The Detroit Tigers return to action on Friday night, 20½ games out of an American League postseason spot with 77 games to go.
They have long since been effectively eliminated from the race, with their postseason probabilities anywhere from zero to 0.1%, according to various models, so we’ll ask the question for you:
Why should you care about the Tigers in the second half?
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The easiest answer is because the Tigers play baseball, baseball is fun, and months from now, when snow is covering the ground, you’ll wish there was a Tigers-Royals game on your television.
Outside of that, well … did we mention baseball is fun?
As the Tigers begin the second half of their second full rebuilding season — we here at the Free Press are pegging Aug. 30, 2017 as the official start date — a warning that it could be worse than the first: In the coming weeks, some of the team’s best players will likely be traded, further depleting the talent level on an inexperienced team.
But there will still be story lines to watch, no matter how painful they may be on any given day. Here are five reasons to keep your eye on the Tigers’ second half:
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The near future should bring more young prospects into the fold to beef up the Tigers’ farm system, though how impactful they will be remains to be seen. With more than three weeks until the July 31 trade deadline, the two most likely Tigers to be traded are right fielder Nicholas Castellanos and closer Shane Greene. Castellanos is scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the season, so the Tigers won’t get much. Relief help is needed far and wide across the league, so Greene should find a suitor, and could bring in the best of their potential incoming prospects, given that left-handed starter Matthew Boyd will take a massive prospect haul to be moved. Either way, the Tigers should add some more prospects soon.
Focusing on four young Tigers who could still be part of the next contending team, it will be key to see how third baseman Jeimer Candelario, center fielder JaCoby Jones, left fielder Christin Stewart and righty starter Spencer Turnbull finish their seasons. Candelario has taken a step back offensively, Jones has taken a big step up, Stewart has gone through rookie struggles but largely held his own, and Turnbull has an opportunity to solidify himself as a starter. If they can see continued improvement from these players when opponents adjust, the Tigers will feel much better about their rebuilding timeline.
The Tigers hoped the power would come back with a healthy Cabrera, but that hasn’t happened. And yes, Cabrera dealt with right knee issues throughout the first half, which forced him from playing first base. But in avoiding serious injury, Cabrera is producing like a shell of his former self and his $30 million salary. He’s still hitting .300, but it will be worth seeing if the time off his feet while moving from first base to designated hitter will translate into more power down the stretch. I think it will, but not significantly. Unless Cabrera makes drastic changes to his conditioning, this could be the type of player we’re looking at going forward: an average hitter with occasional power.
Unless the team’s top prospects at Triple-A Toledo push the envelope beforehand, it seems likely those such as catcher Jake Rogers, center fielder Daz Cameron and shortstop Willi Castro — part of the first wave of the Tigers’ rebuild — will arrive in Detroit when rosters expand in September. That’s when the team will need to start adding prospects to the 40-man roster, in order to protect them from next winter’s Rule 5 draft. There are roughly a dozen of them, so September should prove to be a month-long preview of coming attractions. Given the Tigers’ rotation woes, righty Kyle Funkhouser could arrive sooner than September. Do not expect righties Casey Mize or Matt Manning to make their debuts this season.
When the time comes, it figures to be the unofficial start of the 2020 starting catching competition between Grayson Greiner and Rogers. Greiner, who is currently on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain, has not hit well this season (.184, five home runs, 14 RBIs), but has surprised with his play defensively. Rogers, 24, is the Tigers’ catcher of the future, but has yet to hit his way out of Triple-A. He’ll be in Detroit this year either way, but as the front office has shown with his progression, Rogers will have to prove he can hit in the big leagues before he’s given an everyday role. A nice showing in September would be a good start.
Contact Anthony Fenech at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
Published at Thu, 11 Jul 2019 21:07:37 +0000