Detroit Tigers: A look at the 2018 outfield
The Tigers acquired Mahtook in a late January trade last season. He was brought in to compete for a bench role with Tyler Collins.
Mahtook started off slow, hitting just .179 in May. Then, his performance (and his playing time) saw a dramatic increase. The former first-round pick hit .333 in June and .346 in July, cementing himself as the teams starting center fielder and No. 2 hitter behind Ian Kinsler.
Mahtook finished the season with a .276/.330/.457 slash line. He hit 12 home runs and stole six bases while posting a 107 wRC+ and a 1.6 WAR.
His 6.1% walk rate and 20.8% strikeout rate where the best marks of his career. The 27-year-old seems to have hit his stride in the big leagues after struggling out of the gate.
Mahtook is penciled in as the starting left fielder heading into 2018. He played primarily center field last season, but his fielding was sub-par (-2.6 UZR) and the addition of free agent Leonys Martin has pushed him to the corner.
Mahtook should get every opportunity to lock down a starting role for the season. His increased walk rate, decreased strikeout rate and higher rate of line drives and ground balls all bode well for another successful season.
Part of Mahtook’s success came from a very high percentage of infield hits, something that he has always shown a knack for in the major leagues. His 14.4% infield hit rate last year was one of the best in the league. His ground ball rate went from 38.1% in 2016 to 46.3% last year. As long as he continues to leg out ground balls his BABIP will stay in last year’s .324 range, which will keep his average in the .270’s.
If he stays healthy Mahtook should be able to post 15 home runs and 10 stolen bases, while hitting around .270. That, coupled with his above average defense in left field, should make him a 2-3 WAR player for Detroit in 2018.
Next up is one of the Tigers few Major League additions this offseason: