Despite the announcement at the end of the season that the Detroit Tigers would be busy getting younger and faster, not much has changed.
But, one thing that looks certain for 2017 is that the Detroit Tigers will be a solid mix of youthful players with hunger for the big paycheck and the elder statesmen who are the faces of the team.
It is also clear that fans have mixed feelings about the status of the Tigers. What can fans expect to see in 2017? Most likely, the same mixed feelings that they had at the end of 2016.
Despite the Tigers being open for business in the Winter Meetings, the Tigers are still the same old team. Justin Verlander will still be the ace of the team. Miguel Cabrera will probably still bat in the heart of the order. Ian Kinsler will continue to defy his age. And, Victor Martinez will still slowly make his way around the bases. But, Victor Martinez will not bat directly behind Cabrera in 2017.
Who Will Hit Behind Cabrera?
The spot that protects Cabrera will go to a younger player. Most likely, that player will be either J.D. Martinez or Nick Castellanos. Casty will only be 25 years old when the season starts and J.D. Martinez will turn the big 3-0 in August. Castellanos started off 2016 with a powerful bat; but, it quieted down prior to his injury in early August. His oWar jumped from 1.5 in 2015 to 2.8 in 2016. Casty found out how much fun it is to hit the ball; so, he’s primed to do it again and even better in 2017.
The other player who could protect Cabrera is Justin Upton. He, like J.D. Martinez, will turn 30 in August. There is no question that his bat has power. Hopefully, the home runs that appeared in the second half of the 2016 season will appear early in 2017 and continue through all 162 games.
The Hungry Young Players
The hungry players will be regulars in the pitching rotation in 2017. Michael Fulmer will be second in the rotation as he continues to be mentored by Verlander. Daniel Norris will also find himself pitching regularly in new season. The same goes for Matt Boyd. Where they will land in the rotation will be dependent on their Spring Training experiences.
Pitching is where the Tigers will see the most flux in 2017, but in a different way than 2016. The big question as we roll toward February is what veteran will be in the rotation? Will it be Jordan Zimmermann with his immense contract? Anibal Sanchez with his immense contract? Or, will Mike Pelfrey do something good? Most likely Zimmermann will be the regular pitcher, with an occasional substitution by Sanchez. Mike Pelfrey will be a bullpen guy.
A Few More Names to Watch
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Two other young players will continue to improve through 2017. It is time for James McCann to find this bat. He has one beautiful swing, but he needs to make more contact. Since he’s been sharing his batting practice time that he shares with his wife, it is clear he wants to better his stats, too. Jose Iglesias will turn 27 in a few days and as he enters his prime, he will better his OPS in 2017, too. These two men will become leaders as the elder statesmen begin to give them room to do so.
Fans can watch for a few other names to show up in 2017. Of course, Alex Avila will get some time behind the dish. But, he’ll be injured too often to make a dent in his stats. Fans will get to watch more of JaCoby Jones, and hopefully, young Joe Jiminez will make his Big League debut before September call-ups arrive. Tyler Collins will also show up in center field more often than fans would like him to, but he’s better than Anthony Gose.
The mixture of youth and age will continue to make the Tigers a team that will frustrate fans. The star power of the long-time Tigers will continue to sell tickets. And, curious fans will also buy tickets to watch and see what the young players do.