MADISON, March 29, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting with the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number 2, the Detroit Tigers.
2013 Record: 93-69 with a +172 run differential.
Key Additions: 2B Ian Kinsler, LHP Robbie Ray, LHP Ian Kroll, RHP Joe Nathan, OF Rajai Davis, RHP Joba Chamberlain, SS Alex Gonzalez,
Key Losses: 1B Prince Fielder, RHP Jose Veras, RHP Doug Fister, 2B Omar Infante, RHP Joaquin Benoit
Projected 2014 Lineup:
2B Ian Kinsler
OF Torii Hunter
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
OF Austin Jackson
C Alex Avila
3B Nick Castellanos
OF Rajai Davis
SS Andrew Romine/Alex Gonzalez
Projected 2014 Rotation:
Best Case: The Tigers were a few breaks away from the World Series in 2013 and do not seem to have damaged their shot to be in a similar situation in 2014. Miguel Cabrera moves from third base to first base where his defense is less of an issue. He continues to hit baseballs very far and leads the AL in batting average for the fourth straight year while crushing 42 HR’s. The Tigers revamped infield defense is much improved, despite the loss of SS Jose Iglesias for the season, making up for a drop in runs scored.
The Tigers rotation is as effective as last year when it led the AL in innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez all finish in the top ten in AL Cy Young voting. Joe Nathan stabilizes the back of the bullpen while Joba Chamberlain finds success in an eighth inning role. The Tigers run away with the AL Central and are able to set their rotation for the playoffs.
Worst Case: Drew Smyly struggles as the Tigers attempt to move him into the starting rotation as he has not thrown 100 innings since 2011. The loss of SS Jose Iglesias hurts the defense, which the Tigers thought they had improved, while the trade of 1B Prince Fielder decreases the runs scored. Anibal Sanchez is on and off the disabled list, which tests the Tigers starting pitching depth. Torii Hunter sees age catch up with him as he posts a .262/.292/.402 slash line. The Tigers see the Indians and Royals finish ahead of the as the unthinkable happens and they miss the playoffs.
Prospect Watch: In recent years the Tigers have used their farm system as a tool to acquire major league players in trades for players like Doug Fister, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Iglesias which has contributed to a relatively this system currently. The top prospect is 3B Nick Castellanos, who will assume the third base job in Detroit this year. Castellanos spent last year at AAA posting a slash line of .276/.343/.450 as an outfielder and will have to readjust to playing third base.
The Tigers dealt Doug Fister in the offseason and received what many viewed as an underwhelming return, but trades like this take time to sort out. The top prospect Detroit received was LHP Robbie Ray who spent 2013 in A and AA where he tossed 142 innings with 160 K’s and a 3.36 ERA. Finally, the Tigers nabbed RHP Jonathon Crawford in the first round of 2013’s draft. Crawford fits the Tigers mold of power arms and it should be interesting to watch his progress in 2014.