Detroit Tigers: Three More Breakout Candidates for the 2017 Season

Detroit Tigers

Sep 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder J.D. Martinez (28) receives congratulations from third baseman Nick Castellanos (9) after he hit a home run in the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers players will soon report for Spring Training. With baseball season just around the corner, here are three more breakout candidates on Detroit’s roster to watch during the 2017 campaign.

Detroit Tigers fans have seen plenty of breakout performances over the past few years.

Despite fielding an established, veteran-laden team, other players have continued to establish themselves.

J.D. Martinez has quickly become one of baseball’s best right fielders since joining the Tigers, while Nick Castellanos turned in an excellent year at the plate in 2016.

Elsewhere, Bruce Rondon was perhaps the team’s best reliever last season.

The flame-throwing right-hander made good on his excellent potential.

Rondon paced all Detroit relief pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings, swinging strike percentage, FIP and SIERA.

What’s more, the 25-year-old also ranked second on the team among relievers in ERA while also landing in the top 10 in WAR (sixth) and xFIP (seventh).

Entering the 2017 season, the Detroit Tigers roster is mostly set. There will be a few battles for spots in center field, on the bench and in the bullpen, but that’s about it.

Despite that, these three Tigers players could experience a breakout year this season.

Detroit Tigers

Sep 20, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter James McCann (34) celebrates with left fielder Justin Upton (left) and right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) after hitting a three run home run in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

James McCann
Age: 26
Position: Catcher

Ok, so James McCann technically isn’t a traditional breakout candidate after turning in a superb defensive campaign in 2016.

The backstop finished as a finalist for the Gold Glove at his position in the American League. What’s more, McCann established himself as one of Detroit’s key defensive players.

McCann finished second behind Ian Kinsler in DRS with nine, while finishing with an rSB of seven.

In all likelihood, the catcher will continue to make an impact on defense in his career. However, the 26-year-old could be in for somewhat of a breakout season at the plate.

The 2016 season saw McCann hit .221 with a .272 on-base percentage and a 66 wRC+.

Those numbers, which checked in significantly lower than his 2015 output, were in part due to a .283 BABIP.

Despite the low BABIP number, McCann still posted career bests in ISO, home runs, walk percentage and RBI.

McCann’s BABIP is likely to rise next season. Don’t be surprised if it finishes somewhere between the league average of .300 and the catcher’s 2015 BABIP stat, .325.

With that rise in BABIP will likely come with an increase in offensive production across the board.

Detroit Tigers

Feb 23, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Joe Jimenez (77) catches a ball during the Detroit Tigers spring training camp at Joker Merchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Jimenez
Age: 22
Position: Relief Pitcher

Similar to JaCoby Jones, Joe Jimenez could break out next season due to his upside and position.

Like Jones, Jimenez is one of Detroit’s promising prospects. Also like Jones, the reliever can contribute at a position of need for the Tigers.

Francisco Rodriguez will obviously still close games, with Rondon, Justin Wilson and Shane Greene serving as setup men.

However, another late-inning arm would greatly help the team.

That could be Jimenez, who would provide a different look than the likes of Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy and Kyle Ryan thanks to his velocity and ability to miss bats.

The 22-year-old dominated in the Majors last season. Making the jump from Advanced-A Lakeland to Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, Jimenez turned in a stellar 1.51 ERA.

To go along with that, he also punched out 13.1 batters per nine frames.

In addition to racking up strike outs and keeping runners off the board, Jimenez also limited mistakes where base runners were concerned.

Over the span of 53.2 minor league frames in 2016, the reliever posted a solid 0.801 WHIP. He also surrendered just 0.2 home runs per nine innings.

It remains to be seen if Jimenez will break camp with the Tigers. However, even if he begins the season in Triple-A, he can still make an impact for the team later in the season.

Detroit Tigers

Apr 24, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Shane Greene (61) prepares to deliver a pitch against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Shane Greene
Age: 28
Position: Relief Pitcher

Early in last season, Greene showed flashes of being an effective setup reliever.

The former Yankee turned in a .278 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 22.2 innings out of the bullpen in June and July. Additionally, the same stretch saw the pitcher hold opposing batters to a .200 batting average and a .499 OPS.

However, there were also times when Greene struggled mightily.

Over his final 17 appearances, the reliever pitched to a 10.00 ERA in 18 innings. In the process, he allowed 27 hits, 20 runs, seven walks and a pair of home runs.

Despite the up-and-down season, there’s reason to believe the 26-year-old can break out in 2017.

Greene posted the highest WAR among relief pitchers with a 1.2 number.

That WAR finished fourth overall on the pitching staff, coming in only behind Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer and Jordan Zimmermann.

The former 12th-round pick should also continue to miss bats next season. Greene turned in the second-highest swinging-strike percentage on the team at 12.7%.

If he can post a similar number next season, the reliever could very well improve on his 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings while also limiting base runners.

What’s more, a solid defense could also help Greene thrive. Last year, the veteran finished with the lowest FIP (2.96) of all Detroit Tigers relievers.

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