Sadly, the Detroit Tigers don’t have much more to play for in 2017. They were mathematically eliminated from contention in the AL Central on Wednesday, and their days as a Wild Card contender are also numbered. They will have a chance to play spoiler over the final few weeks of the season, but one imagines it must be hard to do that when their sights were set so much higher a few months ago.
There is still baseball to be played, though. As fans, we can root for a number of things. We have already debated whether wins or losses are better for the team (and our sanity) at this point, so it’s time to cheer for strong individual performances. Some players need a good finish more than others, though.
This week’s question: Which Tigers player are you hoping to see have a strong September?
Brandon: Miguel Cabrera would be nice, to give some confidence that this isn't the end for him. But that probably won’t happen until he gets an offseason of rest under his belt, so I'll go with Daniel Norris, though the same may be true of him as well. It has been a lost season for a young player who is now arguably the most talented pitcher in the organization. Norris is out of minor league options next year, so the Tigers are going to have to give him the reins. Throwing a few good outings down the stretch would do a lot for his confidence. Right now, though, everything is headed the wrong way.
Jake: Nicholas Castellanos suffered from some bad luck earlier in the year, but overall, his 2017 season has been underwhelming. He could go along way towards securing his future with the team with a hot streak to end the season. Finishing with 25+ home runs (he's at 20 now) would be huge. Alternatively, the Tigers may seek to trade Castellanos in the offseason given his defensive struggles and the presence of Jeimer Candelario, who has a better glove. A strong September would also help build Castellanos' trade value.
Patrick O.: If I have to pick one, I'll go with Daniel Norris because he is one of the keys to the future who has really struggled at the major league level. He has real upside with an excellent arsenal and very good stuff, but injuries and poor performance have kept him in the starting gate. There is about a two-year gap before the Tigers can bring up a good crop of starting pitching prospects in Matt Manning, Beau Burrows, Alex Faedo, and Kyle Funkhouser. We will need to have a very high pain tolerance if the Tigers don't get improvement from the pitchers currently on the roster.
Rob: My pick is Jeimer Candelario, if for no reason than for the fanbase to at least have something to cling to after the team traded several fan favorites during the 2017 season. It means nothing if he struggles down the stretch, but a hot month would be a small consolation prize as we head into one of the darkest winters the Tigers have seen in the past decade.
Jay: I hope Artie Lewicki performs well down the stretch. While he isn’t a highly ranked prospect, he does have the potential to be a reliable starter who gets enough grounders to stick at the back end of a rotation. That isn't much to be excited about, but the Tigers have had a very hard time finding someone to fill the hole at the back of the rotation. The loss of Justin Verlander makes capable starters an even more glaring need for the organization. If Lewicki can show that he is capable of performing at the level of a No. 5 starter, I will be very pleased, and the Tigers will be, too.
Rob: You might want to change that pick, Jay.
Artie Lewicki is out of the rotation. He's reached his innings limit for the year. Jaye in— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky) September 6, 2017
Jay: Okay, sub in Myles Jaye for every time I mention Lewicki.
Cameron: I'm going with Ian Kinsler. Ian has been rock solid for most of the year, but his numbers at the plate have slipped a little bit compared to his last few seasons. My reasoning for the Kinsler pick is solely for trade value. With one year left on his current deal, an option that the club is certain to pickup [Ed.: Or might vest on its own], he won’t going to bring back a whole lot. However, a really good September could prove that his slide was due to nagging injuries, and that he's still capable of performing at a high level in his mid-30s. With the Tigers in full rebuild mode, they need to maximize what's left of their trade assets, and a big month from Kinsler will help them to do that.
Kyle: Most fans have already given up on Jordan Zimmermann and understandably so, but a big September for him could go a long way. Without Justin Verlander, the Tigers lack a true veteran starter, and Zimmermann is only a couple seasons removed from some dominant stat lines. One solid month will not be enough to undo all of Zimmermann's struggles in Detroit, but it could give him the momentum needed to help lead the pitching staff in 2018.
Peter: Since Brandon and Patrick picked Norris, I'm going with Matt Boyd for largely the same reasons. The Tigers have quite the crop of pitchers in their farm system now, but they are several years out (if they don't flame out entirely). Unfortunately the odds of prospect failure are high, so it's good to have as many pieces as possible in hopes of growing as many future rotation pieces as possible. Boyd has shown the ability to be a mid-to-back-end starter at times. If he can finish strong, it will help his confidence that he can grab a spot as a rotation staple. A reliable fifth starter is still better than a platoon of "who's next?"
Ashley: I'm going with Myles Jaye. I know he's a long shot to pull anything legit off, but his first appearances have been enough to pique my interest. I think there might be the makings for a decent starter there. Of course, it's much too early and much too small a sample size to get excited, but I like what I've seen and hope he doesn't turn into a giant flaming dumpster fire.