2021 ZiPS Projections: Detroit Tigers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for nine years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Detroit Tigers.

Batters

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: the Tigers are quite clearly the worst team in the AL Central. They may not be the worst team in baseball — the Orioles, Rangers, and Pirates will likely have something to say about that — but the Royals have made enough short-term improvements and Cleveland isn’t selling off fast enough to drop down into Tigers-territory.

But rather than belabor the point (none of this is remotely controversial), we can focus on some of the green shoots that sprouted during the bizarre 2020 season. These developments are extremely important because while Detroit has an array of quality pitching prospects, their lumber doesn’t match up. Where spot-fillers such as Jonathan Schoop, Austin Romine, Jordy Mercer, and C.J. Cron have been useful in recent years when the cupboard was empty, those types aren’t as necessary this time around. There are few possible stars among this group, but there are several guys who are at least interesting, kind of like the O’s and their supply of Quad-A 1B/DH types.

Of all the players who needed 2020 to work out, Jeimer Candelario was near the top of the list. After a promising 2018 season, he struggled in 2019, even suffering a well-deserved demotion to Triple-A Toledo for a spell. In 2020, he didn’t look like the batter who failed to slug even .350 the year before, instead hitting .297/.369/.503 in 52 games. The batting average near .300 is unlikely to persist thanks to a .372 BABIP, but he improved on a broad enough basis that he’s an actual option to move over to first, which would have seemed ludicrous a year ago. Candelario’s not particularly young, and he’s unlikely to bust out a 40-homer season or anything like that, but you can at least write him into the lineup using pen now.

You should be skeptical of Willi Castro’s .349 2020 batting average for the same reason as Candelario’s: he’s simply not going to maintain a .448 BABIP. But he was a high-BABIP player in the minors and when you combine that with his major league performance, ZiPS thinks he’s likely a .340-.350 BABIP guy. That’s enough where he doesn’t need to have a ton of power or walks or defense to be a plus.

Don’t be scared by the Jeff Mathis offensive comp for Jake Rogers; there was a time when Mathis was considered an offensive prospect, as odd as that seems now. Mickey Tettleton was actually known as a glove guy in the minors! I’d like to see the Tigers prioritize playing time for him over Grayson Greiner or Eric Haase as he’s the only one with a good shot to be a legitimate starter for a few seasons. Rogers is no slouch defensively, and I’d be very comfortable letting him catch the team’s young pitching. Similarly, I’d like to see Zack Short get a chance to stick in a utility role rather than signing a veteran.

Pitchers

From a player development standpoint, 2020 was a real drag on Detroit’s game plan. With a stable of high-minors pitching prospects who needed innings more than anything, there was a lot of playing time lost that can never be recovered. Between playing their veterans (Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull) and seeing if Michael Fulmer could still pitch, the Tigers didn’t have enough starts for everyone who would have benefited. And when Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal struggled, there was nowhere to demote them to where they could still actually pitch in games.

I was actually sort of surprised the Tigers tendered Fulmer a contract for 2021. It’s tricky to see how he fits on the roster if neither Boyd nor Turnbull is traded this winter. There are a lot of players the Tigers need to look at, and Fulmer was awful in 2020 even if you give him the benefit of every statistical doubt. He was missing velocity in his return, and it’s hard to envision him being a high-leverage reliever. Nor would exiling him to a mop-up role recommend him to possible suitors.

Even with Skubal and Mize taking hits to their projections because of 2020, the rotation projects as broadly middling enough that the Tigers could be a Wild Card contender if the lineup and bullpen were up to snuff. The lineup’s not there yet, and the bullpen really isn’t either, with our Depth Charts currently ranking the group as the worst in baseball. If you were hoping for ZiPS to give a sunnier estimate than Steamer, you’re going to mostly be disappointed. ZiPS sees Joe Jiménez are a middle-tier reliever and thinks Daniel Norris will also be fine in a late-inning role, but after those two, well, at least the Tigers won’t have a lot of leads to protect in 2021.

Ballpark graphic courtesy Eephus League. Depth charts constructed by way of those listed here.

Batters – Standard
Player B Age PO PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Jeimer Candelario B 27 3B 580 516 72 130 30 4 20 72 56 143 3 1
Willi Castro B 24 SS 605 556 73 154 27 7 16 72 31 140 10 4
Jonathan Schoop R 29 2B 537 502 71 135 24 2 24 75 22 114 1 0
C.J. Cron R 31 1B 475 426 57 108 22 1 27 76 35 112 1 1
Jake Rogers R 26 C 440 390 50 79 15 2 16 53 37 137 4 2
Zack Short R 26 SS 470 403 53 88 20 3 12 43 59 126 8 5
JaCoby Jones R 29 CF 432 392 55 92 23 3 14 43 28 129 9 4
Isaac Paredes R 22 3B 530 482 53 123 22 2 13 51 38 88 3 2
Victor Reyes B 26 RF 564 536 71 149 26 6 10 50 23 111 17 6
Niko Goodrum B 29 SS 492 445 54 103 24 4 14 56 41 150 14 4
Kennys Vargas B 30 1B 497 446 57 106 19 1 22 64 44 128 0 0
Riley Greene L 20 CF 528 485 54 106 15 3 16 53 31 165 10 0
Eric Haase R 28 C 398 364 45 74 12 2 17 52 26 149 1 1
Kade Scivicque R 28 C 341 321 34 78 16 1 8 34 15 71 0 0
Daniel Pinero R 27 3B 475 429 50 95 21 2 12 49 37 120 4 4
Kody Clemens L 25 2B 504 460 49 101 23 4 12 55 34 134 8 3
Austin Romine R 32 C 306 289 30 72 13 0 7 38 12 82 0 0
Dawel Lugo R 26 3B 547 522 58 135 24 4 9 53 18 89 4 2
Harold Castro L 27 2B 441 418 41 115 15 3 5 36 16 88 5 5
Jon Rosoff L 26 C 226 209 19 48 7 1 1 14 13 37 4 3
Miguel Cabrera R 38 DH 481 434 43 111 13 0 16 64 41 101 1 0
Grayson Greiner R 28 C 310 282 32 55 11 1 10 37 22 96 1 0
Travis Demeritte R 26 RF 469 419 58 91 20 3 16 53 43 158 4 3
Sergio Alcántara B 24 SS 423 385 40 86 11 3 4 25 32 91 6 4
Christin Stewart L 27 LF 500 445 51 100 21 2 19 63 43 136 1 0
Brandon Dixon R 29 1B 400 373 40 86 21 3 12 50 21 120 6 3
Troy Stokes Jr. R 25 LF 500 441 56 93 20 3 14 48 47 142 16 6
Bryant Packard L 23 LF 489 444 54 100 21 0 14 48 39 141 7 3
Daz Cameron R 24 CF 506 458 52 98 19 6 10 45 38 149 15 7
Jorge Bonifacio R 28 LF 431 395 47 90 17 2 13 54 29 115 2 2
Chad Sedio L 27 LF 404 370 38 77 15 3 7 36 17 110 1 1
Jacob Robson L 26 LF 502 451 55 106 20 3 11 47 43 146 17 9
Cole Peterson L 25 SS 478 449 40 102 14 3 1 27 19 75 17 9
Danny Woodrow L 26 LF 474 432 45 99 13 3 1 27 32 106 17 8
Parker Meadows L 21 CF 412 379 39 75 12 1 10 36 25 120 9 8
Akil Baddoo L 22 CF 332 301 35 62 10 4 7 27 27 90 11 6
Joey Morgan R 24 C 316 285 25 50 9 1 5 20 22 93 0 0
Brock Deatherage L 25 CF 409 386 39 80 10 6 7 35 16 134 22 9
Derek Hill R 25 CF 402 368 42 73 11 3 7 30 24 136 16 10
Brady Policelli R 26 C 386 357 37 75 15 4 8 35 23 100 10 7
Luke Burch L 27 LF 355 331 27 67 6 1 0 16 16 123 9 6

Batters – Advanced
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR No. 1 Comp
Jeimer Candelario .252 .331 .442 105 .190 .312 5.3 6 3.0 Travis Fryman
Willi Castro .277 .322 .437 101 .160 .345 5.3 -3 2.3 Dale Sveum
Jonathan Schoop .269 .309 .468 104 .199 .305 5.4 -2 2.0 Jeff Kent
C.J. Cron .254 .324 .500 117 .246 .282 5.8 1 1.9 Ivan Cruz
Jake Rogers .203 .281 .374 74 .172 .266 3.6 10 1.5 Jeff Mathis
Zack Short .218 .324 .372 87 .154 .287 4.1 0 1.3 Tony Schrager
JaCoby Jones .235 .299 .416 89 .181 .313 4.4 3 1.2 Brad Snyder 스나이더
Isaac Paredes .255 .315 .390 88 .135 .289 4.4 1 1.2 Willy Aybar
Victor Reyes .278 .309 .405 90 .127 .335 4.8 5 1.0 Willie McGee
Niko Goodrum .231 .297 .398 84 .166 .317 4.3 -2 0.9 Joe Redfield
Kennys Vargas .238 .308 .433 96 .195 .284 4.7 1 0.6 Ron Wright
Riley Greene .219 .275 .361 69 .142 .296 3.6 6 0.5 Mel Hall
Eric Haase .203 .259 .387 70 .184 .288 3.4 3 0.5 Louis Santangelo
Kade Scivicque .243 .282 .374 74 .131 .289 3.8 0 0.4 Bob Melvin
Daniel Pinero .221 .288 .364 74 .142 .279 3.5 3 0.3 Ryan Barthelemy
Kody Clemens .220 .276 .365 70 .146 .283 3.5 4 0.3 Doug Saunders
Austin Romine .249 .279 .367 71 .118 .325 3.7 1 0.3 Bob Melvin
Dawel Lugo .259 .285 .372 75 .113 .297 3.9 3 0.3 Ricky Bell
Harold Castro .275 .301 .361 77 .086 .338 3.9 0 0.2 Manuel Lee
Jon Rosoff .230 .283 .287 54 .057 .275 2.7 4 0.1 Craig Mayes
Miguel Cabrera .256 .320 .396 91 .141 .300 4.6 0 0.3 Ernie Young
Grayson Greiner .195 .259 .348 61 .152 .256 3.1 1 0.0 Mike Ryan
Travis Demeritte .217 .295 .394 83 .177 .306 4.0 -1 -0.1 Jack Voigt
Sergio Alcántara .223 .283 .299 57 .075 .283 2.9 4 -0.2 Danny Bravo
Christin Stewart .225 .300 .409 88 .184 .279 4.3 -5 -0.2 Todd Mensik
Brandon Dixon .231 .275 .399 78 .169 .307 3.9 2 -0.3 Archi Cianfrocco
Troy Stokes Jr. .211 .297 .365 77 .154 .277 3.8 -1 -0.3 Reid Gorecki
Bryant Packard .225 .290 .367 75 .142 .298 3.7 -5 -0.9 Richie Robnett
Daz Cameron .214 .285 .347 69 .133 .294 3.4 -2 -0.4 Mike Daniel
Jorge Bonifacio .228 .285 .380 77 .152 .288 3.7 -1 -0.4 Bill McCarthy
Chad Sedio .208 .266 .322 57 .114 .277 2.9 8 -0.5 Jason Aspito
Jacob Robson .235 .303 .366 79 .131 .323 3.9 -4 -0.7 Vernon Thomas
Cole Peterson .227 .259 .278 45 .051 .271 2.5 6 -0.9 Tony Rodriguez
Danny Woodrow .229 .283 .280 53 .051 .302 2.8 8 -1.0 Derwin McNealy
Parker Meadows .198 .248 .314 50 .116 .261 2.4 4 -1.0 B.J. Garbe
Akil Baddoo .206 .274 .336 63 .130 .270 3.1 -7 -1.1 Duane Singleton
Joey Morgan .175 .245 .267 38 .091 .241 2.1 -2 -1.2 Jose Molina
Brock Deatherage .207 .243 .319 49 .111 .298 2.7 0 -1.2 Alex Presley
Derek Hill .198 .256 .302 49 .103 .293 2.5 -2 -1.4 Kimera Bartee
Brady Policelli .210 .264 .342 61 .132 .269 3.0 -12 -1.5 Paul Hoover
Luke Burch .202 .243 .227 28 .024 .322 1.8 8 -1.8 Michael Harris

Pitchers – Standard
Player T Age W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO FIP
Matt Boyd L 30 11 11 4.55 30 30 164.3 159 83 28 49 179 4.26
Spencer Turnbull R 28 10 9 4.51 27 27 141.7 141 71 21 58 138 4.68
Matt Manning R 23 8 8 4.43 25 25 124.0 123 61 18 46 120 4.41
Michael Fulmer R 28 6 6 4.67 22 22 106.0 111 55 15 33 81 4.57
Dario Agrazal R 26 8 8 4.99 27 26 137.0 159 76 24 25 92 4.88
Daniel Norris L 28 7 7 4.79 30 20 109.0 114 58 17 37 100 4.47
Casey Mize R 24 5 5 4.78 22 22 98.0 105 52 16 27 80 4.71
Tarik Skubal L 24 7 8 4.91 25 24 110.0 106 60 21 44 119 4.86
Tyler Alexander L 26 8 9 5.07 31 19 131.3 151 74 26 24 104 4.88
Buck Farmer R 30 4 4 4.18 68 1 64.7 63 30 8 26 60 4.28
Iván Nova R 34 7 8 5.37 22 22 120.7 144 72 24 29 75 5.37
Joe Jiménez R 26 5 4 4.26 68 0 61.3 58 29 9 23 65 4.34
Joey Wentz L 23 6 7 5.52 24 24 107.7 114 66 20 52 98 5.39
John Schreiber R 27 4 4 4.43 55 0 63.0 62 31 9 21 62 4.26
Alex Faedo R 25 6 8 5.60 23 23 109.3 125 68 27 31 92 5.72
José Cisnero R 32 4 4 4.59 63 0 66.7 63 34 10 34 72 4.73
Nick Ramirez L 31 4 4 4.89 38 3 70.0 71 38 10 31 59 4.81
Zac Houston R 26 3 3 4.68 44 1 57.7 52 30 8 34 62 4.81
Alex Lange R 25 8 10 5.58 27 20 101.7 112 63 15 58 76 5.52
Alex Wilson R 34 3 3 4.53 47 0 49.7 52 25 8 14 40 4.63
Jordan Zimmermann R 35 5 6 5.65 19 19 92.3 109 58 20 22 69 5.31
Joe Navilhon R 27 3 4 4.92 38 2 60.3 66 33 11 17 50 4.89
Nolan Blackwood R 26 5 5 4.73 47 0 64.7 68 34 7 29 47 4.62
Tim Adleman 아델만 R 33 5 7 5.77 20 17 96.7 108 62 23 31 80 5.74
Drew Carlton R 25 3 3 4.86 48 0 66.7 72 36 11 20 50 4.91
Ethan DeCaster R 26 3 3 4.86 43 0 66.7 74 36 11 20 49 4.94
Beau Burrows R 24 3 5 5.82 18 14 65.0 75 42 13 31 47 5.95
Bryan Garcia R 26 3 3 4.91 56 0 51.3 51 28 8 25 47 4.95
Franklin Perez R 23 0 0 6.75 4 4 10.7 13 8 2 8 6 6.74
Billy Lescher R 25 3 3 5.43 34 4 58.0 64 35 12 21 46 5.58
Kyle Funkhouser R 27 4 6 5.93 23 16 74.3 82 49 14 44 62 5.90
Hector Santiago L 33 3 5 5.79 26 11 77.7 82 50 16 42 72 5.78
Gregory Soto L 26 3 3 5.11 70 0 61.7 58 35 8 44 62 5.14
Rony García R 23 6 8 5.92 29 19 100.3 115 66 21 42 75 5.81
Jason Foley R 25 2 3 5.40 28 0 35.0 39 21 5 17 24 5.29
Shao-Ching Chiang R 27 6 10 5.95 24 24 124.0 149 82 27 40 84 5.79
Chris Smith R 32 2 2 5.72 26 0 28.3 31 18 6 11 22 5.76
Logan Shore R 26 3 5 6.08 21 16 84.3 103 57 17 32 47 6.00
Sandy Baez R 27 3 5 6.43 29 12 77.0 93 55 17 39 53 6.39

Pitchers – Advanced
Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BB% K% BABIP ERA+ ERA- WAR No. 1 Comp
Matt Boyd 9.8 2.7 1.5 7.0% 25.6% .302 99 101 2.0 Mark Redman
Spencer Turnbull 8.8 3.7 1.3 9.2% 22.0% .302 100 100 1.8 Bill Bonham
Matt Manning 8.7 3.3 1.3 8.5% 22.3% .302 102 98 1.7 Bill Long
Michael Fulmer 6.9 2.8 1.3 7.2% 17.6% .295 97 104 1.2 Jim Bagby
Dario Agrazal 6.0 1.6 1.6 4.2% 15.5% .305 90 111 1.1 Lary Sorensen
Daniel Norris 8.3 3.1 1.4 7.8% 21.1% .307 94 106 1.0 John Rheinecker
Casey Mize 7.3 2.5 1.5 6.3% 18.8% .301 94 106 1.0 Marty Janzen 젠슨
Tarik Skubal 9.7 3.6 1.7 9.2% 24.8% .294 92 109 1.0 Darren Burroughs
Tyler Alexander 7.1 1.6 1.8 4.2% 18.4% .309 89 112 0.8 Butch Henry
Buck Farmer 8.4 3.6 1.1 9.3% 21.4% .299 108 93 0.5 Doug Sisk
Iván Nova 5.6 2.2 1.8 5.5% 14.2% .302 84 119 0.5 Bob Bruce
Joe Jiménez 9.5 3.4 1.3 8.6% 24.4% .299 106 94 0.4 David Wilhelmi
Joey Wentz 8.2 4.3 1.7 10.7% 20.1% .302 82 122 0.3 Derek Thompson
John Schreiber 8.9 3.0 1.3 7.7% 22.8% .301 102 98 0.2 Rafael Montalvo
Alex Faedo 7.6 2.6 2.2 6.4% 19.1% .301 81 124 0.2 Tim Kester
José Cisnero 9.7 4.6 1.4 11.4% 24.2% .299 98 102 0.2 Marc Wilkins
Nick Ramirez 7.6 4.0 1.3 10.0% 19.0% .295 92 108 0.2 Hal Woodeshick
Zac Houston 9.7 5.3 1.2 13.1% 23.9% .291 96 104 0.1 Clay Bryant
Alex Lange 6.7 5.1 1.3 12.2% 16.0% .305 81 124 0.1 Edwin Morel
Alex Wilson 7.2 2.5 1.4 6.6% 18.8% .295 100 100 0.1 Bobby Tiefenauer
Jordan Zimmermann 6.7 2.1 1.9 5.4% 17.1% .307 80 125 0.1 Jason Johnson
Joe Navilhon 7.5 2.5 1.6 6.5% 19.0% .302 92 109 0.1 Bill Fischer
Nolan Blackwood 6.5 4.0 1.0 10.0% 16.3% .300 95 105 0.0 Scott Munter
Tim Adleman 7.4 2.9 2.1 7.3% 18.7% .295 78 128 0.0 Robert Ellis
Drew Carlton 6.8 2.7 1.5 6.9% 17.2% .296 93 108 -0.1 Bill Castro
Ethan DeCaster 6.6 2.7 1.5 6.8% 16.7% .301 93 108 -0.1 Pedro Borbon
Beau Burrows 6.5 4.3 1.8 10.3% 15.7% .302 78 129 -0.1 Cristhian Martinez
Bryan Garcia 8.2 4.4 1.4 11.0% 20.6% .295 92 109 -0.1 Miguel Saladin
Franklin Perez 5.1 6.8 1.7 15.4% 11.5% .306 67 150 -0.1 Carlos Paredes
Billy Lescher 7.1 3.3 1.9 8.1% 17.8% .295 83 120 -0.1 Dick Coffman
Kyle Funkhouser 7.5 5.3 1.7 12.6% 17.8% .304 76 132 -0.2 Jesse Jefferson
Hector Santiago 8.3 4.9 1.9 11.8% 20.2% .297 78 128 -0.2 Johnny Schmitz
Gregory Soto 9.0 6.4 1.2 15.4% 21.7% .296 88 113 -0.2 Philip Barzilla
Rony García 6.7 3.8 1.9 9.2% 16.5% .301 76 131 -0.2 Jim Adamczak
Jason Foley 6.2 4.4 1.3 10.6% 15.0% .304 84 120 -0.2 Steve Barber
Shao-Ching Chiang 6.1 2.9 2.0 7.2% 15.1% .305 76 132 -0.2 Bill King
Chris Smith 7.0 3.5 1.9 8.7% 17.3% .291 79 127 -0.3 Mike Barlow
Logan Shore 5.0 3.4 1.8 8.3% 12.2% .302 74 135 -0.3 Matt O’Brien
Sandy Baez 6.2 4.6 2.0 10.8% 14.6% .306 70 143 -0.7 Dallas Trahern

Players are listed with their most recent teams wherever possible. This includes players who are unsigned, players who will miss 2021 due to injury, and players who were released in 2020. So yes, if you see Joe Schmoe, who quit baseball back in August to form a Finnish industrial death metal fourth-wave ska J-pop band, he’s still listed here intentionally.

Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR, which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in the full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR. ZiPS is assuming that the designated hitter will continue in force in 2021; if it does not, there will be widespread minor adjustments across the board come April.

ZiPS is agnostic about future playing time by design. For more information about ZiPS, please refer to this article, or get angry at Dan on Twitter or something.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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TheGrandslamwich
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TheGrandslamwich

Either I’m getting really old or it is a bad sign for the Tigers that I recognize more names of the comps than current players.