Happy Opening Day 2018! Today is the best day of the year for baseball fans. It’s Christmas in March! We’ve had plenty of storylines develop from the offseason through spring training, and they surface today with the Detroit Tigers’ first regular season competition.
As exciting as it is to start a new season, we can expect tough moments and intermittent frustration as givens this year with the current state of the team. We know it may be difficult to be excited about the season and continue following along as the year progresses. However, there is also the potential for a transformational season for the franchise, but one that may not manifest itself on the major league roster just yet. There are tons of good reasons to follow the Tigers throughout the season. Let’s go over some of the most important ones.
1. New Manager, New Rules
Let’s be honest, Ron Gardenhire is much different than the previous manager, in fact, he’s more akin to former manager Jim Leyland than almost anyone else the Tigers could have hired this past offseason. Yes, he’s old school, but he’s also shrewd. He has that fiery passion for the game and, more importantly, he’s hands-on and no-filter with his players. We’re certainly going to see a much different managerial strategy this season. I’m sure we will see our fair share of questionable in-game decisions. At the same time, those decisions come with the respect of 14 years of managerial experience behind them, unlike the other guy. At the very least, we will see some highly entertaining antics, dad jokes, one-liners, and a plethora of ejections. There’s no doubt the dugout with be must-see-TV during ball games.
2. The Kids Are Alright
With the Tigers rebuilding their squad through a myriad of moves, and with much more to come, the youth movement is finally taking over Detroit. The Tigers landed seven of their top 30 prospects in trades last season and added on a couple more through the draft. They started 2017 with the 26th best farm system in the league, according to Minor League Ball. This year, they have moved up to 16th.
Beyond the prospects, players 25 or under on the 25-man roster include Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris, Jeimer Candelario, Joe Jimenez and JaCoby Jones. These are talented guys still developing into their prime years.
Additionally, the Tigers have the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, which is all but a guaranteed top 100 prospect, plus the first pick in every round after that. This puts the Tigers in a perfect position to continue adding and developing quality prospects for the next chapter of the franchise.
3. Remember the Names
After the Tigers main roster was unceremoniously but rightfully dismantled last season before our eyes, including the likes of Justin Upton, Justin Wilson and franchise pillars such as Ian Kinsler, JD Martinez and of course Justin Verlander, so there will be plenty of new names and faces this season and there’s a good reason to learn all of them. Mostly because all but a handful could have a part to play in the future of the team. There’s no little doubt the Tigers’ future is brighter than it currently appears, if only because it’s easier to get better when you’re bad. It’s a question how far the kids, and the Tigers’ front office, can take it. Every one of these players has a story, and no doubt new fan favorites will emerge over the course of the season.
4. Low Expectations
From the very first game of the season, the Tigers are expected be horrid. If we’re being realistic there are very few baseball pundits that think the Tigers won’t finish 2018 in the basement of the standings, potentially even as the worst team in the league for the second connective season. There is a great quality to having low expectations though, the prospect of disappointment is pretty difficult. If you haven’t already set your expectations to very modest, please do so now. You’ll thank us later.
Obviously this gives the season a different meaning as anything even slightly better than what’s expected can be considered a win for the organization. However, despite any noise surrounding the outcome of this season, the purpose of 2018 for the Tigers is to develop as many young players as they can and discover any hidden talents they’ve yet to uncover.
5. Michael Fulmer and Miguel Cabrera
The two Tigers who at this point likely give any fan a good reason to watch. Between Fulmer coming off a nerve surgery that should allow him to give us the best season performance yet, to Cabrera getting a full offseason to recoup and recover without any World Baseball Classic non-sense getting in the way. Both Fulmer and Cabrera are going to throw the whole “non-contenting” deal right out the window from jump street because you’re going to see two players who put it all on the line every single night, like it’s the biggest game of their careers’. Not to mention Cabrera is getting up there in baseball years, so there might not be many seasons left to see this generation’s greatest hitter, or at least at a very highly competitive level.
6. Breakout Watch
With the Tigers having the second youngest roster in baseball, we almost need to put the entire squad on breakout watch since they have a 40-man roster stacked with young, up and coming players all capable of a breakout this season. Do not be surprised if you see more than one breakout player this year as the roster the Tigers now have is deep with guys who are itching to make a name for themselves and become a staple of this franchise as it moves forward. And playing time will become available along the way. Guaranteed. The Tigers have a pocket full of lottery tickets and we get to sit back and watch to see which ones are the real winners.
7. Who Stays, Who Goes?
Like something straight out of a television production room, the Tigers 2018 season at times will resemble a reality show more than a baseball club. Given that the 25-man roster is and will be a revolving door for some time to come — plus a whole cast of new characters that we know very little about on top of a team expected to be very far from contention — there are going to be countless ups and downs. Like a peculiar game of Survivor [Ed.: That’s still on?], we’re left wondering who will still be on the team at the end of the season, and if moves are made, what the Tigers received in return.
8. The Memories
Even though there isn’t much of a chance for the Tigers to be in contention, without a doubt there will be plenty of memories made this season. Despite finishing last in the standings last year, there were tons of great moments that helped ease the pain of losing. From Matt Boyd’s almost no-hitter, to a triple play, and everything in-between, there’s no disputing that last season had moments that made you forget what the standings were. I think those will be amplified even more this season, so stay tuned.
Happy Zimmermann says follow the Tigers in 2018!