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Why the Tigers will be Fun to Watch 2018

Let’s be honest, no one expects the Tigers to be a good team in this season.  In fact, most are predicting the Tigers to be the worst team in the American League.  They may not have Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler and JD Martinez anymore, but there’s plenty of interesting storylines and questions heading into the season. So here’s a few reasons the Tigers will be fun to watch this season:  

There’s no expectations to win.  In the midst of a rebuild, the Tigers are projected to be a losing team.  This takes a lot of pressure off the players and allows them to just go out, have fun and prove people wrong.  Frankly, it’s a better position than they’ve been in the last few seasons, when their payroll demanded that they perform well, yet they fell short.  

Ron Gardenhire is an old school Manager with a young team.  While the sabermetrics crowd may not be sold on him, Tigers fans have largely embraced Gardenhire’s arrival.  Sure he hasn’t run a ballclub in years, but remember when he made a young, low budget Twins squad into a perennial contender?  His press conferences will be fun. He will remind us a lot of Jim Leyland; and that’s a good thing.

That middle of the order could be dangerous.  Cabrera, Castellanos and Martinez hitting 3-4-5, has the potential to cause plenty of fits for opposing pitchers.  Both Miggy and V-Mart had uncharacteristically bad seasons in 2017, but both have had a strong Spring (Miggy- .368 BA, .993 OPS, 3 HRs, 13 RBIs / V-Mart- .270 BA, .859 OPS, 5 HRs, 9 RBIs).  Castellanos quietly had a career year in 2017, hitting .273, .811 OPS, 26 HRs and 101 RBIs. Miguel Cabrera is playing for Cooperstown and to prove he’s still a premiere hitter. He’s only 38 HRs away from 500.  He’s 387 RBIs away from 2,000; that would place him 5th all-time. He’s 364 hits away from 3,000.

The starting rotation is interesting.  Michael Fulmer enters his third season and now plays the role of the Ace.  His two year resume is strong, his changeups are nasty and he’s working on his slider.  Jordan Zimmerman gets the Opening Day nod and looks for a chance to regain his form from his years with the Nationals. Matthew Boyd has had a strong Spring, posting a 4-0 record, 3.42 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 26 Ks in 23.2 innings of work.  His no-hitter into the 9th inning last September was one of the few highlights of last season.  Beyond these three, Daniel Norris remains questionable in his role and Mike Fiers will start the season on the DL.  The recently acquired Francisco Liriano may be past his prime, but he has earned a spot in the rotation. He’s looked solid in his three starts this Spring, 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 17 Ks in 16 innings.  

Jeimer Candelario and Dixon Machado could become fixtures in the infield.  Acquired from the Cubs last season, the Tigers made immediate room for Candelario at 3B, shifting Castellanos into the outfield.  He may even find himself batting second in the order, with the power right behind him. Machado gets more acclaim for his glove than his bat, will replace Ian Kinsler at 2B.  He and Jose Iglesias could make for an exciting double play combo. Speaking of Iglesias, he’s tearing it up this Spring (.320 BA / .837 OPS).

Mikie Mahtook was a pleasant surprise in 2017.  Though he’s not done much this Spring, Mahtook was probably the most fun Tiger to watch in 2017.  He provided some pop at the plate and some late inning heroics hitting 12 HRs, 38 RBIs and batting .276 in only 109 games.  Fans seemed to take to him, so it would be great to see him play a key role.

JaCoby Jones has had an explosive March, after being all but dismissed before the start of Spring Training.  Jones came into 2017 with a lot of hype, but struggled early and spent most of his season in Toledo.  He hit .354 with a .957 OPS, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs and 3 SBs in the Grapefruit League. He will share some time with Leonys Martin and Victor Reyes to round out the outfield.    

Shane Greene could yield a good return at the trade deadline.  Every team contending for the playoffs need relief pitching.  If Shane Green continues what he did last season, he could be one of the most sought after arms on the market.  Same goes for Victor Martinez, should an AL team be in need of a DH. V-Mart is in the last season of his contract and could be a key rental bat.  

The farm system is much improved.  If the Tigers don’t compete this season and you wonder what the future might look like, keep track of their MiLB affiliates.  The West Michigan Whitecaps won 91 games in the Midwest League last season. Many of those prospects will start the year in Lakeland, making them a potential early threat in the Florida State League.  New Managers and stocked up with pitching prospects, the Tigers farm system has been considered one of the most improved.  

The Tigers have the #1 overall draft pick.  After selecting Florida’s Alex Faedo at #19 overall in 2017, the Tigers are eyeing another arm in 2018.  Faedo’s Gator teammate, Brady Singer, was the preseason favorite, but as the college season plays out other possibilities are emerging.  The MLB Draft takes place June 4-6.  

Here’s a look at the 2018 Opening Day Roster:  

Starting pitchers: Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer, Francisco Liriano, Matthew Boyd, Daniel Norris

Relief pitchers: Shane Greene, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Stumpf, Buck Farmer, Drew VerHagen, Alex Wilson, Warwick Saupold

Catchers: James McCann, John Hicks

Infielders: Miguel Cabrera, Dixon Machado, Jose Iglesias, Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum

Outfielders: Mikie Mahtook, Victor Reyes, Leonys Martin, Nick Castellanos, JaCoby Jones

Designated hitter: Victor Martinez

Opening Day in Detroit is special.  Having been to many of them myself, there’s nothing like seeing the city packed with fans, sporting the Old English D and celebrating this great American tradition.

Happy Opening Day Detroit!  



Brian is the Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and George the Card Kid. You can also reach him at

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