Theoretically the 2019 campaign should prove slightly better for the Detroit Tigers than 2018 did. I mean having Miguel Cabrera healthy again, even at this stage of his career, should help some. There were even some semi-decent moves during the off-season that should marginally improve the roster; like the addition of Josh Harrison, who even on the wrong side of 30, instantly becomes one of their better players. While the Tigers definitely aren’t setting the world on fire anytime soon, the fact that they slightly moved the needle in the right direction is a certain positive for the floundering franchise. Plus considering that they’re playing in baseball’s worst division, paced by the apparently imploding Cleveland Indians, they along with everyone else do technically have a shot to make a run at the AL Central crown this year.
The chance we see the Tigers playing ball in October are slim at best, but their sizable pool of youngsters means a lot of breakout potential and as a result a wide array of guys who might be able to carry the load. I’ve been a big fan of 3B Jeimer Candelario, who came out of the gates strong in 2018 but puttered out by July. Both he and CF Jacoby Jones are genuinely exciting raw talents who could materialize into something special under the right tutelage. Joining them on the Tigers’ roster are guys like Niko Goodrum and Grayson Greiner, who are relatively unknown commodities that could prove to be major contributors given ample opportunity to play.
My pick for the Tigers’ break out sensation this year however is Christin Stewart. The sweet-swinging Left Fielder made his much anticipated debut for Detroit last September, and though his numbers don’t read well, they don’t do justice the poise he showed at the plate in situations that would’ve rattled most newcomers early on. Stewart garnered respect during his farm system tenure from those in the know, en route to three consecutive “Tigers’ Minor League Player of the Year” wins beginning in 2016.
The Tigers will more than likely prove to be sellers early on in the season, and slugging Right Fielder Nick Castellanos is undoubtedly the target of many contenders looking for a cheap bat to add to their lineup. So sooner rather than later, Stewart will see a plethora of at-bats in the heart of the Tigers’ order. With the team struggling early for wins in all likelihood, I have to imagine that the Ron Gardenhire will look to protect his youngster with Miggy batting behind him as opposed to the other way around. What that means, is that early and often in 2019, Christin Stewart will have the opportunity to take huge hacks off pitchers who are fearful of the former Triple Crown winner who stands in the on deck circle.