2021 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are starting over for a second time. They had great teams under former manager Jim Leyland, but then hit the reset button by bringing in former Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who oversaw the beginning of a rebuilding project. Gardenhire, after last season, felt he was exhausted and did not want to continue to oversee what is a slow and steady process of regrouping in the Motor City. He retired from managing, ending an excellent career in which he consistently created winning teams in Minnesota. The Tigers needed to find an architect for their construction project, and they landed A.J. Hinch, who went down with the ship when the Houston Astros were penalized for cheating. This is his reemergence as a big-league manager. It’s a fresh start for him, much as it is a new beginning for the Tigers, who are still very young and are trying to get to a point where they can be contenders – probably not any sooner than 2023.
What Happened Last Year
The Tigers briefly flirted with one of the last few playoff spots in the American League but predictably fell off the pace late in the season to miss the playoffs entirely. Detroit knew 2020 would be a difficult year, with so many young and inexperienced players. The Tigers are in a position where players are still needing to learn on the job. What was bad about the 2020 season is that with only 60 games instead of 162, players didn’t get the repetitions needed to develop and polish their skills. The short season leaves this team underdeveloped heading into 2021. One could make the argument the Tigers are a year behind schedule due to the limited pandemic season we had last year.
The Tigers are a young team, but they did try to get a veteran who could help them out this season. They signed catcher Wilson Ramos, who had been with the New York Mets last season. Ramos will try to provide some pop with his bat, but his most important job will be to guide the young pitchers on the Tigers’ staff. If Ramos can do well at that job, the Tigers would enter the 2022 season thinking they could take the next step in their evolution.
Another new face for the Tigers is pitcher Julio Teheran, who has spent several seasons with the Atlanta Braves and now gets a change of scenery in Detroit, where he is projected to be the No. 2 starter behind staff ace Matthew Boyd. If Teheran can perform at a high level in support of Boyd, the Tigers might be able to escape the America League Central basement. They will need help, however.
The Tigers simply aren’t built to do anything much right now. Miguel Cabrera is winding down his career much as Albert Pujols is. Cabrera might still move up the all-time home run list, but his days as an elite player and widely-feared hitter are over. Jonathan Schoop provides excellent infield defense and a decent bat, but this is a team comprised almost entirely of players trying to become better professionals, as opposed to proven MLB stalwarts. That just won’t be enough to do anything significant. The back end of the starting rotation is similarly untested. This is a last-place team.
Pick: 5th In American League Central