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2019 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers

A look at the Detroit Tigers with a fantasy baseball slant.

Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays
Castellanos is nothing short of a stud in the batter’s box
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Basic Stats:

Final Record: 64-98
RS/G: 3.89 (26th)
RA/G: 4.91 (23rd)
SB: 70 (22nd)
ERA: 4.60 (23rd)
Saves: 37 (23rd)
Strikeouts: 1215 (27th)

RS/G - Runs Scored Per Game
RA/G - Runs Allowed Per Game

The Detroit Tigers will continue their rebuilding efforts during the 2019 Major League Baseball season. While the team is looking to the future, the current roster contains some fantasy relevant players. There is no bigger question surrounding the Tigers than how Miguel Cabrera will bounce back from surgery to repair a ruptured left bicep tendon. While the below analysis does not touch on Cabrera, he’s someone to keep a close eye on during spring training for signs of health. With the current state of the first base position in fantasy baseball, more and more fantasy owners might find themselves needing to gamble at the position with the aging Cabrera.

The Superstar: Nicholas Castellanos

Perhaps one of the less heralded Superstars in the fantasy baseball universe, Castellanos has strong skills support across the board. It can be hard to remember that 2018 was Castellanos’ fifth full season in the Major Leagues. Castellanos will play the 2019 season at 27 years old. His home run total dropped slightly from 2017 to 2018 (26 to 23) but the support metrics show that a run towards 30 home runs is certainly in the picture for 2019.

Nicholas Castellanos Hard Hit Data

Season Age HR Hard% Pull% GB% LD% FB%
Season Age HR Hard% Pull% GB% LD% FB%
2016 24 18 35.7% 39.0% 31.5% 25.6% 43.0%
2017 25 26 43.4% 38.6% 37.3% 24.5% 38.2%
2018 26 23 47.9% 44.9% 35.4% 28.8% 35.8%
Data Courtesy of FanGraphs

The one area of concern lies with Castellanos’ year after year drop in the number of fly balls hit. Fortunately, the majority of the loss is finding its way into his line drive percentage. It would not be shocking to see a few more balls clear the fence in any given season when a hitter is squaring the ball up as well as Castellanos has been in recent years.

The Sleeper: Matthew Boyd

I’ll be the first to admit that Boyd may be a bit of a stretch as a Sleeper. First off, the upside potential isn’t otherworldly, and secondly, he’s been in the league for a handful of seasons now. All of that said, Boyd has slowly increased his overall skill set during the same time frame. We’re not looking at a potential ace by any stretch of the imagination, rather, a run towards a sub-4.00 ERA, with a helpful WHIP should be the upside expectation for 2019. One factor driving Boyd’s ability for a low WHIP is the high number of fly balls allowed. Typically, fly ball pitchers have a lower WHIP than ground ball pitchers. Of course fly ball pitchers can also be hurt by batted balls going over the fence at a higher rate as well. One way to mitigate that damage is to strike more batters out, which is exactly what Boyd did in 2018, raising his K% from 18.2% in 2017 to 22.4% in 2018. Boyd was particularly dominant during the second half of last season as he struck out 24.3% of batters with a 19.3% K-BB%. The starting pitcher marketplace in fantasy baseball contains plenty of landmines. Boyd could certainly blow up in our faces, however, the slow skill increase gives me hope that a surprisingly valuable season could be in the cards for 2019.

The Guy to Avoid: Shane Greene

Saves, saves, saves. We’re always looking for them and sometimes we’re willing to absorb quite a bit of damage to other categories in an attempt to stockpile the elusive category. (Switch to Saves+Holds by the way). Last season Greene tallied 32 saves with a 5.12 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Greene would have been a top performer at the relief pitching position if only saves were counted towards value produced. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, we also score based on ERA and WHIP, two categories that were severe anchors on Greene’s overall value. Greene’s poor performance (aside from his saves total) also does not appear to be changing anytime soon. Dating back to 2016, Greene has continually lost his ability to make hitters swing and miss. Making matters even worse in 2018, it appears that Greene began attempting to simply get the ball over the plate to get ahead of hitters, which led to even more damage. While Greene’s first pitch strike rate rose from 58.2% and 59.4% in 2016 and 2017 to 66.3% in 2018, so too rose his HR/FB rate. Look elsewhere for your saves in 2019.

The Prospect to Watch: Christin Stewart

Stewart was selected by the Tigers in the first round of the 2015 June Amateur Draft (Pick 34th overall). Stewart projects to be a steady bat at the big league level who should hit for slightly above-average power and a batting average that shouldn’t hurt your fantasy baseball team. Last season at Triple-A (age 24) Stewart slashed .264/.364/.480 with 23 home runs over 522 plate appearances. Stewart did have offseason abdominal surgery, so we’ll want to pay attention to his health status come February and March. A big fantasy season may not happen until 2020; however, the playing time should be available for Stewart, making him an attractive gamble late in your draft or auction.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Our 2019 MLB Preview series will run from late-November throughout the off-season. We will cover each team in reverse order of the 2018 Major League Baseball Standings. Because of the number of teams and time required to produce these posts, we’re needing to start early; before all roster moves have been made. Because we strive to provide informative and useful fantasy baseball content, we will be updating these preview posts throughout the off-season as rosters continue to take their final shape.

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