By: Shelly Bee
After the Tigers disastrous 2015 season, riddled with injuries and let downs, Detroit’s outlook appears hopeful.
The Tigers, who won nine of the 10 first games, finished with a disappointing 74-87. It was a Tiger fan’s nightmare, Martinez, Kinsler, Sanchez, and Simon were unproductive, Cabrera went on the disabled list for the first time in his career, Verlander returned in July, but it was too little too late at that point.
During the offseason, Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann, Francisco Rodriguez, and Mike Pelfrey were brought in to strengthen the team.
The projected top five batting lineup of Kinsler, Upton, Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, and Victor Martinez look strong. If Cabrera can stay healthy and Victor Martinez and Kinsler can produce consistently, the addition of Upton can return them to playoff contender status.
If Justin Verlander can maintain the same momentum he found in the second half of the 2015 season after coming back from a tricep injury he should be able to post 15 wins and reclaim his role as the resident ace.
Behind Verlander is Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann consistently attacks hitters in the zone, and despite a slight 2015 decline and velocity loss, he is still has impeccable control. He may prove to be the steady, relentless force the team has been missing.
Anibal Sanchez’s 2015 season was by far his worst season as a Tiger. Sanchez allowed 16% home run per fly ball rate that some attribute, in part, to his shoulder strain despite that he didn’t suffer a drop in velocity. Sanchez had no major damage to his shoulder and is expected to pitch with no lingering issues. If he can stay healthy, there’s no reason Sanchez can’t make a 2016 comeback. Despite the home run per fly ball rate, he still struck out 20.9% of the batters he faced in 2015.
Veteran pitcher Mike Pelfrey, who signed a two-year deal with the Tigers, should anchor the back end of the rotation. Despite his past season-ending injuries, Pelfrey’s fastball velocity average has increased from 90.8 mph to 93.3 mph in his 2014-2015 appearances.
The fifth spot in the rotation is still up for grabs. It has reportedly been narrowed to Daniel Norris, Shane Greene, or Matt Boyd. Norris who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2015 is now cancer free, and some consider him a lock for the position.