Analytics could give Detroit Tigers fans some slight optimism
The Detroit Tigers had a historically bad offense in 2022. It can't be that bad again. Several players had the worst seasons of their career. However, Fangraphs' Steamer projection has a few players bouncing back.
That would be a welcome sight for the Detroit Tigers, especially if young players like Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, and Kerry Carpenter all have nice seasons at the plate. It would be a huge boost for this offense.
In this article, we're going to take a look at the Steamer projections for wRC+ for every projected offensive starter for the 2023 Detroit Tigers. Weights Runs Created+ is a park adjusted, league adjusted, and era adjusted stat for hitters, where 100 is always average.
We'll just take our best guesses at third base and the outfield for the moment. Let's start with catcher.
C Eric Haase, 99 wRC+
Analytics have never really liked Eric Haase. They projected him to fall back down to earth after a breakout season in 2021, and up until mid-June it looked like they were right.
But the 30-year-old ended up being even better in 2022, finishing with a 112 wRC+ compared to a 101 wRC+ in 2021. He hit for less power, but dropping his strikeout rate by about 4.5% is what really drove the improvment.
Every indication so far is that Haase will be the starting catcher for the Detroit Tigers in 2023. Hopefully he continues to outperform the projections.
1B Spencer Torkelson, 113 wRC+
Boy, wouldn't this be nice? Tork was pretty abysmal in his rookie season. He had just a 76 wRC+ and hit just .203 with eight home runs. It was pretty rough for the former no. 1 overall pick.
The good news is that he's still just 23 years old and still has a ton of talent and ability. Steamer knows this, and projects him to bounce back for his sophomore campaign. They have him slashing .232/.322/.416 with 19 homers. They also have his walk rate increasing as well as a dip in strikeouts.
The slash line is nothing to write home about, but it would be a massive improvement for Tork. A 113 wRC+ is above league average. It would be huge to see that kind of improvement and development out of Torkelson in 2023.
2B Jonathan Schoop, 95 wRC+
Schoop was the worst qualified hitter in baseball in 2022 by wRC+ with 58. This was after he posted a 107 wRC+ with 22 home runs in 2021. It's safe to say he fell off a cliff.
Steamer has him coming back much closer to league average in 2023, which would be an improvement in and of itself. They project a slash line of .246/..290/.394 with 16 home runs. They must also project his defense to regress as they project his WAR to be slightly lower.
As much as an improvement as this would be, it's still a pretty uninspiring slash line. I still think they're better off just cutting bait with him.
3B Ryan Kreidler, 92 wRC+
Out of all Steamer's projections, Kreidler's seems the most realistic. I could easily see him putting up 90-95 wRC+. The slash line of .220/.301/.361 seems pretty legit too, thought I'm skeptical of the 9.1% walk rate.
The real question here is whether he actually reaches the projected 416 plate appearances. He could very well get sent down to Toledo before he even gets the chance. They also have him playing in 110 games, which doesn't seem too out far out of reach.
Seeing this out of Kreidler would also be pretty uninspiring. Hopefully the Tigers find an real third baseman either before this offseason is out, or for 2024.
SS Javier Baez, 98 wRC+
Here's one that won't give Tigers fans much optimism. Baez is projected to be a below league average hitter for the second straight year. He's projected to slash .241/.287/.415 with 22 home runs. That would be an improvement over 2022, but not by much.
If the Tigers want any chance of being better than they were in 2022, Baez will need to be an above average hitter. They didn't sign him to that contract for him to be anything less than that.
LF Austin Meadows, 117 wRC+
Meadows had a nightmare season in 2022. He dealt with all kinds of stuff—illness, injuries, mental health issues, you name it. All that limited him to just 36 games. Luckily, Steamer projects him to bounce back in 2023.
He is projected to slash .247/.324/.435 with 20 homers. The 117 wRC+ would be the second-highest of his career, and is also tied for the highest projected wRC+ on the team with somebody else we will discuss later on.
It would be awesome to see Meadows put up those kinds of numbers next season after the year he had in 2023. The 20 homers may seem a little disappointing, but remember that wRC+ is a park-adjusted stat. Playing half his games in Comerica Park isn't exactly great for power numbers.
CF Riley Greene, 113 wRC+
Greene is also projected to bounce back after a rather pedestrian rookie season. The 22-year-old is projected to slash .257/.330/.407 with 15 home runs.
Now I think Steamer is underselling him a bit in the power department, even at Comerica Park. We've seen how far Greene can hit a baseball. Remember the 450-foot blast off Shohei Ohtani? How about the walk-off to dead center against Kansas City?
However, consistent power was a bit of an issue for Greene last season, though it was an issue for the entire team. Hopefully the new hitting coaches can fix that.
Greene is also projected to have the higest fWAR on the team at 3.2, which would be a successful first full season in my book. It would set up for some 4 or 5 WAR seasons in the coming years.
RF Kerry Carpenter/Akil Baddoo, 117 wRC+ and 100 wRC+, respectively
We don't know who the other starting corner outfielder will be for the Tigers in 2023, so I'm including both Carpenter and Baddoo here. If Carpenter puts up that projected 117 wRC+, I think we can finally say he's legit.
That would be a great year rookie season for Carpenter. Slashing .252/.311/.452 with 18 homers wouldn't be too shabby either.
Baddoo being a league average hitter would okay considering how bad he was last year. The slash line of .235/.315/.376 isn't very exciting, but the 10.1% walk rate would be good.
DH Miguel Cabrera, 91 wRC+
That would be an improvement over 2022, so...yay? He's projected to play in 89 games, which sounds about right, whether that be due to injuries or some sort of platoon.
Overall, pretty much everyone who was bad offensively last year for the Tigers is expected to improve in some way, which is good. If Tork, Greene, Meadows, and Carpenter all hit their projections, that would give the Tigers four above average hitters. If Haase continues to outperfom the analytics, that would give them five.
Again, these are all just projections, but maybe the Tigers have more big-league caliber hitters than we all thought.