Detroit Tigers Spring Training Roundtable: Best Breakout Candidate
The Detroit Tigers are back from a long offseason that included the arrival of a number of new players. With a roster that is mostly set, who is the best candidate to have a breakout season?
Spring Training is officially under way for the Detroit Tigers. Baseball’s preseason officially kicked off earlier in the week. Pitchers and catchers reported on the 18th, while position players (if they haven’t reported already), will arrive on February 23rd.
Despite coming off a losing season, there is significant optimism heading into next season. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander are both healthy, J.D. Martinez is back after another excellent campaign and the team brought in the likes of Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann and Francisco Rodriguez.
While the stars are likely to carry the team, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for breakout performers. Players like Martinez, Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson have made names for themselves in seasons past. This is who the staff here at Motor City Bengals think could breakout next season.
Nick Castellanos. I believe it is his time to hit more home runs and dominate at his position. He has improved every year. Now that his good friend J.D. Martinez has crossed-over from being a good player to being a “great” player, Nick is due to do the same thing. I’m predicting that Casty will hit 21 home runs, and bat .280. He will also make fewer errors that the previous years, especially on the routine plays. I don’t expect Nick to be a “Tiger of the Year” candidate, but I do expect that he will quiet his critics with a few long hitting streaks and more patience at the plate.
Mike Pelfrey. Can a 32-year-old, 10-year veteran be a breakout candidate? Absolutely.
Pelfrey’s 2015 numbers (or his career stats for that matter), don’t jump off the page at you. They underwhelm when you consider he lost 11 games, posted a 4.26 ERA and allowed 10.8 hits per nine innings. However, a closer look provides a much rosier outlook.
The former Twin had the third-highest BABIP in the league last season, suggesting Minnesota didn’t do him any favors on defense. What’s more, Pelfrey’s FIP was only 4.00. In addition to posting solid metrics when the defense isn’t taken into account, no other pitcher allowed as few home runs per nine innings as the 32-year-old.
With a good defense behind him, Pelfrey can thrive. Luckily for the veteran, Detroit has just that—a good defense. The double-play combination of Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias should be particularly helpful to the veteran starter, who ranked in the top 20 in the league with a 51.0 groundball percentage.
The best breakout candidate for the Tigers is Nick Castellanos. This dude can hit the ball to all fields. If he can cut down on his strikeout rate (152 in 2015), he can bring a real presence to the bottom third of the order. With the big bats in front of him, Castellanos will have a chance to drive in 70-80 runs this season and stake his claim as a rising star at the plate.
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Daniel Norris: Most players on the Tigers’ roster are already established, making Norris the most likely to breakout in 2015. Norris showed flashes of brilliance like his perfect 5 innings two starts after coming back from injury. He also showed the ability to battle when he did not have his best stuff, keeping the Tigers in games. 2016 will be Norris’s first opportunity at a full Major League season, and he could establish himself as a front of the rotation starter.
Shane Greene. Shane Greene will be a breakout player this season. I know that he rather imploded last season but I loved what I saw with the New York Yankees and I have faith that he will be what he was at the beginning of the season in 2015. If he can continue what he did in the 2014 season with the Yankees and the first 3 games for the Tigers I think he will be the 5th spot pitcher. His history shows that he can pitch in majors and this will be the season he proves himself. His injury last season, no doubt, was a huge part of his mysterious implosion but now coming off his surgery I think he will earn his spot in the bullpen out of Spring Training and will eventually work his way into the rotation and prove to be a good starting pitcher for the Tigers.
Next: MCB Roundtable on Detroit's Best Offseason Move
Will Castellanos breakout, or will a pitcher? Norris or Greene? Perhaps Pelfrey? Tell us what you think and join the conversation on Facebook and/or Twitter.
Also, check back in with Motor City Bengals each day this week for more roundtables on everything Spring Training for the Detroit Tigers.