Our Slack channel has provided a place to work out ideas and opinions about the Detroit Tigers. Today’s question in our channel was I asked our contributors their thoughts about the upcoming 2021 season and give us their “hot take predictions” on where Detroit is heading in 2021.
Michael Sicilia gave us his thoughts and predictions recently so I would suggest his article, it’s good and keeps a good balance of being optimistic and keeping the season in the prism of reality, and the same for David Rumptz, who is very optimistic. So here we go, our contributor’s thoughts and predictions.
Detroit Tigers Predictions from the MCB contributors
Jacob Boes: Season Prediction: 72-90 Narrative: The Detroit Tigers enter another season in which they are plugging stop-gap major leaguers into their holes in hopes to make the team watchable. The club will likely see some solid offensive output from the likes of Jeimer Candelario, Robbie Grossman, and Willi Castro, but the club has a ways to go to be competitive, especially in the power department.
Pitching improves this club from last year for me, as I envision Tarik Skubal taking a step forward and Julio Teheran being more of his 2018 and 2019 self and less of his 2020 self, which would be a clear upgrade from Ivan Nova. It’s also a sneaky-good bullpen–especially if Michael Fulmer gets on a roll as we’ve seen flashes of since he has made the transition to relief.
Team MVP: Tarik Skubal 2021 Hot Take: Jeimer Candelario gets traded. I’ve been fighting the notion of a player being ‘blocked’ by another, but when these scenarios do happen, I could see the Tigers making an MLB-for-MLB type deal to address a different long-term need and allow a (hopefully) hot Isaac Paredes to take third base the remainder of the season.
Sebastian Oslund: Michael Fulmer, out of necessity, is trying to reinvent himself. This spring, he worked with pitching coach Chris Fetter on pitch sequencing and improving his secondary pitches. Those will likely continue to be areas of focus. As Fulmer gets acclimated to his new role in the bullpen, including the prep work that goes into it, one can imagine that things will begin to click.
The Tigers’ closer situation may be in flux during the early stages of the season. If the revamped Fulmer begins to thrive as a reliever, AJ Hinch may decide to capitalize on that by giving him opportunities to close. If so, the competitive Fulmer could seize the role and establish himself as the Tigers’ closer by the end of the season.
Jon Erikkila: Tigers: 61-101 (5th)
Jonathan Schoop leads club w/25 homers
Casey Mize 9-12, 3.65 ERA
Cabrera gets to 500 HR but comes up 11 hits short on 3,000 Hits.
After years of rebuilding, 2021 feels like we may be on the precipice of the upswing (or an inflection point). Skubal, Mize, Candelario, Castro, Baddoo (yeah, I said it) are a part of the opening day roster and bring with them the possibility of a new era of Tiger’s baseball (and a winning one at that). Right behind them with the potential to be called up later this season are Manning, Paredes, Cameron, Clemens and that is to say nothing of Torkelson, Greene, Wentz, and Faedo (but they are a little farther away). If the rebuild is successful, a number of these players will have to develop into productive players and that is cause for optimism. In addition to the youth movement, the Tigers added some help during the offseason with some budget-conscious but potentially productive acquisitions that should help to improve the on-field product.
Unfortunately (you knew it was coming right?), even as we start to see the potential, right now this is still a team that just isn’t as talented as most others. The pitching staff should be better (can it be worse?) but still has some holes short of some surprise performances. The offense also should be improved but doesn’t have the overall depth to go toe to toe with the best teams in the league. I am predicting the Tigers finish with a 69-93 record. Not good enough to be in a playoff push come July and August (obvious) but after years of rebuilding, I will take the mini-win which comes from the optimism of your best prospects starting to make an impact.
Off the wall prediction:
Daniel Norris is fantastic in a multi-inning relief role and is the most coveted relief pitcher available at the deadline. He gets traded and everyone feels good about the return.
Predicting anything in baseball is a fool’s errand, and that seems doubly true in a year when positive COVID-19 tests will randomly send players to the IL without warning. Luckily I’m a fool, and this sort of thing is my jam.
1 – The Tigers will go 70-92. That’s nothing special, but it IS progress. I actually think they’ll be at .500 or better on June 1st before their lack of depth catches up with them and they skid to the finish.
2 – Robbie Grossman will have a 20-20 season. It’s not that Grossman is particularly speedy, but he gets on base at an above-average clip, and A.J. Hinch is likely to be very aggressive with a team that will almost certainly be in the bottom 5 in home runs. By the way, this would make Grossman the first Tigers player to steal 20 bases in a season since Anthony Gose in 2015, and their first 20-20 player since Curtis Granderson in 2009.
3 – Grayson Greiner will get the plurality of starts behind the plate by July. Greiner is a well below-average player, but I think he’s a better defender than Wilson Ramos, who looked awful behind the plate this spring.
4 – Miguel Cabrera stays healthy for most of the year and has one last great season, batting .290 with 28 home runs to win the Comeback Player of the Year award.
5 – Casey Mize goes down with “shoulder fatigue” in late June, and he doesn’t pitch again until late September.
6 – Three different pitchers record 10 saves, but none of them have more than 15.
7 – Tarik Skubal throws a 7-inning no-hitter in a doubleheader.
8 – Akil Baddoo becomes the regular starting center fielder in August and finishes the season with double-digit steals and home runs.
Prediction: Honestly, I am tired of the word “rebuild”. The Tigers appear to be in a period of transition into a much more competitive team but there are ways to go before Detroit is competing for the division. Are there pieces here? Sure. Akil Baddoo made spring training much more interesting and gave the Detroit outfield much-needed depth but there are still positional concerns across the diamond. They lack a few impact bats on the current roster but not all of this narrative is negative.
There continue to be smart decisions being made by the front office. The hires of the Director of Pitching Development and Strategies Dan Hubbs, the new position of Director of Performance Science Dr. Georgia Giblin, who is helping the players utilize their talents to the max with science and the work by Jay Sartori and Sam Menzin in the analytics and scouting department is helping Detroit become more of a modern organization. The team put together by manager A.J. Hinch is one that loves data and is making it clear new ways of thinking will be the norm.
But, until the farm system starts to develop at least 2 WAR players on a regular basis, Detroit is still a few years away. The lost 2020 for the minor leaguers really dampened the development of players who could have maybe helped Detroit sooner.
I am going to go with a 70-92 record. Tarik Skubal, despite the great talent that is available in the AL this year as far as Rookie of the Year candidates go, is my prediction to win ROY. He may be on an “innings limit” but if he can go out and command his secondary pitches, he will make a name for himself. I think Casey Mize will also get some consideration if he can stay healthy. The offense may lack punch at times this season but Miguel Cabrera will hit 20-25 home runs.
Off the wall predictions:
- Gregory Soto and Jose Cisnero will combine for 30 saves.
- Derek Hill will get some time in the majors again along with Daz Cameron. An outfield of Hill, Cameron, and Baddoo in either August or September.