No one expects the Detroit Tigers to compete for a playoff spot this season, and for good reason. They had a much more talented roster last season, and were not competitive. They ultimately finished the season with the worst record in baseball, and are projected to finish close to the bottom of the pile again in 2018.
While it’s certainly harder to pay close attention to a last place team, there are still certain benchmarks the Tigers can hit to consider 2018 a success, even if they won’t win too many games. From a rejuvenated Miguel Cabrera to a resurgent Michael Fulmer, there are plenty of storylines to watch for.
What’s most important, though? Let’s ask around.
This week’s question: What do you want to see from the Tigers this year?
Cameron: I want to see fundamentally sound baseball, even if the team is doomed to finish in last place. Through the years, Ron Gardenhire has been lauded for his ability to develop players and have his teams “play the right way.” For the last few seasons the Tigers have been a mess on the basepaths, have made mental errors in the field, and have seemingly struggled playing situational baseball. Outside of a few bounce-back candidates, the Tigers aren’t going to have the most talented roster next season. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they shouldn’t be able to do the basics correctly. If the coaching staff can get the team to not be a comedy of errors, I’ll feel a little more comfortable with the idea of Gardenhire bridging the gap to the next great Tigers team.
Ron: I want to see solid tactical and rational decision making from Gardenhire. I want to see him do whatever he can to help the young players grow and develop, and cement his system for how he handles lineups, the bullpen, and the rotation. I also still want to see that fire from him that he showed us when he was managing the Minnesota Twins.
I expect Al Avila to be willing to call up just about anyone playing well in the minors, as they are the future of this team. This is the best time for young players to be given a chance at the major league level. I don’t really have any expectations for any of the potential rookies who make their debut, as it’s a little early for that. I do expect to see a solid return season from Michael Fulmer, and am hopeful he will better than he ever was before. I also expect Jeimer Candelario to take the next step and become a solid everyday bat in the lineup. I expect that Shane Greene will continue his solid performance as the Tigers closer, and I expect Joe Jimenez to put 2017 in his rear-view and start fresh by building off of each appearance.
Ashley: I’m excited to see what some of the higher level prospects bring to the table, and perhaps see a few... I won’t say stars, but fun “one to watch” players. I think we’re in a position where we will get the opportunity to see guys get to the big leagues before they would with other teams. While it might not make for winning baseball this year, I’m hoping we can see shades of the future. I’m also hoping to see some improved consistency from Daniel Norris, and I’m looking forward to who the fan favorite players will be this year, the guys whose personalities make the game fun to watch still.
Cameron: I want to add that when I said “situational baseball,” I didn’t mean sacrifice bunting. Rarely in the American League does a situation call for that disaster of a play.
Peter: I want to see good overall baseball. I accept the talent difference is not in our favor, but I want to see a team disciplined in fundamentals and grinding at-bats against tough pitchers while taking advantage of struggling ones. Right now, establishing a good culture of quality play in the organization and in the majors is key. I hope Gardenhire can do this and will be anticipating the results.
Rob: We all want to see the young players develop, but Selfish Rob wants to see Miguel Cabrera return to form, even if that means the team ends up with a lower draft pick next year. Cabrera still has a gazillion years and dollars left on his contract, and I’m not delusional enough to think he could play his way into being a tradeable asset. My reasons for wanting this are simple. Watching a healthy Miguel Cabrera hit is very fun — as are the faces of opposing pitchers watching baseballs fly over the fence — and seeing all these people saying “Cabrera is done” walk back on their words for another year or two would be a delight.
Jay: Detroit is known by its fans as being set in their ways, and some of the most successful organizations in baseball are the most progressive. The Tigers have a long way to go before reaching a level of talent that even comes close to competing with teams like the Astros and Dodgers at the major league level, but that gives their front office a fantastic chance to begin doing the things that their competition has already seemed to master. For example, Justin Verlander’s return to dominance after joining the Astros was well-documented. This turnaround was attributed to the Astros’ use of analytics and high-speed cameras to tweak the grip on his slider. Methods like these need to be integrated into the organization if they are to make the best use of the time they have when the next wave of good major league talent make its way to Comerica Park. If they are to do that, the learning curve needs to begin now.
Jeff: What do I want to see this year? I could say, “fundamental baseball.” Or, “our prospects properly being developed.” How about the highly unoriginal, “Miggy finally being healthy all year?” But all those answers are boring [Ed.: Love you too, Jeff.]. What do I really want to see this year?
- I want to see Ron Gardenhire ejected every other game. I want him to go ballistic on umpires like it’s 2013 with dirt kicking and hand gestures, and spit flying while he’s yelling. Good old-school rage for an old-school manager.
- I want to see Miguel Cabrera pitch an inning. It’s always the utility bench player that gets to pitch. Make it a superstar this time.
- Going the opposite way, I want to see Jordan Zimmermann play right field. I want there to be a 19 inning game where Gardenhire used all his position players and then someone gets injured and has to leave the game, forcing a pitcher to play the outfield.
- I want to see Michael Fulmer pitch a perfect game and/or strike out 20 batters in a game. Maybe he could break Doug Fister’s record of nine consecutive strikeouts.
- I want to see Nick Castellanos be the leadoff hitter, Miguel Cabrera hitting second and Jeimer Candelario be the cleanup hitter. Go completely wild with the batting order.
- I want five different relief pitchers to have 10 or more saves by the end of the year. Do not have a defined closer. Who is going to close tonight? It could be you.
I’m convinced the Tigers are going to lose 100 games this year. It’s going to take some unusual stuff happening to keep me entertained. I do not want boring baseball.
Brandon: I’m looking for myself to have some patience. There’s a very good argument that only two position players on the Tigers roster will still remain whenever they are good again. What I’m going to be looking at is the development of Fulmer, Norris, Candelario, and Matt Boyd. Greene and Castellanos are both likely trade candidates this season, so seeing them get off to good starts could be the best thing that will happen to the Tigers this year. Greene especially could return a very nice prospect package if he is dominant in the first half. It’s going to be next to impossible to grade Gardenhire and his coaching staff on the basis of what goes on this year. I just hope they are able to bring their younger players along successfully.
Patrick O.: I want to see the Tigers finish the tear down and start the actual rebuild, and not just by acquiring prospects, but major league ready players who will be part of the next contender. I would like to see players who might be a part of the next contender get playing time over those that won’t be. It is imperative that the Tigers score on not just the No. 1 draft pick in June, but that they parlay their generous draft slot money into at least one more player by paying over slot in the second round. Finally, I would like to see some trades that make the team better, not just cheaper. The Tigers must spend before they contend.