players have not taken a step forward. Nick Castellanos’ bad BABIP luck has continued for months now, and James McCann still can’t hit right-handed pitching. Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, two of the biggest reasons why we were somewhat high on this team heading into 2017, have been major disappointments.
Not all is lost, though. There are still some positives to be found within this Tigers organization, even as the team falls closer and closer to the AL cellar.
This week’s question: Name one positive you have taken from the Tigers’ 2017 season.
Ashley: I'm going to go with Mikie Mahtook because his performance since May has been excellent. Considering no one expected him to be more than just a platoon fielder, hitting over .300 for the season is a pretty damn fine surprise. While I certainly don't think he's a future All-Star or anything, he has consistently been a lot of fun to watch in games, rallying some real positive emotion from the players around him. There's a lot to be said for finding a player like that on your team in a losing season.
Patrick O.: I agree with Mahtook. He had one very good season with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015, and one very bad season last year. Well, the real Mikie Mahtook has stood up and come through with flying colors, both offensively and defensively. Center field was the biggest question in the lineup to start the season, and Mahtook filled in very nicely, maybe for several years to come.
Rob: Fun fact, Mahtook now has more fWAR than Cameron Maybin this season.
Grace: My positive for this season is a bittersweet one. It's possible that if Justin Verlander isn't traded before the season ends, he will be traded in the offseason. Verlander has been a keystone of this Tigers team — arguably the only remaining "founding member," if you go back to 2006. His entire career has been in the Motor City. If these next five weeks contain his last starts clad in the Old English D, I will consider it a positive to have gotten to watch them.
Jake: I'd echo Mahtook, and also add Shane Greene to the list of positives this season. With so many Tigers under-performing or having disappointing seasons, it's worth giving a shout out to the ones that aren't. Shane Greene has exceeded my expectations, and looks on course to have his first consistently good season in a Tigers uniform. He has succeeded in every role manager Brad Ausmus has thrown him in: setup man, fire man/runner-stranding specialist, and now closer. Greene is under team control for a few more years, so if the Tigers can put together a good team during that period he could be an important part of the bullpen for seasons to come.
Rob: I’m also pleased with Greene’s progress this year. The bullpen at large has been a dumpster fire, but Greene and Daniel Stumpf have established themselves as useful pieces for the future. The jury is still out on Stumpf — he has only thrown 23 1⁄3 innings and his FIP is over a full run higher than his 2.70 ERA — but he offers more upside than some of the other lefties the Tigers have trotted out in recent years (sorry, Blaine Hardy). More importantly, Greene is under club control for a few more years. He should help lock down the late innings as the younger arms round into shape, and can also be used as a trade chip to acquire more prospects if needed.
Kurt: This one is easy for me since I live in Detroit. I've seen how low ticket prices get every September, especially for weeknight games against blah opponents. This season being worse than any of the ones that have come before, I'm betting I can get some great seats in the rows behind home plate for very affordable prices! Beyond that, seeing some of the future starters in September should be fun, as well.
frisbeepilot: Mahtook has definitely been a pleasant surprise, and I think he's my No. 1. But I'm also very pleased that Michael Fulmer hasn't turned out to be a one-and-done rookie. I mean, I didn't really suspect that he was, but I kind of feared the ol' "sophomore jinx" a tiny little bit. He has continued to develop into a rock-solid ace-type pitcher, definitely a guy I'm looking forward to continuing to watch grow and develop as a major leaguer.
Ron: One positive I’ve seen from the 2017 season is a transition towards younger players, especially the pitching. While the Tigers were trying to make a postseason run that captured them a World Series, we have become accustom to veterans making up a majority of the team. Now that the Tigers are selling and are moving into a new era, it will be the era of young players like Michael Fulmer who we’ve seen rise to the top of the starting pitcher ranks, and Joe Jimenez who will likely be a closer or at least a back-end reliever as he builds experience. We’re also seeing it right now with Shane Greene as the new closer who is still only 28 and Mikie Mahtook whose 27 and also having a breakout season. Despite being close to 30 years of age Mahtook and Greene have the upside that the veterans in their place previously never had. It will be exciting to see how our prospects in the minors develop in the coming seasons and how much better or worse they end up versus where they were projected to be.
Jay: The advent of the Tigers’ farm system is something that I have really appreciated watching. Between the trades that general manager Al Avila has executed to bolster the ranks, and the draft, the Tigers farm system has increased in quality far more so than in years past. Between Beau Burrows’ climb to Double-A, Matt Manning's destruction of short-season ball, and Kyle Funkhouser pitching dominantly before his injury, the future looks much brighter than it did at the beginning of the season. I am most excited about the new draftees. The Tigers showed some real savvy in the way that they executed the draft. Alex Faedo is an impact talent, and getting him with the 18th overall selection was a real gift. His performances at the College World Series and throughout his entire college career are very encouraging. He should be an exciting prospect to watch climb to the major leagues very quickly.