As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.
The Tigers, somehow, finished with a better record than the White Sox last season.
Despite Miguel Cabrera playing in just 38 games, despite them no longer having Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer, despite them losing an identical 98 games the year prior, the Tigers did win two more contests than the South Siders in 2018. That, perhaps, had something to do with the 12 wins they had in the 19 head-to-head matchups, a winning record against the White Sox powered almost single-handedly by Nicholas Castellanos, who crushed South Side pitching last season. In those 19 games, he slashed .363/.414/.625 with 29 hits, six doubles, five homers and 29 RBIs. He's the newest Sox killer, and though his name was included in many a rumor this offseason, he didn't go anywhere. Castellanos' bashing of the White Sox was part of a nice .298/.354/.500 season, and it wouldn't be surprising to see his name floated around again at the trade deadline.
Unfortunately for the now-rebuilding Tigers, Castellanos is perhaps the lone bright spot on this squad.
They got some tough news Tuesday, when No. 1 starting pitcher Michael Fulmer was recommended to have Tommy John surgery, an outcome that would wipe out his 2019 season. Fulmer didn't put up terrific numbers last season, right on par with currently uninjured starters Matthew Boyd and Jordan Zimmermann, who had 4.39 and 4.52 ERAs, respectively, in 2018. Detroit's got a pair of unexciting newcomers in their rotation, too, free-agent signings Matt Moore and Tyson Ross. Moore had an ERA near 7.00 in just 12 appearances last season, while Ross fared far better out of the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen than he did in the San Diego Padres' rotation.
Of course, the Tigers still have Cabrera, who as mentioned missed most of the 2018 season. He was faring far better than he did in 2017 before he got hurt, with an on-base percentage up around .400. But given the amount of missed time, it's not like he's bounced back from that ugly 2017, a .249 average, a .329 on-base percentage and just 16 homers, quite yet. While Cabrera is a slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer, he could be standing in the way of the Tigers making headway in their rebuilding effort, as he'll be making at least $30 million a year for the next five seasons.
But the rest of the lineup, even with a solid offseason addition in Josh Harrison, doesn't look terribly potent. Former Cubs prospect Jeimer Candelario was OK in his first full season in the bigs, hitting 19 homers but only posting a .224/.317/.393 slash line. Niko Goodrum? About the same. JaCoby Jones? Just a .207/.266/.364 line. Prospect outfielder Christin Stewart (probably not the star of the "Twilight" movies) had an .844 OPS in Triple-A last season.
Nothing terribly imposing there.
What the Tigers do have is a trio of highly rated pitching prospects, all ranked in the top 100 prospects in baseball. They're a ways away but could make for one heck of a 2021 rotation. Casey Mize was the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft and is now the No. 17 prospect in the game. Matt manning is the No. 52 prospect in baseball, and Franklin Perez is No. 78. But again, they're not going to be showing up this year.
And so there's not much for Motor City baseball fans to get excited about. At least they've got the entire Motown catalog to listen to this summer.
2018 record: 64-98, fourth place in AL Central
Offseason additions: Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross
Offseason departures: Victor Martinez, James McCann, Francisco Liriano, Jose Iglesias
X-factor: Harrison wasn't awesome last season. He played in only 97 games and reached base at a sub-.300 clip. But he's just two seasons removed from his second career All-Star appearance, when he slashed .272/.339/.432 with a career-high 16 homers in 2017. Harrison brings infield versatility and if he can bounce back from last season, he can provide a boost to the Tigers' lineup. Yeah, it might be a reach, but there's not a lot to go on with these Tigers.
1. Josh Harrison, 2B
2. Nicholas Castellanos, RF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
4. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
5. Christin Stewart, LF
6. Niko Goodrum, DH
7. Jordy Mercer, SS
8. Grayson Greiner, C
9. JaCoby Jones, CF
1. Matthew Boyd
2. Jordan Zimmermann
3. Tyson Ross
4. Matt Moore
5. Daniel Norris
Prediction: Fourth place in AL Central, no playoffs