2018 AL Central Preview

Last year this division included one of the biggest surprises of the season, the Minnesota Twins, who nobody expected would have as good a season as they did. That Twins team was a great story, but the fact remains that the Cleveland Indians own this division. The Indians have won the Central in back-to-back seasons, and it will take a miracle to stop them from completing the three peat. 1st Place: Cleveland Indians 2017 record: 102-60, first in AL Central, lost in ALDS to the New York Yankees My 2018 prediction: 100-62 Key acquisitions: Yonder Alonso (1B), Mike Napoli (1B/DH) Key departures: Jay Bruce (OF), Carlos Santana (1B), Boone Logan (LHP), Austin Jackson (CF), Bryan Shaw (RHP) One of the most dominant teams in the MLB over the past couple of seasons. In 2016, they lost the World Series to the Chicago Cubs in seven games. After a game-tying home run by Rajai Davis in the bottom of the 8th inning, it looked like the Indians were going to be Champions. But after an unfortunately timed rain delay, the Cubs ended up winning the game, and breaking the hearts of all of those in Cleveland. After such a devastating loss, you would think that a team might have some struggles in the next season. The Indians however, didn’t have such struggles. In 2016, the Indians won 94 games in the regular season and made it to the World Series. Last season, the Indians won 102 regular season games, which was second in the league. Where the Indians didn’t have as much success though, was in the postseason. Cleveland was knocked out two runs sooner than they were the year prior. Even though Cleveland had the second most wins in the league, they had to face the red hot New York Yankees. The Indians won the first two games of the series, but the Yankees roared back and won three straight to eliminate Cleveland. Going into this season, Cleveland will try to avoid a third straight year of suffering a heart breaking postseason loss. They certainly have the pitching and hitting talent to do it. The Indians lost two big bats in the off-season. Carlos Santana, who hit 23 home runs and had 79 RBI last season, signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Jay Bruce, who the Indians acquired from the New York Mets, signed back with the Mets. In 2017, Bruce hit 36 home runs and 101 RBI, although only 7 home runs and 26 RBI were during his time with the Indians. Even with the loss of those two power hitters, the Indians still have a chance to have one of the better offences in the league. Yonder Alonso was Cleveland’s main acquisition in the off-season and will look to take over Carlos Santana’s production at first base. Jason Kipnis had an injury riddled 2017. Even going into this year’s Spring Training he’s been dealing with a sore back and has been forced to sit out a few games. Kipnis is expected to be the team’s starting second baseman this season after venturing into center field for parts of last season. He’s going to be an important piece in this lineup to help them reach their full potential. The left side of Cleveland’s infield is the best in the majors. Francisco Lindor is one of the best shortstops in the league and is still only 24 years old. In 2017 he finished fifth in AL MVP voting, four spots higher than he finished the previous season. He had a wRC+ of 118 with a 5.9 fWAR and led all shortstops in home runs, with 33, and RBI, with 89. It’s fairly reasonable to think that Lindor has a legitimate chance of hitting 30-100 this season, which hasn’t been done by a shortstop since 2011, when Troy Tulowitzki hit 30 home runs and 105 RBI. Jose Ramirez was even more incredible. He hit 29 home runs with 83 RBI and slashed .318/.374/.583, on his way to a 148 wRC+ and a 6.6 fWAR. Although Lindor has three more years of arbitration eligibility, while Ramirez has two, the Indians would be smart to sign both of them to long-term extensions as soon as possible. Having the best left field of the infield for the next decade or so will allow the Indians to continue being a dominant team for the foreseeable future. Michael Brantley is the biggest question mark on this team by a mile. Here are the past four seasons for Brantley: 2014: 156 GP, 200 hits, 20 HR, 97 RBI, 23 SB, .327/.385/.506, 151 wRC+, 6.0 fWAR 2015: 137 GP, 164 hits, 15 HR, 84 RBI, 15 SB, .310/.379/.480, 133 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR 2016: 11 GP, 9 hits, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, .231/.279/.282, 41 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR 2017: 90 GP, 101 hits, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 11 SB, .299/.357/.444, 111 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR As you can see, he went from winning a Silver Slugger and finishing third in MVP voting in 2014 to barely seeing the field in 2016 and missing almost half of last season. Even going into this season there are questions about whether or not he’s going to be ready for Opening Day. If he can play anywhere around 130-140 games it will do wonders for this lineup. Former first round pick Bradley Zimmer will be an interesting player to watch. He was having a decent rookie season until he fractured his hand this past September, which ended his season. Now he’s healthy and he’s looking to show the world that he’s one of the best young center fielders in the game. Zimmer is a great fielder and has the potential to steal 40 bases which makes him a key piece of this Indians team. Lonnie Chisenhall has had back-to-back solid seasons in right field and will look to continue that success. To go along with all of this talent, they also have one of the most consistent big bats in the league. Over the past six seasons, five with Toronto and one with Cleveland, Edwin Encarnacion is averaging 38 home runs and 110 RBI. In that span, he is the only player in the MLB who averages 38-110. This offence’s biggest opponent is health, if they can avoid significant injuries, there’s no reason why this team shouldn’t be near the top of most offensive categories. Going into the 2014 season Corey Kluber was a 27-year old with a career 13-10 record and a 4.32 ERA. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, Kluber has won two Cy Young awards and is one of the five best pitchers in baseball. He’s averaged a 16-10 record with a 2.83 ERA and 252 strikeouts over the past four years. Last season, from the All-Star break to the end of the year, Kluber went 11-1 with a 1.79 ERA. Over the same span, Chris Sale, who was the favourite to win the Cy Young for the majority of the season, went 6-4 with a 3.12 ERA, which opened the door for Kluber to capture his second Cy Young. The one knock on Kluber was his performance in last season’s postseason. In 2016, when the Indians made it to the World Series, Kluber started six games, went 4-1 and put up a spectacular 1.83 ERA. This past postseason, in two starts against the Yankees in the ALDS, he went a combined 6.1 innings with an abysmal 12.79 ERA. Despite his poor postseason performance, Kluber will once again be a Cy Young finalist this season and will have a good chance of repeating as the winner. Right behind Kluber in the rotation is Carlos Carrasco, who has been phenomenal over the past four seasons. Carrasco has solidified himself as one of the best number two starters in the league and will look to continue being a part of one of the more dominant 1-2 combos in the league. The rest of Cleveland’s rotation are nowhere near the level of Kluber and Carrasco, but they have some potential. Danny Salazar is the most talented of the remaining pitchers, but he also has the most question marks. Since Salazar entered the league in 2013, he has shown flashes of brilliance, but he has also shown to have trouble staying healthy. In mid-January he started experiencing inflammation in his throwing shoulder which is now jeopardizing the start of his season. It’s in Cleveland’s best interests to make sure that he’s as healthy as can be before he makes his season debut. But if he continues to have shoulder issues for a second straight season, Cleveland might have to look for other options for middle of the rotation help. Trevor Bauer strikes out a good number of hitters, and has secured a spot for himself in the rotation. Which leaves either Josh Tomlin or Mike Clevinger as the fifth starter. Clevinger is by far the better pitcher of the two, but Cleveland might decide to go with Tomlin due to his big league experience, while they utilize Clevinger out of the bullpen like they did last season. However, the battle between Tomlin and Clevinger might end with both of them getting spots in the rotation, depending on the health of Salazar. In my opinion, Andrew Miller is the best reliever in all of baseball. You can definitely make an argument for another pitcher, such as Kenley Jansen, but my money’s on Miller. Since 2014, Miller has a 1.72 ERA with 421 strikeouts in 261 innings. He comes in in the biggest, most important situations of any given ball game. In 18 of his 57 games last season he recorded more than three outs. His fastball touches 100 MPH and his slider, which may be the nastiest pitch in all of baseball, starts in one batter’s box and end’s in the other. Not to mention that he’s left-handed. While most relievers are only brought in to face batter of the same handedness, it doesn’t matter with Miller. In 2017, left-handed hitters had a .161 average against Miller, while right-handed hitters averaged .135. To close games out, the team still has Cody Allen. Who had some shaky periods last season, but as a whole, he registered at least 30 saves for the third straight season, and is still one of the scarier closers in the game. Player to watch: Yonder Alonso 2017 Player A: 23 HR, 79 RBI, .259/.363/.455, 117 wRC+, 112 OPS+ Player B: 28 HR, 67 RBI, .266/.365/.501, 132 wRC+, 133 OPS+ Player A is Carlos Santana. Player B is Yonder Alonso, who the Indians signed to replace Santana at first base. 2017 was Alonso’s best season as a pro and if he puts on a repeat performance this year, his signing may go down as one of the most valuable of the off-season.

2nd Place: Minnesota Twins 2017 record: 85-77, second in AL Central, lost in Wild Card to the New York Yankees My 2018 prediction: 86-76 Key acquisitions: Fernando Rodney (RHP), Jake Odorizzi (RHP), Addison Reed (RHP), Logan Morrison (1B/OF), Michael Pineda (RHP) Key departures: Bartolo Colon (RHP) First off, Bartolo Colon was terrible last season and isn’t really a ‘loss’ for the Twins, but anytime you get a chance to mention “Big Sexy”, you take it. Now, onto the actual preview of the Twins. The Minnesota Twins were the biggest surprise in baseball last season. In 2016, the Twins went 59-103, which was nine more losses than any other team in the MLB. Last season, they went 85-77 and actually got to play in the Wild Card game. The story as a whole was amazing. But, as we look forward to a new season, the biggest question with the Twins will be if it was just a one great, lucky season or if the Twins have turned things around for good. For me, I think it leans closer to the latter. In a weak division, the Twins have a golden opportunity to once again fight for a playoff spot. If you look at the names that make up this roster, nobody jumps out to you. But when you start digging and you look at the numbers, this team has some impressive pieces. Joe Mauer is one of the best catchers of all-time, but he hasn’t played the position since 2013, due to some knee issues. Although he’s nowhere near the player he was back in the day, specifically 2009 when he won the AL MVP, he is still a good hitter and defender over at first base. He slashed .305/.384/.417 this past season, which were his best numbers since 2013 and now that the team has hope going into a season, I expect him to put up similar, possibly even better, numbers this season. Brian Dozier has some serious power, especially for a second baseman. In 2016, he was tied for third in AL home runs, and in 2017 he was tied for tenth. However, among second basemen, he has led the majors in home runs the past four seasons. Miguel Sano might be the Twins’ best player. With Sano, there’s no questions about his on-field play. But there are questions off the field. On December 29, 2017, a photographer publicly accused Sano of sexually assaulting her back in 2015. Sano denied the allegations, but the MLB is investigating the matter and there’s a chance that Sano will be suspended for part of the 2018 season. Until the MLB comes to a decision, Sano is expected to man the hot corner and continue providing a significant amount of power to this lineup. Last season, Eddie Rosario had himself a breakout year. In the first 214 games of his career, Rosario hit 23 home runs in 788 at-bats. In 542 at-bats last season, he hit 27 home runs. Still only 26 years old, Rosario has lots of room to grow and has a chance at hitting 30-35 home runs this season. Byron Buxton is an incredible talent who won’t be turning 25 years old until December. Defensively, he’s a game-changer in center field. His 9.9 UZR and 24 Defensive Runs Saved are the reason why he was awarded his first career Gold Glove last season. Offensively, it’s a different story. Buxton has the talent to hit 25 home runs and steal 40 bases in any given season, and as long as he performs like he did after the All-Star break, as opposed to before it, he has a shot at doing it this season. In his first 83 games of 2017, Buxton had 5 home runs, 16 RBI, 15 stolen bases and slashed .216/.288/.306. After the break, Buxton was a completely different hitter. In the 57 games following All-Star weekend, he hit 11 home runs with 35 RBI, 13 stolen bases and slashed .300/.347/.546. If he can produce those numbers at the plate while continuing his Gold Glove defence in center, he will start to receive some MVP attention. Logan Morrison had trouble finding a suitor in free agency but as Spring Training approached, he finally found a home with Minnesota. His 38 home runs were by far the most of his career. It’s that power that makes this such an interesting signing. I don’t think anybody is expecting him to hit 38 again, but if he can even hit 30, it will be a great signing for a team that was middle-of-the-pack in home runs last season. Ervin Santana may be the most underrated starting pitcher in the league. The past three seasons he’s been putting up great numbers, and it took until this past season for people to start noticing. Much like Chris Archer with the Rays, it’s tough to get the recognition you deserve when you don’t win many games. In both 2015 and 2016, Santana finished the season with 7 wins, despite having ERA-‘s of 97 and 78. This past year, with the Twins turning things around and becoming a playoff contender, Santana finally got the help he needed. After back-to-back 7-win seasons, Santana finished last season with 16 wins and lowered his ERA- to 73, all while finishing seventh in Cy Young voting. Unfortunately for Santana, he underwent hand surgery in early February and current timetable projections have him missing the first month of the season. I only need two words to describe Jose Berrios: He’s nasty. Although his numbers were very good, especially considering it was only his second major league season, they weren’t anywhere near as good as they can be. Berrios is only 23 and has as bright a future as any young pitcher in the game today. I could talk about him more, but it’s better if you just go on YouTube and watch his highlights. Like I said, he’s nasty. Jake Odorizzi was a nice pickup in a trade with the Rays. He’s had some decent seasons in Tampa, but he’ll look to improve now that he’s pitching for a good team. Kyle Gibson had an overall ERA of 5.07 last year, but late in the season, from July 22nd to September 12th, he had a stretch of nine starts where he went 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA. He’ll try to replicate that end of the year stretch, but the Twins shouldn’t hold their breath. The fifth spot will be taken by one of Anibal Sanchez, Phil Hughes or Adalberto Mejia. None of those three are great options, but as a fifth starter, I guess it could be worse. Later in the season, the Twins are hoping that Michael Pineda will be making his Twins debut after undergoing Tommy John Surgery last July. Pineda is about as inconsistent as a starting pitcher can be, but when his game is on, he’s dominant. If he can return for a playoff run, it would be a huge addition for Minnesota. The back-end of the Twins bullpen was completely revamped this off-season. Addison Reed will presumably be their set-up man after having a successful 2017. Reed was great for the Mets early in the season until he was traded to the Red Sox. His time in Boston could’ve been better as a whole, but he was still fairly successful nonetheless. To close things out, the Twins signed Fernando Rodney, who spent all of last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s be honest, Rodney isn’t that good of a pitcher. But you can’t argue the fact that he converted 39-of-45 save opportunities last season. With these two signings, the Twins have solidified the back-end of their bullpen, which for a playoff contender, is very important. Player to watch: Byron Buxton It’s simple, if Buxton is as productive at the plate as he was in the second half of 2017, you will hear his name in MVP conversations. If not, the Twins will have a tough road to the playoffs.

3rd Place: Chicago White Sox 2017 record: 67-95, fourth in AL Central My 2018 prediction: 72-90 Key acquisitions: Welington Castillo (C) Key departures: N/A This team is going to be fun. Although the White Sox are most likely going to have another bad season, they have a lot to look forward to for this season and in the future, due to the fact that they have arguably the best farm system in the MLB. According to Baseball America, the White Sox have five prospects in the Top 100, and two in the Top 11. That’s not including a player like Yoan Moncada, who is no longer eligible for the Top Prospects list, but is still only 22 years old and is only a year or so removed from being the overall number one prospect in the game. The only move the White Sox really made this off-season was signing catcher Welington Castillo. In 2017, Chicago’s catchers combined to hit .273 with 9 home runs and 53 RBI. Castillo, in 2017, hit .282 with 20 home runs and 53 RBI. To say that Castillo is an upgrade over last year’s catching situation is a massive understatement. Jose Abreu is one of the most consistent hitters in the majors. Over his first four seasons in the league, he’s produced a .301/.359/.524 slash line with an average of 31 home runs and 102 RBI per season. Abreu is one of the best hitters in the league, plain and simple, and has shown no signs of slowing down. Yoan Moncada is one of the great young players in baseball. In 54 games last season he didn’t have much success. But in baseball, a 54 game sample size means absolutely nothing. At some point in his career, Moncada is going to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, and chances are that it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. Now that he’s looking forward to his first full season in the majors, he’s going to have a chance to show why he was the centerpiece of the Chris Sale trade. Tim Anderson didn’t have the best 2017. However, he’s still young and has shown some power. There’s not much to say about Matt Davidson other than that he’s your typical power hitter. He’s going to hit 30-40 home runs, have a batting average somewhere from .200 to .230 and strikeout close to 200 times. Avisail Garcia had himself a breakout year. In his first two seasons as a full-time player for the White Sox, Garcia slashed .252/.308/.374 and averaged 12 home runs and 55 RBI. Last season he slashed .330/.380/.506, hit 18 home runs with 80 RBI. This performance gained Garcia his first All-Star nod, and he has a solid chance at getting an invite to Cleveland in mid-July for his second. Now it’s time to have some fun by talking about Eloy Jimenez. According to Baseball America, Jimenez is the fourth best prospect in baseball. I don’t personally consider Shohei Ohtani as a prospect, so Jimenez is really the third best, but enough with the semantics. After being acquired mid-season from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana deal, Jimenez is expected to make his major league debut at some point this season. Jimenez has drawn comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton due to his incredible raw power. Anytime a prospect gets compared to a star like Stanton, it’s something to get excited for. There’s a chance that Jimenez won’t get called up until September, but if he’s crushing Triple-A pitching and the White Sox aren’t in contention, which I don’t expect them to be, then they might be better off calling him up and getting his some much needed big league at-bats to see what they have in him. Much like the lineup, the main focus of this season for the White Sox pitchers is going to be the young arms. James Shields seems like the most likely option to be Chicago’s Opening Day starter. In case you weren’t aware, James Shields sucks. The honour would’ve went to Carlos Rodon, but due to shoulder surgery, he’s expected to miss the first couple months of the season. Once healthy, the lefty Rodon will look to build on what have been a pretty good first three seasons. Carson Fulmer was drafted eighth overall by the White Sox in 2015 and made his MLB debut just over a year later. Fulmer only started five games for the White Sox last season, so it’s an incredibly small sample size, but he showed glimpses of why he was a top ten pick. Fulmer has been told that he has a legitimate shot at getting a spot in the rotation this season, but there’s a chance that Chicago decides to permanently move him to the bullpen if they don’t see what they want from him in Spring Training. Lucas Giolito is an interesting player to watch. He’s only a couple of seasons removed from being one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, but his path to the majors has been shaky. Giolito had a successful few seasons in Washington’s farm system until he was traded to Chicago for Adam Eaton in late 2016. In 2015, Giolito’s fastball touched 98, however over the last couple of seasons his velocity has dropped to the low-90s, which many have attributed his struggles in Triple-A to. The White Sox decided to call him up despite his struggles, and although it was only for seven starts, it paid off. In five of his seven starts for the White Sox, Giolito allowed two or fewer runs. The thing I’m looking forward to most in terms of the White Sox pitching is the development of Michael Kopech. An argument can be made that Kopech is the top pitching prospect in baseball. Once again, I don’t really consider Ohtani as a prospect. Along with Yoan Moncada, Kopech was a key piece the White Sox acquired in the Chris Sale deal. All you really need to know about Kopech is that in 2016, one of his fastballs reportedly registered at 105 MPH. With a running start, Kopech has been clocked at 110 MPH. Kopech has started on numerous occasions that his goal is to hit 107 MPH, which would be the all-time record. I’m not sure if he’ll ever achieve the feat, but he has the best chance of anybody to do it. He’s only 21 years old and has many years in front of him to grow and improve, so 107 is a possibility. For those thinking that he’s just a side show that can throw really hard, you’re wrong. He’s legitimately one of the top pitching prospects and has dominated at every level he’s pitched at. Much like Jimenez, we’ll most likely get a glimpse of Kopech on a major league mound at some point season, the only question is when that will be. Player to watch: Yoan Moncada I’m just really excited to see what this kid can do. Like I said earlier, he has the potential to hit 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases a season. It won’t take long for Moncada to be a household name. He’s that good.

4th Place: Kansas City Royals 2017 record: 80-82, third in AL Central My 2018 prediction: 70-92 Key acquisitions: Lucas Duda (1B) Key departures: Eric Hosmer (1B), Lorenzo Cain (OF), Mike Moustakas (3B)*, Jason Vargas (LHP) I don’t have much to say about this team. They lost three of their five best players, along with their best pitcher from last season. Eric Hosmer was the heart and soul of this team and coming off of the best season of his career. He signed with San Diego. Lorenzo Cain was great for them in center field and very consistent at the plate. He signed with Milwaukee. Mike Moustakas led the team in home runs. He’s currently a free agent. Jason Vargas was tied for the MLB lead in wins. He signed with the Mets. That’s a lot of talent leaving and not much coming in. Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield are the only two players that excite me on this team. Perez is still one of the best all-around catchers in the league. He’s had success every season that he’s been the full-time starter, but now he’ll be looked at as the big bat in the lineup. Lucas Duda is going to hit a good amount of home runs, but he doesn’t provide much else. Whit Merrifield seemingly came out of nowhere in 2017. The vast majority of baseball fans had no idea who he was going into the season and there’s no reason they should have. But going into this season, he’s a name to know. In his first full major league season, Merrifield had 19 home runs, 34 steals and slashed .288/.324/.460. Hitting 20 home runs and stealing 40 bags is definitely within reach for this upcoming season. Alcides Escobar has been consistent over his career, but he’s been nothing special over the past few seasons. Alex Gordon has seen a drastic drop off in his performance since being an All-Star from 2013-2015. He’s still a great fielder, having won his fifth career Gold Glove this past season, but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that he’s a low-.200s hitter. Jorge Bonifacio had a solid rookie season and with three big bats leaving the lineup, he’ll probably get a chance to bat at the top of the order on a regular basis. Aside from Danny Duffy, this rotation does absolutely nothing for me. Duffy has averaged a 9-8 record, a 3.47 ERA and has put up ERA-‘s of 65, 100, 82 and 86 over the past four seasons. Those aren’t exactly the numbers of an Ace, but they’re very good numbers nonetheless. Ian Kennedy has been terrible in two of the past three seasons. Jason Hammel has a rude awakening when he returned to the AL this past season, after spending two and a half seasons with the Cubs. Jakob Junis had an unexpectedly good rookie season and seems to have solidified a rotation spot for himself. This team has very little to be excited for and it wouldn’t surprise me if they have trouble reaching the 70 wins I projected for them. Player to watch: Whit Merrifield Do we actually have a 20 home run, 40 steal player to look forward to? Or was last year a mirage? We’ll soon find out. Another reason why Merrifield is my player to watch is because I wonder if Merrifield becomes a trade candidate mid-season, due to the fact that he still has another year of pre-arbitration and three years of arbitration left. He’s already 29 years old and the Royals have no prospects on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list. If Merrifield is red hot in the first half of the season, it would give the Royals a good trade chip to replenish their farm system.

5th Place: Detroit Tigers 2017 record: 64-98, fifth in AL Central My 2018 prediction: 60-102 Key acquisitions: Mike Fiers (RHP), Francisco Liriano (LHP) Key departures: Ian Kinsler (2B) This team is going to stink. S-T-I-N-K. Stink. They stunk last year and now they’re going to stink even more. They traded both Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez last season and then traded Ian Kinsler this off-season, leaving a very small amount of talent on this team. Miguel Cabrera is one of the best hitters of all-time, but 2017 was hard to watch. Excluding Cabrera’s rookie season in 2003, when he only played 87 games, Cabrera’s 2017 season included career lows in hits, home runs, RBI, runs, batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS+ and wRC+. If anybody is going to bounce back after a career worst year, it’s going to be Miguel Cabrera. But if last season was a pre-cursor for what’s to come, the future first ballot Hall-of-Famer is going to be in for an ugly year. While Cabrera saw career lows in just about every statistical category, Nick Castellanos, he prefers to be called Nicholas but I still call him Nick (fight me about it), saw career highs in hits, home runs and RBI. Castellanos is going to be the team’s starting right fielder this season after spending 4189.8 of his 4401 career defensive innings at third base. It’s a required move after the Tigers called up top prospect Jeimer Candelario near the end of last season. Castellanos will most likely continue to bat third, with Candelario and Cabrera batting around him, so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to put up 25 home runs and 100 RBI again. Candelario was acquired mid-season in a package from the Chicago Cubs for reliever Justin Wilson. After being called up by the Tigers in September, Candelario saw much success at the plate. He’s a switch hitter and projects to hit for average and power. Now that he has a starting MLB job, he’s going to have a great chance to prove just how good he is. It’s kind of hard to believe that this is an actual major league starting rotation. Michael Fulmer is great. He won AL Rookie of the Year in 2016 and was an All-Star in 2017. He was heavily involved in trade rumours all off-season but ended up staying in Detroit. Fulmer is only 24 years old, so the Tigers asking price was incredibly high, plus he underwent season ending surgery on his throwing elbow which raised some red flags for any team that was looking to acquire him. If healthy, he’s going to be the best pitcher on this staff by a long shot, which when you look at the rest of the rotation, isn’t really saying much. In 2016, Detroit signed Jordan Zimmerman to a five year $110 million deal and in his two seasons as a Tiger he has been an absolute disaster. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the chances of him turning things around are slim-to-none. Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris are both young lefties that were acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for David Price a few years ago. Norris has been decent at the major league level, while Boyd has had trouble finding any success at all. The Tigers have a terrible roster, aside from four or five players. The good thing for them is that they’ll have a good chance at picking first in next year’s draft. Player to watch: Miguel Cabrera I need to know if last year was just one bad season or the beginning of the end. His numbers were career lows across the board and he drastically failed the eye test. We can only hope that Cabrera regains his form and puts up 30+ home runs with 100+ RBI and a batting average well north of .300. He’s ‘only’ 34 years old, and being as talented of a hitter as he is, he should be able to play into his late 30s-early 40s, much like his teammate, Victor Martinez. But I guess only time will tell.

* - Player is currently a free agent

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