Today is the day.
Is there reason for optimism for these Tigers? Of course there is. This is virtually the same roster that came within a hair of the wild card last year. But their core superstars of Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler are an average age of 35 and will be making a combined $85 million, or nearly half of the Tigers’ payroll. What does that mean? This could be the last chance this group has to win a World Series before Al Avila breaks up the party. It could be too late already.
I talked about the pitching in the last blog, now I’ll talk about everything else.
Nicholas (not Nick anymore!) Castellanos is poised to have the best season of his career. He was pegged early on as a potential superstar, destined to be the next great Tiger ever since he was drafted. Now is the time for him to take on that role.
Castellanos posted a .285/.331/.885 split last year (batting average, on base percentage, on base plus slugging percentage, or OPS) with 18 home runs, all of which were career-highs. Castellanos missed 52 games last year however, mostly due to a fluke injury when he was hit by a pitch right on his hand, breaking it. He missed just 20 games the previous two seasons combined, so I expect him to return to that.
Look for Castellanos to be an All-Star. He’s got the power, now he’s hitting for average and he’ll play a full season this year. If his fielding can improve (he was -11 in defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs), then he can become a bonafide superstar within a year or two.
JD Martinez is also right on the cusp between good and great, but injuries will be the difference. He’s already on the disabled list, an ominous start to the season considering his injuries last season. The Tigers desperately need him to stay healthy this year, considering the sad state of center field. If he can match or surpass his 2015 numbers (38 HR, 102 RBI) then the rest of the lineup will benefit. But his health will remain a concern until he proves that it’s not.
Will the real Justin Upton please stand up?
Which Justin Upton will show up this year? The one who struck out at an astonishing rate and got benched, or the one who caught fire and belted 22 home runs in the final 68 games? I have no idea. Past performance would indicate the latter, but past performance really doesn’t mean much, does it?
Everyone on the team realizes that the playoff window is rapidly closing. I think that desperation will drive the Tigers to make the playoffs. No selling at the trade deadline, but they won’t be loading up either. They’ll be healthier than last season, which is pretty easy to do. I see a wild card appearance in their future, but not much else. After this season, we could be in for a few lean years as Avila rebuilds the roster and the farm system. Enjoy this last ride
All-Stars: Nicholas Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Michael Fulmer
World Series: Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago Cubs – Indians win in 6 games