Posted on March 2, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Detroit Tigers will enter the 2020 season on a five-year playoff drought. To make matters worse, the organization hit rock bottom last season with just 47 wins. Even with some positive moves this offseason, the Tigers appear to be a long way from being competitive. Is Detroit destined to be the worst team in baseball for a second straight season or can they show genuine signs of progress in 2020?
Detroit’s starting rotation isn’t as much of a concern heading into the season as you might think for a team that won 47 games last year. The Tigers have resisted the urge to trade lefty Matthew Boyd, who is poised to lead the rotation. The club also signed veteran Ivan Nova to give them a little stability, even if he’s not a frontline starter. Daniel Norris and Spencer Turnbull were both solid but unspectacular in 2019, as both were victims of poor run support more than anything else.
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If nothing else, the Tigers have a decent quartet to lead their rotation. The hope is that Jordan Zimmermann can bounce back after pitching to a 6.91 ERA last year. He’s in the last year of his contract, so he’ll be pitching for the right to continue his career beyond this season. The Tigers are also expecting to get former Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer back in the middle of the year after Tommy John surgery. If he avoids any setbacks, he could give the Detroit rotation a midseason lift. There are also a few promising prospects who could join the rotation at some point this year.
As is the case with most rebuilding teams, the bullpen will be a huge question mark for the Tigers. Joe Jimenez will open the season as the closer, although he posted a modest 4.37 ERA last season. Veteran Buck Farmer is also another late-inning option. He’s become one of Detroit’s most reliable relievers over the past two seasons.
Unfortunately, the Tigers aren’t sure what to expect from the rest of their bullpen. Jose Cisnero has some experience but isn’t necessarily an established late-game reliever. The hope for Detroit is that Gregory Soto, Bryan Garcia, and others will be ready to step into more prominent roles after getting their feet wet in the big leagues last season. However, depth and experience are two things the Tigers are lacking in their bullpen.
After scoring the fewest runs in the majors a year ago, there’s nowhere to go but up for the Tigers offensively. Of course, they traded away their best hitter Nicholas Castellanos last summer, leaving a big hole in their lineup. To help fill the void, the Tigers signed C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop in free agency. They should help give Detroit’s lineup a little more power, although both are better suited to be role players than middle-of-the-order sluggers. Unfortunately, that’s something the Tigers are lacking with Miguel Cabrera continuing to decline with age.
It’ll be up to Detroit’s younger players to continue to develop and fill prominent roles this year. Christin Stewart and Victor Reyes both flashed some potential last season and how much they improve will go a long way toward determining Detroit’s season. Daz Cameron is also a player to watch, as he could steal the center field job away from an underperforming JaCoby Jones. However, there are few guarantees when it comes to most of Detroit’s lineup.
After 47 wins in 2019, the Tigers have a win projection of 56.5 for 2020. Even after a disastrous campaign last year, a 10-win improvement still feels rather lofty. While the rotation has a chance to be halfway decent, there are huge questions about the Tigers with regard to their bullpen and lineup. Look for the Tigers to fall short of 56.5 wins and be a candidate to win the fewest games in baseball this year.