Organizational Rankings: Current Talent — Detroit

As Dave C. noted we are getting to the teams that have a shot at sneaking into the playoffs if a number of things break their way. The Tigers are such a team. With their talent, and with the benefit of playing in the AL Central, they have a non-negligible chance at post-season play. That is not say they should be considered the favorites in their division. In fact, most projection systems see them as a sub-80 win team and the third best, if not worse, team in the division.

On the position player side they have one true superstar in Miguel Cabrera, who, at 26, is an amazing player — producing five-plus-win seasons in four of the past five years. After that, though, the position player talent on the team is relatively poor. CHONE sees Johnny Damon as the best position player after Cabrera, which is not a ringing endorsement. Joining Damon on the wrong side of thirty in the Tigers’ starting lineup are Gerald Laird, Brandon Inge, Adam Everett, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen. These five guys, over half of the Tigers’ starting lineup, are not only declining but probably at best slightly above-average and, more likely, slightly below-average starters.

The starting lineup rounds out with two guys who have never had major league at-bats, Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore. It is nice to have this young, cost-controlled talent, but that is for the next post on future talent; here, we are looking at current talent and, again, these guys are probably below-average major leaguers at this point. On a positive note, the Tigers have a solid fourth outfielder in Ryan Raburn, which is important with Damon and Ordonez in the starting lineup.

The rotation is probably a little better. Justin Verlander broke out in a big way last year and is a legitimate number-one starter. After that, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are talented young pitchers who would be assets in most rotations. But each is not without concerns, Scherzer for his health and Porcello for the likelihood of BABIP-based regression. And although only the best teams can boast good pitchers one-to-five, the bottom two-fifths of the Tigers’s rotation — two of Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson and Eddie Bonine — seems particularly suspect.

There is talent on the team for sure — Verlander and Cabrera are superstars — but the supporting cast has too many below-average players. The position players particularly are a mix of guys either whose peaks are a little too far off in the future or too far removed in the past — or guys who never had much a peak to begin with. As I said at the beginning, it is a team that should win around 80 games and will only make the playoffs if things break right.

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

4 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: Current Talent — Detroit”

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  1. Dwight Schrute says:

    Right now I’d put them between 80-82 wins but I wouldn’t be surprised if they won as few as 75 or as much as 85. Last year they won 86 when things went right and a couple years ago they won 74 when things went wrong and they have many of those same players on the team so I think either of them are possible.

    I do think though that their future is pretty bright because of the payroll flexibility(I think something like 50 million of garbage contracts are coming off the books this year) and a couple of good looking power arms in Crosby and Turner. A possible future rotation of Verlander, Porcello, Scherzer, Crosby and Turner could potentially be one of the better ones in the league. On the other hand though their farm system is still lacking great position talent, Austin Jackson looks like he could be a useful everyday player, same with Sizemore but other than that there really isn’t a guy that you would say is for sure a future every day guy. But with the payroll flexibility that they have I think they could address that in free agency.

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  2. Byron says:

    Every day that we didn’t pop up I felt a sigh of relief. Sadly, it couldn’t last forever. No complaints here, except I rate our chances in the AL Central a little higher. I think it’s basically 50% Twins 25% White Sox 25% Tigers. I think our rotation, at least 1-3, could be one of the better ones in the AL (like, top third), and our bullpen looks to at least be a strength (for all the wins that will get us).

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  3. Dwight Schrute says:

    Also I just like to touch on Porcello real fast. You bring up the likely BABIP regression but what about the possibility of increased K’s to help offset? All I hear from scouts is that they expect his K total to increase with age, particularly because he is off his strict pitch count.

    Last year he was basically told he had 80-90 pitches to work with, so when you’re expected to go 6+ innings on that few of pitches it’s hard to go for the strikeouts. He threw his 2 seam fastball over 75% of the time majority of the time down in the zone, it’s hard to get swings and misses with that. He rarely incorporated his 95+mph 4 seamer or curveball which coming into the draft were regarded as his best pitches. He gave people a taste of the 4 seamer in the one game playoff because he could “let it all hang out” knowing that it was potentially his final start of the year, and all he did was strikeout 8 in under 6 innings of work. Now that Leyland has said he took off all the shackles look for him to use that some more and not look to pitch to contact so much. I fully expect his K total to increase by 30+ this season.

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