Tigers: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Preview
The Detroit Tigers haven’t done anything to boost their roster. It could be because they don’t need much improvement. This team has a lot of fantasy value.
The Detroit Tigers are the one constant in the American League Central. With multiple division titles and two World Series appearances in the last 10 years, the Tigers have been solid for a decade. The team has great fantasy performers throughout the roster and the 2017 roster is no different.
The Tigers finished second in the division with an 86-75 record. The team had two 30-home run hitters and three more with at least 20 homers. On the other side of the ball, there were two 10-win pitchers and a 44-save closer. With performers like that, there’s a reason they have 10 players inside my top 300.
The offense also benefits from playing 81 games in one of the more hitter-friendly parks. Comerica Park ranked eighth in home runs, 11th in runs and 13th in hits. The team finished second in hits and sixth in home runs among the 15 American League teams.
The team finished second in hits and sixth in home runs among the 15 American League teams.
While some of the starting and relief pitchers performed well beyond expectations, the staff as a whole struggled. They were 11th in ERA and 11th in strikeouts, which is why I’m surprised they didn’t try to add another arm to the rotation.
I think the pitchers who struggled will be able to bounce back and complement the two starting pitchers to have a complete five-man rotation. The bullpen is locked down with a veteran closer and a couple of other reliable arms.
The Tigers were one of the few teams that didn’t lose any important players to free agency. So, here is my preview for the Detroit Tigers in 2017.
The Tigers may not have had the season they had if it weren’t for the man pictured above.
After the poor previous two seasons, Justin Verlander had his best year since 2012. He finished 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA and 1.001 WHIP. I talked about Verlander’s performance here. He’s my No. 12 starting pitcher next season. Let’s just hope 2016 wasn’t a fluke.
Rookie Michael Fulmer was a breakout season. He went 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.119 WHIP while winning AL Rookie of the Year in 26 starts. Fulmer wasn’t a strikeout pitcher in his first season, 7.5 K/9. He will be 24 by the time Opening Day rolls around. He comes in at No. 35.
Jordan Zimmermann had a down year in his first season with Detroit. He had a 4.87 ERA, 1.367 WHIP and 5.6 K/9. It could be chalked up to moving from the National League to the American League.
His season was shortened due to injuries. He missed almost two full months of action during the summer. Zimmermann received injections for his neck and the team is hoping it carries to Spring Training. He just makes it into my top-75 pitchers.
No. 4 pitcher Anibal Sanchez has been struggling over the last couple of seasons. He went from a 2.57 ERA in 2013 to a 5.87 ERA last season. He made just 26 starts but pitched in 35 games. I don’t have Sanchez ranked.
Daniel Norris is the fifth pitcher. He pitched alright with Detroit. He had a 3.38 ERA and 1.399 WHIP in 14 games. Norris is a spot starter or AL-only option.
Along with the bounce back performance from Verlander, the Tigers got lucky that Francisco Rodriguez was able to pitch the way he did.
Rodriguez posted a 3.24 ERA, 1.131 WHIP and 44 saves. He has at least 44 saves in two of his last three seasons. This is good to see after the down season he had in 2013. The downside with Rodriguez entering this season is the low strikeout total. He had just 52 in 58.1 innings.
I like Rodriguez as your No. 2 relief pitcher in standard leagues. He comes in at No. 20 overall. His value will come with the hope of another 40 saves.
Behind him will be the duo of Alex and Justin Wilson, not related. Alex had a 2.96 ERA, 1.219 WHIP and 6.0 K/9. Justin was just about the opposite. His ERA and WHIP were higher, but he had a better K/9, 4.14, 1.330, and 10.0, respectively.
If Rodriguez goes down, Justin Wilson should be the one you target as a replacement.
The Tigers have one of the best hitting infields in the division, and possibly the AL.
James McCann is catching, Miguel Cabrera at first base, Ian Kinsler at second base, Jose Iglesias is the shortstop and Nick Castellanos mans the hot corner.
Those five players combined for 100 home runs and 329 RBI.
McCann had a good season but falls outside my top-20 catchers. If you play in a two-catcher league, he will have value. In the standard 10-team leagues, there are better catchers to draft.
Cabrera is the symbol of consistency. He’s played in at least 148 games in every season but one from 2004 to 2016. I asked if we can expect another top-20 season from Cabrera here. The short answer is yes.
My colleague Brad Kelly questioned if Kinsler’s power resurgence legitimate. He went four seasons between 20-home run seasons, so there is some concern. I still rank him inside my top-10 second basemen.
Iglesias was the worst performer among the five infielders. He hit .255 with four homers, 32 RBI and 57 runs scored. He also stole seven bases. If he can improve in at least one category, he’ll have value. The shortstop depth chart has grown over the last couple of seasons and that leaves Iglesias off the list.
Castellanos is my No. 19 third baseman. He has 20 home run potential while hitting .280. Obviously, there are better third basemen ahead of him, but if you target other positions early, Castellanos will be there for you later.
The Tigers outfield was great in 2016. They traded a major key in November, paving a way more a new player to have a breakout season.
The top outfielder on the team is J.D. Martinez. He had another good season in Detroit. He did play in 38 fewer games, resulting in a drop off in power numbers. Martinez hit 22 home runs, 68 RBI and .307. As a result, he could be getting overlooked heading into the season. Kelly wrote that he needs to be getting more respect. He is still my No. 10 outfielder.
Justin Upton had the second-most homers and RBI on the team, 31 and 87, respectively. The bad was that he hit just .246. His average has dropped over the last couple of seasons, but with that came the rise in power.
In fantasy leagues, batting average is just one category. Power leads to home runs and, hopefully, RBI. If Upton can increase the average by 10 points and keep the same power, he will be a star. He is still my No. 21 outfielder.
Tyler Collins is listed as the No. 3 outfielder. That’s it. I just wanted to let you know who is playing center field.
Kelly also wrote about the Tigers DH, Victor Martinez. His numbers have fluctuated year to year, but I think the 2016 line is what we can expect this season. He can hit close to 30 home runs with 85 to 90 RBI and .285 average. The other Martinez will only have DH eligibility, but he is the No. 1 DH in fantasy baseball.
The Detroit Tigers have solid hitters all throughout the lineup, two great starting pitchers and another one or two with bounce-back potential, and a closer that can save another 40 games.
Some of these players will be drafted within the first few rounds. If you want their performance on your team, get ready to spend an early pick.