Detroit Tigers: Outfield Improvement Will Be Key in 2016

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Apr 11, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Justin Upton (10) hits an RBI double to score left fielder Matt Kemp (not pictured) during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Justin Upton (10) hits an RBI double to score left fielder Matt Kemp (not pictured) during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cameron Maybin and Justin Upton have joined J.D. Martinez in what is shaping up to be a stellar outfield for the Detroit Tigers in 2016.

For a team that finished 74-87 last year, the Detroit Tigers have made significant strides in the offseason. The starting pitching will be much better with Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey joining Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and an improving Daniel Norris in the rotation. Likewise, the new-look bullpen has also made significant strides with newcomers Francisco Rodriguez, Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe.

While the pitching staff will be vital to the Tigers’ success in 2016, so too will be the improved outfield.

Down the stretch last season, manager Brad Ausmus played J.D. Martinez in right field, Anthony Gose in center field and some combination of Rajai Davis and Tyler Collins in left field.

While Martinez will continue to start in right field (why wouldn’t he?), the rest of the outfield has improved by leaps and bounds. The team let Davis walk in free agency, and essentially replaced him with Cameron Maybin and Justin Upton.

This means reduced roles for Collins and Gose, but the Tigers’ outfield situation is all the better for it thanks to the new additions.

Here’s a quick look at Gose, Collins and Davis’ numbers last season.

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And here’s a look at Maybin and Upton.

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The additions of Maybin and Upton improve the lineup in a number of different ways. First, the duo lengthens the lineup significantly.

When he’s playing up to his abilities, the former Marlin is a threat to reach double digits in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases. Detroit hasn’t had that kind of a player in center field since the early stages of Austin Jackson’s career. 

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Upton gives the Tigers another middle-of-the-order bat. The outfielder would generally hit third or fourth in almost any other lineup. In Detroit, he’ll likely bat second or sixth. Ausmus hasn’t decided on the exact place in the order to hit Upton, but he was recently quoted in a Detroit Free Press article as saying “You can hit him in front of Miggy (Cabrera), or you hit him somewhere in the five or six spot.”

The second way in which the duo improve the lineup is with speed. While neither are the base-stealing threat that Davis or Gose, their ability comfortably to steal 20 bases. What’s more, Maybin and Upton allow Gose to come off the bench more, where he’ll be a pinch-running threat that can significantly impact games.

Next: Detroit Tigers Prospect Countdown: #13 Adam Ravenelle

In Conclusion

Thanks to an outstanding offseason, the Detroit Tigers seem a solid bet to return to the postseason following a horrendous 2015 season. The team’s pitching will be a big part of the team’s potential success, but so will the outfield production. Cameron Maybin and Justin Upton have drastically improved outlook as the position. Along with J.D. Martinez, the two give Detroit an elite outfield. That elite outfield should thrive in 2016 and beyond.

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