If and when the season starts, these are the Detroit Tigers you will need for your fantasy squad.
Going into a shortened 2020 season, many fantasy baseball novices will overlook the Detroit Tigers because they are a bad team filled with a bunch of “no-name” players. Although this may be true on the surface, the Tigers lineup offers the savvy fantasy manager a great opportunity to gain solid production at a relatively cheap price based on ADP (average draft position). Plus, there are few things better than rooting for your fantasy players on your favorite baseball team. This article will examine the Tigers that will help you win your fantasy baseball league. For this article, ADP is based on the most recent 12-team NFBC (National Fantasy Baseball Championship) online non-auction drafts since April 1, 2020.
Detroit Tigers Studs
The Detroit Tigers’ ace, Matthew Boyd, leads the way as the most fantasy-relevant player with an ADP of 158 and to put this into context he is being taken between the Arizona Diamondbacks’ (and former Tiger) Robbie Ray (ADP: 156) and former Dodger, now Minnesota Twin, Kenta Maeda (ADP:160). Boyd is the 43rd starting pitcher off the board thus making him extremely underrated.
Last year Boyd had the 9th best strikeout rate (30.2%) in baseball, just ahead of Walker Buehler, Stephen Strasburg, and Jack Flaherty. He was also one of eleven pitchers with an O-Swing% at/over 34.0% with a SwStr% at/over 13.0% (150 IP min.). In other words, the dude is a strikeout machine (10th overall in strikeouts in 2019) and should finish as a top 25 fantasy pitcher.
Although Boyd posted a high ERA (4.56) last year, his xFIP (3.88) suggests betters days are ahead. One of the reasons he should be improved is that he worked very hard on his curveball during the off-season and this pitch looked much improved during Spring Training. Patrick Corbin went through a similar transition a few years ago and he has posted solid back-to-back seasons. The biggest downfalls for Boyd is that he gives up a lot of home runs ( MLB worst 1.89 HR/9) and the fact that wins will be tough to come by. If your fantasy league rewards quality starts instead of wins, he should move even further up your board. Overall, if Boyd is your third or even better, your fourth starting pitcher in your fantasy rotation he should be a great value.
Joe Jimenez enters the 2020 season as the unquestioned closer for the Tigers and that automatically makes him fantasy relevant in every league. That, along with his reasonable ADP (181) is his biggest positive attributes but that is not a shot at him. Historically, the closer position is extremely volatile so to lock one down without spending too much in an auction or with a high draft pick is crucial to winning your Roto or H2H category leagues.
However, there are a few reasons to make sure you don’t overreach. Again, being on the Tigers means a very limited amount of save opportunities. Another downside is Jimenez’s lackluster K% (31.9) and the fact that his FIP (4.66) was higher than his ERA (4.37) last year shows things could have been even worse. On the bright side, Jimenez is only 25 years old and he posted a 1.50 ERA and 1.167 WHIP to go along with 5 strikeouts across six innings this spring so maybe he has improved. As long as Jimenez is your third closer on your squad, you are in good shape.
Detroit Tigers Sleepers
During the off-season, the rebuilding Tigers signed C.J. Cron to be their everyday first baseman and most people are definitely “sleeping” on him. Cron is coming off a 30 home run and a 25 home run season and with his current ADP (211) he is one of the best bargains in the draft. Cron has increased his hard-hit rate every year since 2015, posting a career-high last year of 41.1% and most importantly, he is ranked 13th in the MLB in Barrel% (16.5) ahead of Ronald Acuna (16.2), Matt Olson (16.0) and Bryce Harper (15.6). In his career at Comerica Park (19 games) Cron has batted .293 with 5 home runs, 15 RBIs, in 75 at-bats. First base is very shallow this year so if you want to pass on the elite guys like Pete Alonso and Matt Olson without losing too much, draft Cron.
Niko Goodrum is the type of fantasy player every manager needs on their team. Goodrum has multi-position eligibility at 1B,2B, SS, and OF thus allowing you to move him around some of the shallowest positions in fantasy while offering a solid power/speed combo at a very cheap price (ADP: 279). He is ranked 56th in sprint speed (29.0 ft/sec) and in a full season, he has 20/20 potential.
Unfortunately, the days of Miguel Cabrera (ADP:319) being a Triple Crown candidate are over but that doesn’t mean he can’t help you in OBP leagues while providing some counting stats. Miggy has maintained his plate discipline, keeping his strikeout rate below 20% and he still smashes lefties as he batted .340/.414/.557 against them last year. Coming into the 2020 season Miggy looked like he was in the best shape of his life so this could be a bounce-back year. Remember when he hit two home runs off the best pitcher in the league Gerrit Cole during Spring Training? Here’s a reminder.
If there are only 50 games this season, any player could realistically be a “breakout” candidate. Keeping that in mind, make sure you keep an eye on Jonathan Schoop (ADP: 301), Victor Reyes (ADP: 397), and Cameron Maybin (ADP: 419). Jonathan Schoop enters the Tigers lineup as the starting second baseman so he should get plenty of at-bats but with his declining skills and the sheer massiveness of Comerica Park, I am not expecting too much from the former Baltimore Oriole. However, second base is extremely shallow so if your starter gets hurt he may prove to be a good plug-in player but that’s about it.
More optimistically, Victor Reyes should be on your watch list from the get-go. As Fantasy Baseball Analyst Matt Williams pointed out on his Turn Two Podcast, during the second half last year Reyes hit .313 with 8 stolen bases which were quietly good for the 10th best average and the 14th most stolen bases in the majors. His stolen bases shouldn’t be a fluke either considering he is in the top 10% for sprint speed. Lastly, Cameron Maybin is set to lead off for the Tigers and he too offers a solid batting average and speed combo. For the Yankees last year Maybin batted .285 with 11 home runs and 9 steals in 239 at-bats. With plenty of at-bats and no one to take this place, he should be able to duplicate this production.