30 Clubs in 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

I’m sad to see that Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly’s cancer has returned once again. I can’t imagine what his family must be going through right now but if he can win 4 straight AFC championships, beating cancer again will be a breeze. On to happier news, we enter Day 11 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Detroit Tigers. Let’s get to it.

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2017 Results:

Record: 64-98, 38 games behind Cleveland Indians, 21 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Francisco Liriano, RP Travis Wood, CF Leonys Martin, IF Alexi Amarista, SP Mike Fiers

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Anibal Sanchez, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Alex Presley, RP Bruce Rondon, OF Tyler Collins, IF Andrew Romine

Best Offensive Player: 1B Miguel Cabrera

Best Pitcher: Michael Fulmer

Depth Chart:

C-James McCann, John Hicks

1B-Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez (DH)

2B-Dixon Machado

3B-Jeimer Candelario

SS-Jose Iglesias, Alexi Amarista

LF-Mikie Mahtook

CF-Leonys Martin, JaCoby Jones

RF-Nicholas Castellanos, Victor Reyes

SP-Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Fiers, Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, Francisco Liriano

Bullpen-Shane Greene (CP), Travis Wood, Alex Wilson, Zac Reininger, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Stumpf, Drew VerHagen

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Ron Gardenhire (1st season with Tigers)

Hitting Coach-Lloyd McClendon

Pitching Coach-Chris Bosio

1st Base Coach-Ramon Santiago

3rd Base Coach-Dave Clark

Bench Coach-Steve Liddle

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If ever there were a team in baseball that was in a rebuild, it’s the Tigers. They’ve practically gutted the team that started Opening Day for them. Gone are Justin Verlander, JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, and pretty much anybody else who made the Tigers one of the potentially more dangerous teams in baseball. However they were going nowhere fast so they decided now was as good a time as ever to commence with the rebuild, which got off to a pretty good start as far as rebuilds go as they managed to finish tied for the worst record in baseball at 64-98 and won the tie breaker over the Giants for the #1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.  It’s a pretty thin Major League roster for the 2018 season, as you can see from their projected lineup.

1. Leonys Martin-CF

2. Nicholas Castellanos-RF

3. Miguel Cabrera-1B

4. Victor Martinez-DH

5. Jeimer Candelario-3B

6. Mikie Mahtook-LF

7. James McCann-C

8. Dixon Machado-2B

9. Jose Iglesias-SS

The only guys really of note in this lineup are Cabrera and Martinez and they appear to be nearing the end of the line. Cabrera had his worst season in 2017, as he hit .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI and was worth -0.2 WAR. Granted, it may not have entirely been his fault, as according to a “study” I did, Cabrera was the unluckiest hitter in the game last season. So perhaps 2017 was a fluke for the future Hall of Famer. Victor Martinez also struggled last season as he battled injuries, as he hit .255 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 107 games for a -1.1 WAR. In fact it was the second time in 3 seasons the 39 year-old was worth a negative WAR. However they’re also the only two hitters in this lineup that can be deemed as dangerous even if they’re practically shells of their former selves at this point. Nicholas Castellanos is a guy that could be a positive for this lineup, as he had a breakout season in 2017. He hit .272 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI. He was only worth 1.8 WAR, however that could be due in fact to his poor defense in right field, which could be excusable given the fact he’s still learning the position. He came up as a third baseman and played there for the first couple years of his career. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about in this Tigers lineup. It could also be a rough time at the plate for the foreseeable future as the Tigers don’t have a single hitter in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects.

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The Tigers REALLY struggled on the mound in 2017, finishing with the worst team ERA in the Majors (5.36). The only real bright spot amongst pitchers who finished the season with the team was Michael Fulmer, who is basically the default ace right now. Last season, Fulmer went 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA and was worth 3.5 WAR in 25 starts. His strikeout rate was pretty poor, as his 6.23 K/9 was 7th worst in baseball, however he showed good control, as his walk rate of 2.19 BB/9 was 11th best in baseball. He was also excellent about keeping balls in the yard, as his HR/9 rate of 0.71 was 2nd best in all of baseball (Washington’s Stephen Strasburg was best at 0.67). So despite the fact that he doesn’t miss a lot of bats, Fulmer does a good job of not giving hitters great pitches to hit. After him, though, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Jordan Zimmermann has been a disaster since signing with the Tigers after a successful career in Washington, last season being particularly bad as he had an ERA of 6.08. Had he thrown 2 more innings to qualify for the Major League minimum, that would’ve given him the worst ERA in baseball by half a run (Matt Moore’s 5.52 was the worst among qualifying pitchers). New additions from the Astros Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano could provide some value in the rotation, but Liriano barely appeared for Houston late in the season while Fiers got bumped out of the rotation by younger pitchers.

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The Tigers’ bullpen is pretty rough. The only guy who had a solid season last year was Shane Greene, who will be inheriting the closer’s role. He had an ERA of 2.66 last year however his FIP was 3.84, suggesting that his defense was helping out his overall numbers. He did manage to strike out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings and he was able to strand 84% of inherited runners. However he lacks experience in the closer’s role as he only has 11 career saves, though looking at the rest of Detroit’s options in the bullpen, he’s really the only legitimate candidate they have right now. Their only other quality relief pitchers, Travis Wood and Alex Wilson, have a combined 8 saves between them in their careers and neither was particularly good last season. Wilson had an ERA of 4.50 while Wood’s was a whopping 6.80. It’s not even a guarantee Wood makes the Tigers’ Opening Day roster. After that, it’s going to be a bunch of experimental guys. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see some of Detroit’s top pitching prospects such as Franklin Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Beau Burrows appear in the Motor City at some point in 2018.

Overall, the Tigers are going to suck, but that’s kind of the point. The only exciting players on this team, Cabrera and Martinez, are 34 and 39 years old, respectively, and they may be past the points in their careers where they can be of serious value to the team. There are far too many question marks on the mound and I’ll be very surprised if the Tigers don’t end up in the cellar of the AL Central this season, perhaps even for all of Major League Baseball. However I do believe there is one team that will have a worse season than the Tigers, but they’re not due for another few days in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series.

Projected Record: 64-98, Last in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I transition from the worst team in the American League to the very best. We’ve got the defending champion Houston Astros on tap tomorrow as they look to try and defend their first ever World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Tigers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Chicago White Sox

There isn’t really a whole lot of news to talk about today so I’m going to spare you with the rambling intro I usually do at the start of these things. Today we’re going to take a look at the Chicago White Sox, whom I don’t expect much out of considering they’re all in on their rebuild. So without further ado, we’re in Day 7 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Chicago White Sox.

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2017 Results:

Record: 67-95, 35 games behind Cleveland Indians, 18 games behind Minnesota Twins for second Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Hector Santiago, RP Bruce Rondon, RP Joakim Soria, SP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo, RP Luis Avilan

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Derek Holland, RP Jake Petricka, 2B Alen Hanson, RP Al Albuquerque, LF Cody Asche, SP Mike Pelfrey, RP Zach Putnam, C Geovany Soto

Best Offensive Player: 1B Jose Abreu

Best Pitcher: James Shields

Depth Chart:

C-Welington Castillo, Kevan Smith

1B-Jose Abreu

2B-Yoan Moncada

3B-Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino (DH)

SS-Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez

LF-Nicky Delmonico

CF-Adam Engel, Leury Garcia

RF-Avisail Garcia

SP-James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez, Carson Fulmer, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago

Bullpen-Joakim Soria (CP), Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, Danny Farquhar, Luis Avilan,  Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Bruce Rondon

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Rick Renteria (2nd Season with White Sox)

Hitting Coach-Todd Steverson

Pitching Coach-Don Cooper

1st Base Coach-Daryl Boston

3rd Base Coach-Nick Capra

Bench Coach-Joe McEwing

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The White Sox may have arguably the thinnest Major League roster in the American League at the moment. Aside from Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, there isn’t really anybody on the team that will keep opposing managers up at night and even in Garcia’s case, we’re not sure if his big 2017 season was a fluke or not. Here’s how the White Sox are projected to look in 2018.

1. Tim Anderson-SS

2. Yoan Moncada-2B

3. Jose Abreu-1B

4. Avisail Garcia-RF

5. Welington Castillo-C

6. Matt Davidson-3B

7. Nicky Delmonico-LF

8. Tyler Saladino-DH

9. Adam Engel-CF

The only guy in that lineup who really instills fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers is Abreu. Last season he was particularly dangerous as he hit .304 with 33 home runs, 102 RBI, 95 runs scored, slugged .552, and was worth 4.1 WAR. He’s driven in at least 100 runs in all 4 of his Major League seasons and is an imposing threat in the batter’s box at 6’3 255 pounds. Avisail Garcia had a breakout season in 2017, as he hit .330 with 18 home runs, 80 RBI, slugged .506, and was worth 4.2 WAR. However those numbers could be a bit fluky. Garcia hit .392 on balls in play which suggests that he got lucky at times because a number that high is unsustainable. Plus he had a very low walk rate of 5.9% suggesting that he may not see the plate as well as others or simply lacks the patience. Plus it was his first season where he was worth more than 1 WAR, as he had actually had a negative WAR in each of his first 3 seasons. Perhaps he has turned a corner, but I suspect Garcia may be in for a hefty decline in 2018. But the main story surrounding this White Sox team, like the Braves, is their extremely loaded prospect pool. Arguably the best member of that pool, Yoan Moncada, whom the White Sox acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade, is expected to open as the everyday second baseman and Chicago is expecting big things out of him. He’s been compared to Robinson Cano and that’s quite a tall order for a guy who is a career .229 hitter in 62 games at the Major League level. There isn’t a whole lot of Major League experience with Moncada, however what we have seen is a second baseman with a good amount of pop, good speed, and a good stick when he manages to put the ball in play. Moncada had a .325 average on balls in play last season however he only hit .231 and a big reason for that is he struck out 32% of the time he came up to bat, which would have ranked 4th in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. He struck out at an even higher rate than Aaron Judge and Mark Reynolds, who have gained reputations for being big power bats that strike out a lot. He NEEDS to bring that number way down if he hopes to maximize on his potential. A guy he might want to take a look at is Javy Baez of the Cubs, who came up in a similar fashion. He boasted tremendous power for a middle infielder but he struck out at an alarming rate. In his first taste of the Majors in 2014, Baez struck out 41% of the time. However since then, he has brought that number down every season until 2017 and his production has been better for it. He got his strikeout rate as low as 24% (which still isn’t great but it’s at least respectable) in 2016 and in that season, he hit .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBI en route to helping the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. So if Moncada can follow the improvements made by the other Chicago second baseman, he would become a huge asset for the White Sox.

<> at Comerica Park on September 14, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

White Sox pitching is currently an absolute shit show right now. Their ace, James Shields, hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014 and hasn’t had an ERA under 5 since 2015. In 21 starts last season, Shields went 5-7 with a 5.23 ERA, a 5.83 FIP, 103 strikeouts, and was worth -0.2 WAR. That’s not even #5 starter numbers and this guy is the favorite to be the Opening Day starter. There was a time when Shields was an ace, his time with the Rays was very good, but those days are long gone and Shields is basically a batting practice pitcher at this point. In fact, had he pitched enough innings to qualify, Shields’ 2.08 Home Runs per 9 innings allowed would’ve topped all of baseball. Lucas Giolito is a guy the White Sox hope can reach his potential as well. Like Moncada, Giolito was at one point the #1 prospect in baseball on another team whom the White Sox acquired in a trade for one of their best players (OF Adam Eaton). He struggled mightily with the Nationals but his first stint with the White Sox showed a lot of promise. He only made 7 starts but in those starts he went 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA (though his FIP was 4.94, the largest differential I’ve ever seen). He didn’t strike out a ton of batters, as his Strikeouts per 9 was just 6.75, but he was helped by the fact that opponents only hit .189 on balls in play against him. If he can continue to show the promise he showed in his brief stint with the White Sox, they may have their future ace on their hands. Carson Fulmer’s another guy they hope will take the next step into ace status. As of right now, I am a bit ashamed to admit, but in the 2015 MLB Draft, I was upset the Red Sox took Andrew Benintendi with the 7th overall pick when Fulmer was still on the board, whom the White Sox snatched up with the very next pick. While Benintendi is a future stud for the Red Sox, Fulmer has yet to leave his mark with the White Sox. In his first stint in 2016, he made 8 relief appearances and pitched to an 8.49 ERA. His second stint in 2017 was much better (can’t do much worse) where he pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 7 appearances and 5 starts. His control has been a big problem in both stints, as he walks over 5 batters per 9 innings. There are a lot of issues currently in the White Sox pitching staff but if their young guys can step up, then things will go a lot more smoothly.

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The White Sox bullpen is one of the weaker units in the American League. Joakim Soria is slated to be their closer and along with Nate Jones, he’s probably the only one who is even remotely capable of holding the job. Last year in Kansas City, Soria pitched to a 3.70 ERA (though he had a FIP of 2.23) and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings so he still has something left in the tank despite being 33 years old. Nate Jones is also a capable reliever, as he pitched to a 2.31 ERA last season and struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings. Should Soria struggle in the closer’s role, manager Rick Renteria ought to be more than confident in his next best option in Jones. After those two guys there really isn’t much to write home about.

Overall, I don’t expect the White Sox to sniff .500 at any point this season. Aside from Jose Abreu there aren’t any established Major League studs. The excitement for them, though, is in their prospect pool, which is arguably the best in baseball. To go along with young Major Leaguers Moncada, Giolito, and Fulmer, the White Sox have waiting in the wings guys like OF Eloy Jimenez (acquired in the Jose Quintana trade), OF Blake Rutherford (acquired in the Todd Frazier trade), P Michael Kopech (acquired in the Chris Sale trade), OF Luis Robert, P Alec Hansen, P Dylan Cease, and P Dane Dunning, all of whom rank amongst MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. So the future is bright in the south side of Chicago, but the present leaves much to be desired.

Projected Record: 70-92, 4th in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Cincinnati Reds, who will try and escape the cellar of the NL Central for the first time since 2014. Let me know what you think of the White Sox’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.