Detroit Tigers 2015 Team Preview

Miguel Cabrera, draftkings

The Tigers boasted one of the league’s most fearsome offenses last season but struggled keep runs off the board as their ace starter and bullpen completely imploded. It proved to be their demise in the playoffs as the Orioles put up 21 runs and swept the three-game series to send Detroit packing.

Problem is, the Tigers don’t appear to have improved their lousy pitching staff at all this offseason, taking a step back instead. The team lost one of their top pitchers in Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello who put up the best season of his career, and replaced them with two highly questionable arms.

Their offense remains great but can the Tigers improve their pitching without actually improving their pitching?


Last Season:

Record: 90-72

Runs: 2nd

Batting Average: 1st

ERA: 24th

WHIP: 24th



Notable Additions: Yoenis Cespedes, Alfredo Simon, Alex Wilson, Anthony Gose, Tom Gorzelanny, Shane Greene

Notable Losses: Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Phil Coke, Torii Hunter, Jim Johnson, Don Kelly, Robbie Ray



1B: Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez

Though Cabrera played 159 games last year, he struggled through injuries and his numbers fell across the board. His .348 BA, 1.078 OPS, 44 HR, 137 RBI, and 90 walks in 2013 plummeted to a .313 BA, .895 OPS, 25 HR, 109 RBI, and 60 walks (while he struck out 117 times, the most since 2009). He did improve his doubles, however, hitting a league-leading 52 after hitting just 26 the previous year.

Much of the slide can be blamed on bone spurs and a stress fracture in his ankle but Miggy is still recovering from off-season ankle surgery so it’s hard to be overly optimistic on his 2015 potential. If he can get healthy by April, though, there isn’t a bat more feared in the Big Leagues than his. On the bright side, even in his worst year, Miggy is still one of the best fantasy baseball players in the game.

Like Cabrera, Martinez is recovering from off-season surgery. Unlike Cabrera, V-Mart is coming off arguably the best season of his career. At age 35, Martinez hit a career-high 32 home runs, led the league with a .409 on-base percentage, and posted a league-best .974 OPS. He also added an impressive 103 RBI, 87 runs, and 33 doubles.

His surgery was a relatively minor one and he may be ready for Opening Day. Can we expect a repeat season in 2015? Probably not, since Martinez has never displayed consistent power, but we can expect a .300+ BA, double-digit home runs, 80+ RBI, and 30+ doubles.

2B: Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine

After a single season, the Tigers seem to be on the winning side of the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade as Fielder played just 42 games for Texas and drove in a mere 16 runs while Kinsler put up career-highs in games played and RBI. His .275 BA, 17 home runs, 92 RBI, 40 doubles, 100 runs, and 15 steals last season are par for the course for the 32-year-old vet and we can certainly expect similar production from a healthy Kinsler once again.

Romine isn’t much of a bat but he can play all over the infield and has a passable glove.

3B: Nick Castellanos

Castellanos posted a very solid rookie season, playing in 148 games and posting a .259 BA, .700 OPS, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 50 runs, and 31 doubles. His 140 strikeouts to 36 walks are concerning but are still just a small dent on an otherwise impressive season from the 22-year-old.

Still, the former top-15 prospect will have to improve those numbers and his defense to reach the .300 BA/.800 OPS/18 HR potential he flashed in the minors. Even if he doesn’t, the Tigers have a very solid third baseman for the longterm.

SS: Jose Iglesias

Iglesias missed the entire 2014 season and will likely be eased back into the lineup this season but the Tigers desperately need his glove at short. Iglesias posted an impressive .303 BA and .735 OPS in 109 games between the Red Sox and Tigers in 2013 but never really flashed that kind of skill in 441 games in the minors so the only thing we can rely on is his formidable fielding.

C: Alex Avila, Bryan Holaday

Avila’s average has now slid from .295 to .243 to .227 to .218 in four seasons. We’ll have to wait and see if he can stay above the Mendoza line this year. We pretty much know that he can be relied on for about 10-11 home runs, ~45 RBI, ~40 runs, and a ton of strikeouts. He’s good behind the plate though, so at least he still has that going for him.

Bryan Holaday has a pulse. So that’s good.



Yoenis Cespedes: Outside of a .292 average his first season, Cespedes has proven that he can’t be relied on for batting average or walks but he is essentially a lock to hit 20+ home runs, drive in 80+ runs, and make up for a lot of his inefficiencies with his slugging. Plus he’s got a rocket for an arm.

J.D. Martinez: Martinez proved to be the ultimate post-hype sleeper last season after he was unceremoniously booted out of Houston. In his first year with the Tigers, Martinez obliterated his career-highs as he batted .315 with a .912 OPS, 23 home runs, 76 RBI, 57 runs, and 30 doubles, despite striking out quite a bit.

Martinez always had good batting averages in the minors and showed an ability to hit for both power and to the gaps. Perhaps it was Houston that was weighing him down and he has finally reached his potential. Or perhaps he’ll revert to a .240 hitter with 35 RBI. I’m more optimistic than most on J-Mart.

Anthony Gose: A former top-40 prospect, Gose has a ton of speed but lacks in the batting average and on-base department. In 202 Major League games, Gose is batting .234 with a .301 OBP after batting .256 with a .333 OBP in the minors.

He’s a good fielder who has stolen 70 or more bases twice in the minors and he’ll need to reach that next level if the Tigers are going to rely on him to man center on a daily basis.

Rajai Davis: Davis has now stolen 34 or more bases in six straight seasons and gives the Tigers a ton of speed off the bench.

Tyler Collins and Steven Moya have a chance to land an outfield spot. Collins has struggled to keep his average up as he’s moved through the farm system but has hit as many as 23 home runs and stolen as many as 20 bases. He gets on base and can hit for extra-bases as well, there’s a lot to like. Moya is another guy who can’t hit for a high average but crushed 35 home runs last season in Double-A and stole 16 bases. Still, he’s probably a bit too raw to be relegated to the Tigers bench for the season.


Starting Rotation:

David Price: Price has now recorded an ERA of 3.49 or lower in four straight seasons and was as impressive as ever last year as he won 15 games while posting a 3.26 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and a league-best 271 strikeouts between the Rays and Tigers. Detroit can expect more of the same in 2015 as the four-time All-Star is as reliable as they get.

Justin Verlander: After seeing his ERA balloon from 2.64 in 2012 to 3.46 in 2013, Verlander had some major struggles last season as his ERA skyrocketed to 4.54. He gave up more earned runs than any other American League pitcher last year and posted an alarming 1.40 WHIP. Some pitchers fall off earlier than others. At 32, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether Verlander can ever resemble the Cy Young and MVP-winning pitcher we saw as recently as two seasons ago.

Anibal Sanchez: Sanchez’s injuries limited him to just 22 games but he still posted a solid 3.43 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. We may not see the 2.57 ERA and 10 K/9 pitcher we saw make a Cy Young run in 2013 but he’s always reliable for an ERA in the mid-3s and very few free passes.

Alfredo Simon: In his first full season as a starter, a 33-year-old Simon turned heads with 15 wins, a 3.44 ERA, and 1.21 WHIP en route to his first ever All-Star appearance. Still, his 12-3 record with a 2.70 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in the first 18 games of the season is a stark contrast from the 3-7 record and 4.52 ERA and 1.44 WHIP he put up in the final 16 games. What can we expect from him in 2015? Likely something in the middle of those two halves. Without an impressive track record, it’s tough to expect his first half numbers in 2015, especially in the AL.

Shane Greene: Greene wasn’t part of the Yankees’ plan last season but looked solid as he posted a respectable 3.78 ERA in 14 starts. His 1.40 WHIP is cause for concern, especially given that he posted a 1.48 career WHIP in the minors. He does get strikeouts and gets himself out of jams but there’s a lot of questions around this guy.



Joe Nathan: Oof. What can we say about Joe Nathan that hasn’t been said on Detroit sports radio already? After two stellar seasons with the Rangers, Nathan posted a horrific 4.81 ERA and 1.53 WHIP while blowing a career-worst seven saves. Despite all that, the Tigers have decided to go with the 40-year-old at closer once again but it’s hard to see a guy that far on the wrong side of 30 get back to peak form, even if that peak form was just a season ago.

Joakim Soria: With Texas, Soria put up a 2.70 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 33 innings and saved 17 games. In 11 innings with the Tigers, he gave up six earned runs and two homers. Soria would be the backup closer option behind Nathan but it’s tough to rely on a guy who has struggled with inconsistency and injury since 2010.

Al Albuquerque is coming off a great season as he finally established himself as a strong presence out of the pen. Tom Gorzelanny has posted a combined 3.13 ERA over the last three seasons and has found his niche as a middle reliever. Bruce Rondon didn’t play at all last year but has a rocket arm. The Tigers also signed Joel Hanrahan, because they clearly love washed up closers that rarely play.



Offense: A

Defense: B

Starting Pitching: C+

Bullpen: D+ to C-

Overall: B- to B

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Igor Derysh
Igor Derysh is Editor-at-Large at XN Sports and has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, and FantasyPros. He has previously covered sports for COED Magazine, Fantasy Alarm, and