Central Intelligence 2.0: Detroit Tigers
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
DETROIT TIGERS AT A GLANCE
2019 Record: 47-114, 5th Place
2019 fWAR Leader (Offense): Niko Goodrum, UTIL - 1.9
2019 fWAR Leader (Pitching): Matthew Boyd, LHP - 3.3
Key Offseason Additions: C.J. Cron (1B), Jonathan Schoop (2B), Ivan Nova (SP), Austin Romine ©
Key Offseason Losses: Blaine Hardy (RP), John Hicks ©, Daniel Stump (RP)
2020 Over/Under: 22.0
It's fair to think of the 2020 Detroit Tigers as the "Twins Rejects." They are led by manager Ron Gardenhire, fired by the Twins in 2014 after four straight 90-loss seasons. (He has now run that streak to six straight in Detroit.) Their most valuable position player last year, per fWAR, was Niko Goodrum – a middling prospect with the Twins before they let him go in 2017.
He's now joined in the lineup by C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, crowded out of the picture in Minnesota by better players and now probably the two best hitters in Detroit's lineup. Says a lot, doesn't it?
You have to look pretty hard to find them. This is a blatantly bad team that was likely on its way to another 100-loss season. That said, they do figure to be a bit better than last year. Cron and Schoop are clear upgrades, bringing legitimate pop to a lineup that was led by Brandon Dixon's 15 homers a year ago.
Another bright spot for Detroit is that Michael Fulmer, who missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery and was expected to miss the start of 2020, should now be ready to go from the jump. The 2016 AL Rookie of the Year could pair with Matthew Boyd to give Detroit's rotation a decent 1-2 punch.
Even with Boyd and Fulmer healthy, it's a bad pitching staff. They allowed 915 runs last year, more than any AL team sans Baltimore, and their biggest offseason move to address the unit was signing Ivan Nova off the scrap heap. The arms won't get much help from the gloves behind them; Detroit rated as one of the league's worst defensive teams last year, although Schoop and Cron should improve them modestly.
I expect this to be one of the worst-hitting, worst-pitching and worst-fielding teams in baseball. The Twins went 14-5 against the Tigers last year, and playing to the same level against Detroit would yield a 7-3 record in their 10 matchups.
The Tigers do have a pair of top pitching prospects who could potentially make a difference for their rotation in 2020. Casey Mize was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018, and has since developed into one of the game's premier young pitchers, ranking as MLB.com's No. 7 prospect coming into the season. He's 23 and had a successful run at Double-A last season, so it's not unthinkable he could be up sometime in August to ruffle feathers.
Keep an eye out also for Matt Manning, a 6-foot-6 righty who is neck-and-neck with Mize for top prospect status in the system. He spent all of last year in Double-A. If these two get called up and catch on quick they can give the powerful Twins lineup some problems.
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