Tigers buy in on Niko Goodrum

Third-base coach Dave Clark (left) talks to Detroit’s two best hitters, Nicholas Castellanos and Niko Goodrum (AP/Steve Nesius)
Third-base coach Dave Clark (left) talks to Detroit’s two best hitters, Nicholas Castellanos and Niko Goodrum (AP/Steve Nesius)

The Detroit Tigers aren’t going anywhere in 2018. They’re one of the anonymous, unexciting teams caught in the collateral damage of the American League bullies. Detroit is 11 games out in the AL Central, 13 games under .500, minus-57 on run differential. The one time I went to a Tigers game this year, the park was half empty (and it was on a Friday, no less).

But Niko Goodrum is here to help.

It took a while for Goodrum to settle in as a Detroit regular, but the team has finally bought in. He’s started 23 of the last 25 games, and he’s slotted third in the order for five straight games (right behind Nicholas Castellanos; a good spot to be). Playing every day agrees with Goodrum — he’s on a .284/.337/.511 binge over that span, with three homers and a couple of bags. It won’t make anyone forget Tony Phillips, but this is a useful player.

[Yahoo Fantasy Football leagues are open: Sign up now for free]

The Phillips comp is especially relevant because Goodrum, like the late Phillips, can play everywhere. Goodrum qualifies at every Yahoo position but pitcher and catcher. That comes in handy on short-schedule nights, or if injuries strike. If you plugged Goodrum in for Monday’s game at Tampa, he rewarded you with two doubles, three RBIs.

Goodrum’s a switch-hitter, though his production has been much better from the right side (.913 OPS versus a .746 OPS). You’d like to see him trim that 27.3 percent strikeout rate, though he’s also walking a respectable nine percent of the time. Perhaps there’s latent stolen-base upside, because he’s 7-for-8 on swipe attempts. Ron Gardenhire is an easy manager to play for, and someone who usually encourages the running game.

I understand why owners in shallower formats have ignored Goodrum to this point. But the current 13-percent ownership tag looks light. If nothing else, you get a playable backup at five different positions. Kick some tires. Pour a glass of quality rum.

An 11-whiff game has Jordan Zimmermann back on the fantasy radar (AP/Carlos Osorio)
An 11-whiff game has Jordan Zimmermann back on the fantasy radar (AP/Carlos Osorio)

• As long as you’re in Detroit, let’s try to sell you on another lovely Tiger. Maybe this Jordan Zimmermann comeback is real.

You can say almost anything you want with arbitrary endpoints, but consider the last six Zimmermann starts: 37 IP, 21 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 34 K. That’s a 1.22 ERA, a WHIP around 0.68 (that’s no joke, Lolich). A .211 BABIP is driving much of the story, but Zimmermann is also doing things right.

In the middle of that run was a shoulder injury. And Zimmermann was so terrible the last two years, I can understand if you wrote him off for good.

That said, Zimmermann’s slider is diving again — to the point that he recently called it “the best it’s ever been.” And he struck out 11 Rangers in his last turn. Double-digit strikeout games aren’t as fresh in 2018 as they were in previous seasons — the Three True Outcomes rule the world — but my ears still perk up when I see a number 10 or higher in the final column.

Pitchers are the weirdest fantasy commodity we know. They get hurt and get healthy, they run hot and they run bad. Small tweaks, big tweaks, new coaching, a new catcher. The one thing I try to remember is that no one knows anything with pitchers, you just try to get in at a good time. My Yahoo Friends & Family pitching staff is cobbled together by scotch tape and glue, and yet I’m contending. Zimmermann is gone in that format, but I’ve added him in a few others.

We’ll scout him closely Wednesday at Tampa Bay.

Follow the Yahoo fantasy baseball crew on Twitter: Andy Behrens, Dalton Del Don, and Scott Pianowski