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Detroit Tigers 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Detroit Tigers 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Detroit Tigers 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Although the Tigers finished last in the AL Central in 2020 for the third time in four years, there was ample evidence of a corner slowly being turned — whether in the arrival of a quartet of prospects (pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, infielder Isaac Paredes, and outfielder Daz Cameron), the breakouts of Willi Castro and Jeimer Candelario or the drafting (with the No. 1 overall pick) of a generational slugging talent in Spencer Torkelson. The Tigers' management surely recognized the progress, dismissing the affable Ron Gardenhire as manager and replacing him with the equally affable — but World Series title-winning — A.J. Hinch. It's not as if 2021 suddenly becomes a go-for-broke year in Motown, but it is a year to expect a significant leap forward.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Tigers

"The new staff is interesting; A.J. Hinch was a tremendous hire. He'll have a big impact on the entire organization. They had a decent year from some position players last year like Jeimer Candelario and Willi Castro, guys a lot of people had given up on, so maybe there's some hope for them. But so much of their rebuild is set around pitching: They've got Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, these guys who are not far away, especially the way pitchers come up so quickly now. And they got a primo pitching coach in Chris Fetter from the University of Michigan. People see him as a rising star, and he's bound to help those kids. It's a shame they didn't unload Michael Fulmer or Matthew Boyd; they held onto them, and their stock has gone way down. Most of what Miguel Cabrera has done lately is hold them back with his contract, but I'd never really bet against one of these all-time greats. If he were to bounce back as a DH, it wouldn't be a shock. I'll be rooting for him. I think all of baseball does."

Detroit Tigers logo

Beyond the Box Score

Buyer's market The Tigers, whose ownership has shown a willingness to spend big in past seasons, are well positioned to be major buyers in future offseasons — if they choose to be. With the expiration of Jordan Zimmermann's disastrous five-year $110 million contract in 2020, Miguel Cabrera, as of mid-December, was the only Tigers player on a guaranteed contract for 2021. The Tigers owe him $32 million in each of the next three seasons but have little else on the books for those years.

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2021 Athlon Sports Baseball Preview

Prime Target

Center fielder JaCoby Jones has earned a reputation as injury-prone, but three of his absences occurred after he was hit by pitches — including the ones that ended both his 2019 and 2020 seasons — which probably makes him more unlucky than injury-prone. It's not as if he gets drilled all the time: He was hit by pitches just six times in 2019 and three in 2020.

Staying in state The Tigers made an outside-the-box hire for their pitching coach position this winter, plucking 34-year-old Chris Fetter from the University of Michigan. Fetter is seen as being on the vanguard of data analysis and pitch design and had previously hosted Tigers hurlers Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Alex Faedo for workouts at Michigan's high-tech facilities.

Free swingers One objective for the Tigers' offense in 2021 needs to be enhanced plate discipline. The Tigers ranked just 28th in the majors in OBP (.303) in 2020 and had the second-highest rate (34.4 percent) of swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. As a result, they posted the worst walks-to-strikeouts ratio (0.26) in the majors.

Five for Rule 5 For the fifth straight year, the Tigers made a selection in the Rule 5 draft this winter — not something an organization should be proud of — taking outfielder Akil Baddoo from the Minnesota Twins. Though he hasn't played above Single-A, he is an intriguing center field prospect with a career .249/.357/.422 slash line in the minors.

Missed opportunity The Tigers may have missed the boat on trading lefty Matthew Boyd while his value was highest at the 2019 trade deadline. Instead, they held on to him, and his performance has only gone downhill since then. By December 2020, he was a candidate to be non-tendered, but the Tigers offered him a contract, signaling their belief they can get him turned back around.

Projected Lineup


RF     Victor Reyes (S)

LF     Robbie Grossman (S)

DH    Miguel Cabrera (R)

1B     Jeimer Candelario (S)

C      Wilson Ramos (R)

2B     Jonathan Schoop (R)

CF     JaCoby Jones (R)

SS     Niko Goodrum (S)

3B     Isaac Paredes (R)


INF   Willi Castro (R)

OF    Nomar Mazara (L)

INF   Renato Nunez (R)

C      Grayson Greiner (R)


LHP    Matthew Boyd

RHP    Spencer Turnbull

RHP    Casey Mize

RHP    Jose Urena

RHP    Michael Fulmer


RHP    Bryan Garcia (C)

LHP    Gregory Soto

RHP    Buck Farmer

RHP    Jose Jimenez

RHP    Jose Cisnero

LHP    Daniel Norris

RHP   John Schreiber

LHP    Tyler Alexander

2021 Prediction: 5th in AL Central

(Miguel Cabrera photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)