2018: Record: 64 – 98
2018 Finish: 3rd in the AL Central, 12th in the American League
Surprises in 2018
Nick Castellanos is a stud. There are no bones about that. His 2018 season was exactly what the doctor ordered for a Detroit team struggling to find its identity.
It feels like every year the Tigers come out of the gate looking solid. The 2015 offseason brought in names like Yoenis Cespedes and Shane Greene. Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton arrived in 2016. This trend stopped in 2017 for the Tigers during the offseason, with the majority of their moves coming at the deadline as they shipped J.D. Martinez to Arizona, Alex Avila to the Cubs, and Justin Upton to the Angels.
The 2018 Tigers didn’t have any new names, Mike Fiers doesn’t count, just stalwart veterans and the young core group they already cultivated.
With Victor Martinez in his last season and Miguel Cabrera out with an injury, Nick Castellanos stepped up in a big way. Swinging a hot bat from the get-go, Nicky C finished the season with a .289/.354/.500 slash, and an .854 OPS. His 185 hits led the Tigers, as did his 46 doubles, 23 home runs, 89 RBIs and 157 games.
Castellanos was the backbone of this Tigers squad and he’s starting to prove that he’s a guy to keep around.
Disappointments in 2018
Let’s talk about something that’s not quite a disappointment yet, but could be in the future.
Miguel Cabrera’s 2018 ended abruptly after he ruptured his left bicep tendon in June. It was a premature ending to a season where Miggy seemed to be holding his head above water after a 2017 season that saw his production drop and his average slip below .300 for the first time since 2008.
Miguel Cabrera hit above .300 for the duration of the Obama Presidency.
And now we’re at an impasse. Cabrera has become very injury prone throughout his career, especially over the past few years. And as he rounds second, into the final 4 years of his 8-year, $248 million extension, the questions about his durability and playing ability, comes into play. Can Miguel Cabrera still play ball at an elite level?
The answer might be no.
Although, I’m willing to bet that he can. Sure, he won’t be up to his Triple Crown level of skill, but I definitely think he’ll be better than some other 35 and older players still playing the game.
But it’s better to be pleasantly surprised by Miggy than it is to be disappointed. The two-time MVP’s ride off into the sunset is going to be slow, but hasn’t he earned that? For a player who dominated the game in a way no one has for quite some time, I think we still tip our caps, rather than shrug our shoulders.
Looking Ahead to 2019
Say it with me: “The American League Central SUCKS!”
Look, the Tigers need to do some soul searching in the next few years. If they want to get Miggy a ring, they need to get creative. They fell victims of the classic “Signing the Wrong Guys at the Wrong Time” scenario, and now the Tigers face an uphill climb out of the cellar.
Thankfully, their division sucks and they have a young squad with some talent on the rise. In 2018, the top 5 prospects within the Tigers system were in the top 100 league-wide. Not too shabby. When players like Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Daz Cameron get to the show, things could change for Detroit rather quickly.
They have the tools, they have the opportunity, but do they have the time to get Miggy his ring before he heads to Cooperstown? I think they do.
All that being said, if the Tigers can focus on developing their prospects at the major league level over the next two years, they’ll be in prime position to take over the AL Central. If they rush their young studs, they’ll be in the same position they are now: behind and gasping for air.
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