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2016 Team Previews: Detroit Tigers

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Throughout the long, cold offseason, I am doing team by team previews to get you ready for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today it's the Tigers.

Jose Iglesias is a great defender, but can he keep his offensive production at this level?
Jose Iglesias is a great defender, but can he keep his offensive production at this level?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here) or in the section (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely (or definitely) won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.

I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.

Detroit Tigers

Hitters

Name Position PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Miguel Cabrera 1B 511 18 64 76 1 1 15.10% 16.00% 0.338 0.44 0.534
J.D. Martinez OF 657 38 93 102 3 2 8.10% 27.10% 0.282 0.344 0.535
Yoenis Cespedes OF 427 18 62 61 3 4 4.40% 20.40% 0.293 0.323 0.506
Ian Kinsler 2B 675 11 94 73 10 6 6.40% 11.90% 0.296 0.342 0.428
Rajai Davis OF 370 8 55 30 18 8 5.90% 20.50% 0.258 0.306 0.44
Tyler Collins OF 207 4 18 25 2 1 6.30% 20.80% 0.266 0.316 0.417
Jose Iglesias SS 454 2 44 23 11 8 5.50% 9.70% 0.3 0.347 0.37
Nick Castellanos 3B 595 15 42 73 0 3 6.60% 25.50% 0.255 0.303 0.419
Anthony Gose OF 535 5 73 26 23 11 8.40% 27.10% 0.254 0.321 0.367
James McCann C 425 7 32 41 0 1 3.80% 21.20% 0.264 0.297 0.387
Alex Avila C, 1B 219 4 21 13 0 1 18.30% 30.10% 0.191 0.339 0.287
Victor Martinez DH, 1B* 485 11 39 64 0 0 6.40% 10.70% 0.245 0.301 0.366
Andrew Romine SS, 3B, 2B*, 1B* 203 2 25 15 10 5 5.40% 22.70% 0.255 0.307 0.315

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB SwStr% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Miguel Cabrera 0.384 25.20% 42.10% 32.70% 15.80% 9.60% 10.30% 49.90% 39.80% 6.71
J.D. Martinez 0.339 22.30% 34.20% 43.50% 20.80% 14.90% 12.60% 45.10% 42.30% 8.94
Yoenis Cespedes 0.331 21.00% 43.30% 35.70% 15.80% 10.70% 11.90% 52.80% 35.30% 10.15
Ian Kinsler 0.323 25.40% 33.90% 40.70% 5.00% 5.20% 17.10% 56.80% 26.10% 6.94
Rajai Davis 0.308 22.40% 44.10% 33.50% 9.10% 8.60% 22.70% 49.10% 28.30% 2.64
Tyler Collins 0.324 22.30% 39.90% 37.80% 7.10% 10.40% 16.00% 58.70% 25.30% -1.32
Jose Iglesias 0.33 21.00% 55.90% 23.20% 2.40% 4.30% 30.30% 53.60% 16.10% 2.19
Nick Castellanos 0.322 23.30% 36.20% 40.40% 9.20% 13.90% 11.40% 56.30% 32.30% 1.74
Anthony Gose 0.352 20.80% 54.00% 25.20% 6.20% 12.10% 20.20% 55.00% 24.90% 3.27
James McCann 0.325 23.10% 49.80% 27.00% 8.40% 12.20% 16.10% 57.60% 26.30% -0.15
Alex Avila 0.278 27.90% 40.50% 31.50% 11.40% 13.60% 11.50% 57.50% 31.00% -3.38
Victor Martinez 0.253 21.00% 40.30% 38.70% 7.20% 6.00% 17.70% 52.20% 30.10% 0.49
Andrew Romine 0.328 19.70% 58.40% 21.90% 6.70% 10.10% 20.30% 65.00% 14.70% -0.73

*Will lose this eligibility in 2016

**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.

Analysis

Miguel Cabrera was much healthier this year than I thought he would be. I didn't think we would see him until June, but he came back for Opening Day instead. I picked him to finish 4th among first basemen due to his injuries, but instead he finished...{checks ESPN player rater}...wow 13th!?! The lineup around him, some missed time to injuries, and a drop in power led to that poor finish. His AVG, OBP, and SLG were all still elite at any position. While I don't think we will ever see the 35+ HR years from him again, I think a top-5 1B finish is very likely next year. I am still worried about his health, but the upside is still there for a reliably excellent year with few slumps and consistent performance across four categories.

J.D. Martinez has officially broken out for two straight seasons. His profile looks like that of someone who hits the crap out of the ball every time he makes contact. That drives his high hard%, high BABIP, high HR/FB%, and high line drive %. The only thing I would project regression in next season is HR, simply because that HR/FB% is hard to maintain. I project 35 HR in 2016, with everything else about the same.

Free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was pretty good with the Tigers and then became an MVP-caliber player in New York. He's always a risk in OBP leagues since he never walks, but the power is legit and I don't see significant drops in anything for 2016. He's a near lock for 27-35 HR, nearly 100 RBI, 90 runs, and a 0.280 average. Those runs and RBI depend on where he ends up, of course, since the lineup around him will affect the totals.

Ian Kinsler, despite some cold stretches during the season, once again finished near the top of second base rankings (6th in ESPN). He is Mr. Consistent at this position, despite his advancing age. I think he was actually unlucky with homers this year and is due for a rebound next year. On the flip side, he posted his highest batting average since 2008, so I don't expect a repeat of that. I would go with 15 HR, 8-10 steals, and a 0.270 average next year.

Despite decent playing time, Rajai Davis didn't steal as many bases in 2015 as in previous years. He's 35 years old and not getting any faster, so I don't think he can be used anymore in fantasy. Meanwhile, Jose Iglesias rode a high BABIP (which he seems to always have, so maybe it is a skill) to a 0.300 average, showed little power, and snagged 11 steals (out of 19 attempts). He was actually useful at the shallow SS position, but I've been fooled by his type before and I'm staying away. I don't think he can maintain the average long term and he is not fast enough to be stealing 11 bases every year, given his poor success rate. Take those away and he's just a replacement-level shortstop for fantasy. Maybe he will make me look stupid, since he has maintained a 0.300 average for two partial seasons, but I'm skeptical that he has the speed to continue to hit that many ground balls and beat out the throws consistently.

Nick Castellanos was at least average this season. That's a big improvement for him. He hit a ton of fly balls and line drives and still only hit 15 homers, though. He's still young, but I'm not excited about his upside anymore. The 3B position is so deep now that I wouldn't really take a chance on a guy like this that has had his chances and hasn't blossomed.

Anthony Gose played a lot more than he's used to this year and played about as well as you would expect. He stole a good number of bases and showed almost no power. There is zero upside to his power with his sky-high GB%, low hard hit %, and 0.367 slugging. He scored a bunch of runs and got 23 steals, but that's where his value ended. I don't expect much more than that in 2016.

Ouch. Victor Martinez had an awful season. He got our hopes up in 2014 and let us down. His 0.253 BABIP and litany of injuries give me hope for 2016. If he is finally healthy and his BABIP bounces back, he could be relevant again. However, I agree with Steamer's projection that he will never repeat 2014. His 2013 season is a realistic expectation: 0.301/0.355/0.430 with 14 HR, 83 RBI, and 68 runs. His decent hard hit% in 2015 hints at potential for a rebound in 2016. He will be DH-only in most leagues, though, so don't invest much at all in him.

The only hitting prospect to monitor for 2016 is Stephen Moya. And you should monitor him. He reminds me of Aaron Judge (NYY prospect). Both have plus to plus-plus power and have strikeout issues and could debut in 2016. In my opinion, Moya's ceiling would be J.D. Martinez. I think 30+ HR is well within reach for him if he can learn some plate discipline. It's hard to tell right now when he might be called up, but you should be prepared to move on him when he does. He and Judge could be the two best power hitters to debut in 2016 (Joey Gallo debuted in 2015, so he can't be on this list).

Pitchers

Name Position IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BABIP LOB% GB% SwStr%
Drew VerHagen RP 26.1 2.05 4.35 4.25 1.22 0.221 85.40% 74.70% 6.40%
Alex Wilson RP 70 2.19 3.53 4.21 1.03 0.258 82.10% 50.50% 6.90%
David Price SP 146 2.53 3.06 3.42 1.11 0.293 78.30% 39.60% 11.40%
Joakim Soria RP 41 2.85 4.87 3.84 1.05 0.222 94.70% 43.40% 9.10%
Blaine Hardy RP 61.1 3.08 2.89 4.08 1.35 0.319 75.10% 39.00% 10.90%
Justin Verlander SP 133.1 3.38 3.49 4.15 1.09 0.267 70.90% 34.60% 10.00%
Daniel Norris SP 36.2 3.68 4.36 4.05 1.01 0.222 59.40% 46.00% 9.40%
Joba Chamberlain RP 22 4.09 5.54 4.13 1.68 0.36 74.20% 41.00% 9.30%
Al Alburquerque RP 62 4.21 3.75 4.07 1.55 0.337 74.40% 48.30% 11.10%
Kyle Ryan SP, RP 56.1 4.47 5.26 4.63 1.42 0.288 76.00% 47.80% 7.30%
Anibal Sanchez SP 157 4.99 4.73 4.03 1.28 0.278 70.00% 40.00% 9.30%
Alfredo Simon SP 187 5.05 4.77 4.78 1.44 0.294 67.80% 43.60% 8.10%
Angel Nesbitt RP 21.2 5.4 4.7 4.93 1.38 0.286 64.10% 48.50% 9.40%
Ian Krol RP 28 5.79 5.17 4.68 1.71 0.338 69.80% 45.10% 8.20%
Bruce Rondon RP 31 5.81 4.1 4.22 1.61 0.329 62.80% 41.20% 11.90%
Kyle Lobstein SP 63.2 5.94 4.64 4.65 1.59 0.326 63.60% 52.30% 7.40%
Tom Gorzelanny RP 39.1 5.95 4.53 4.97 1.73 0.353 65.20% 39.30% 11.90%
Randy Wolf SP, RP* 34.2 6.23 4.78 4.35 1.76 0.366 61.80% 44.40% 7.20%
Matt Boyd SP, RP* 50.2 6.57 5.98 5.37 1.48 0.297 62.50% 30.40% 7.90%
Shane Greene SP 83.2 6.88 5.14 4.76 1.55 0.325 58.60% 43.80% 7.20%
Buck Farmer SP, RP* 40.1 7.36 6.65 5.44 1.74 0.326 64.40% 45.30% 7.60%
Neftali Feliz RP 28.1 7.62 3.95 4.08 1.48 0.353 49.00% 39.50% 10.30%

Name SV HLD K% BB% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Drew VerHagen 0 3 12.30% 13.20% 20.50% 59.00% 20.50% -0.43
Alex Wilson 2 7 13.90% 4.00% 21.20% 53.20% 25.70% 2.21
David Price 0 0 23.30% 4.90% 15.90% 54.50% 29.60% 10.77
Joakim Soria 23 0 21.80% 6.70% 12.90% 57.80% 29.30% 4.79
Blaine Hardy 0 13 20.80% 8.30% 19.30% 49.20% 31.60% 0.52
Justin Verlander 0 0 21.10% 6.00% 18.90% 58.40% 22.70% 3.36
Daniel Norris 0 0 18.20% 4.70% 21.10% 54.40% 24.60% 0.05
Joba Chamberlain 0 8 14.90% 5.00% 23.80% 45.00% 31.30% #N/A
Al Alburquerque 0 7 21.40% 12.20% 15.10% 57.00% 27.90% -1.19
Kyle Ryan 0 0 12.70% 8.40% 15.60% 55.40% 29.00% -1.68
Anibal Sanchez 0 0 20.90% 7.40% 18.60% 54.20% 27.10% 1.15
Alfredo Simon 0 0 14.30% 8.30% 17.90% 50.70% 31.40% -0.34
Angel Nesbitt 0 2 14.30% 8.20% 19.40% 58.30% 22.20% -1.89
Ian Krol 0 1 20.20% 13.20% 19.10% 53.60% 27.40% -2.38
Bruce Rondon 5 3 24.80% 13.10% 15.90% 58.00% 26.10% -1.74
Kyle Lobstein 0 0 11.40% 8.20% 17.30% 56.40% 26.20% #N/A
Tom Gorzelanny 0 2 19.90% 12.70% 11.70% 55.00% 33.30% #N/A
Randy Wolf 0 1 17.40% 9.30% 18.80% 50.40% 30.80% #N/A
Matt Boyd 0 0 16.70% 8.80% 16.30% 51.30% 32.50% #N/A
Shane Greene 0 0 13.40% 7.20% 19.70% 51.70% 28.60% #N/A
Buck Farmer 0 0 12.90% 9.10% 19.00% 47.20% 33.80% #N/A
Neftali Feliz 4 2 19.00% 7.40% 22.70% 46.60% 30.70% -1.47

*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A

Analysis

That's quite a long list of pitchers. Trades and injuries opened the door for a lot of pitchers in Detroit. Unfortunately, very few of them were useful in fantasy. David Price was certainly an exception. The soon-to-be Red Sox starter (if rumors and my own heart are true) put up another excellent season. He's showing no signs of slowing down, although his xFIP was only 3.42 and not close to his stellar 2.53 ERA. Expect another ace season from him in 2016 wherever he ends up (aka Boston).

Justin Verlander showed just the faintest glimmer of hope for the rest of his career. He wasn't much better than league average, but he did get good swinging strikes and put up a better-than-average FIP. His 1.09 WHIP didn't hurt, either. At this point, I can't project him for anything better than average in the ERA department (3.7 or so) with a good WHIP for 2016. He showed just enough to be a streaming starter.

Anibal Sanchez used to be so reliably good, at least when he was healthy. This year, he was both hurt and bad. Even if he is fully recovered from his shoulder injury to start the season next year, I'm not expecting much. He's 32 years old, often injured, and none of his peripherals are showing signs of bad luck or continuing skills. He is very much like Verlander at this point and could surprise with a vintage performance, in theory, but I would expect a league average pitcher and streaming option only.

I like Shane Greene as a breakout pick for 2015, and that was looking good in April. Unfortunately he was awful from May on and ultimately required hand and shoulder surgery. He's so far off most radars that you can safely wait and see with him. I still think he has potential but this might be the last season before I give up on him. If he shows good swinging strike rates and K% the first two months, he might be useful the rest of the season.

I will discuss the remaining relevant starter later on.

Once again, the Tigers bullpen was a mess. Joakim Soria was down from 2014 and only pitched OK before being traded to Pittsburgh. Wherever he ends up (he's a free agent), he will almost certainly be used as a setup man. There are guys with much higher ceilings than him, but he has a pretty high floor. Bruce Rondon is a fireballer with a 100 mph fastball that has some of the best swing-and-miss stuff in this bullpen. However, he was sent home in September due to "effort level" issues and he has poor control. He is only a high-risk potential closer option at this point. Blaine Hardy put together the best overall stats in the bullpen, but he doesn't have a great strikeout rate and gives up too many fly balls. He was lucky on home runs this year, too. Without a free agent signing or trade, there may not be a viable closer or setup man on this team, as far as fantasy is concerned.

The recently-acquired Michael Fulmer (from the Mets in the Cespedes trade) is the best pitching prospect in Detroit. He is expected to debut in 2017, but could easily debut this year as well. His ceiling is probably a #3 starter or closer, but he has enough raw stuff to be interesting. He's a name to keep in mind later in the season if you want to take a chance on a mid-tier pitching prospect.

Breakout

Daniel Norris

I did say I would touch on the remaining starter we should care about. He was a top-20 prospect late in 2014, after he rose from A-ball to MLB in a single year. His velocity was up in 2014, driving his great results. He was traded to Detroit from Toronto for David Price and was then able to get some innings at the MLB level in 2015. He didn't have a rotation spot in Toronto. Things did not go very well, unfortunately. Despite his relatively bad 2015, the scouting reports, prospect pedigree, young age, good velocity for a lefty, and nasty changeup give me hope that he's worth taking a chance on. He will come very cheap in drafts since the hype has worn off, but could emerge as a solid #3 starter.

Breakdown

Jose Iglesias

As I discussed above, he has all the ingredients in place for a nose dive. He is far too dependent on BABIP for his value and is not fast enough to keep that up long term, in my opinion. I don't think he will be ownable in mixed leagues in 2016.

Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!