Detroit Tigers 2023 Fantasy Baseball Preview
Gabe breaks down what to expect from the rebuilding Tigers in fantasy baseball this season.
Detroit Tigers Team Outlook
The AL Central has some weak teams and overall appears to be one of the more lacking divisions in baseball. That creates an opportunity to find value for fantasy baseball, although it comes along with plenty of landmines. The Tigers are no exception to this, as they are littered with just as many interesting players as guys who might be difficult to touch even later in fantasy drafts. A successful season for this rebuilding team would look like their younger players establishing themselves as fixtures in the lineup and taking clear next steps in their development. Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson and Casey Mize should be the faces of this franchise. This is a huge year for their development, and they are all exciting players for different reasons. A bad season would consist of the young players showing little to no promise of ascension to the next level.
To go with the young names, there are some interesting veteran pieces in the lineup here in Javier Báez and Austin Meadows, and the rotation additionally has a few players who might cause a double-take in Eduardo Rodriguez, Casey Mize (IL) and Tarik Skubal (IL). After these guys … it’s just a whole lot of nothing. This will be another long season for the Tigers.
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- CF Riley Greene
- DH Kerry Carpenter
- SS Javier Báez
- RF Austin Meadows
- 2B Jonathan Schoop
- C Eric Haase
- 3B Nick Maton
- 1B Spencer Torkelson
- LF Akil Baddoo
Projected Pitching Staff:
- SP1: Eduardo Rodriguez
- SP2: Matthew Boyd
- SP3: Michael Lorenzen
- SP4: Matt Manning
- SP5: Spencer Turnbull
- CL: Alex Lange
- SU1: Jason Foley
- SU2: José Cisnero
Breakout Candidate: 1B Spencer Torkelson
There are not a lot of reasons to roster Spencer Torkelson if all you do is look at his numbers in his Major League debut last season. His triple-slash was a paltry .203/285/.319 with eight HRs. He was performing so poorly that the Tigers sent him down to triple-A to work things out in July before getting another shot at the big league in September. Currently going on average in the back end of the 18th round in 15-team leagues, Tork is being drafted purely as a corner infield or even bench option. The hype on him has completely died down, but the pedigree remains. Keep in mind, this is the same player who was lauded as an elite hitter and number one prospect by some. The Tigers have cleared the way at 1B as the rotting husk of 40-year-old Miguel Cabrera will be exclusively used at DH now. This means the Tigers will be patient and give Torkelson opportunities, and so should you. He is still young, and if he hits early in the season he will likely slide up the batting order, impacting his counting numbers.
Sleeper: 2B Jonathan Schoop
It is difficult to pick a sleeper on a bad team, but every once in a while you kick over a rock and find gold. In this case, maybe you find a less valuable metal like tin … but tin still has its uses, and so will Jonathan Schoop. At bats are the name of the game here, and to be honest, the Tigers don’t really have any other better options at 2B. Schoop’s power dropped prodigiously last season, which is alarming, but he also was the victim of some bad luck as his BABIP, which usually hovers closer to the .300 mark, was a meager .234 last year. He won’t be winning you any batting titles, but at a weak position and coming practically for free in drafts, he can be cut loose if his bat shows no signs of life, and it won't hurt you one bit. If you wait on MI and need power late, this is a decent target with the possibility for a solid return on investment.
Bust: CF Riley Greene
I love Riley Greene as a player, but not so much as an investment in Redraft fantasy leagues this year. Greene was seen as arguably the best OF prospect last season and made his debut in the majors, slashing .253/.321/.362 with five HRs over the course of 93 games. Not bad results for a 21-year-old, but has the pedigree and limited sample size against major league pitching earned him the right to be drafted as a core part of your starting OF? I’m hesitant this year and think there will be more bumps along the way than not. Greene’s statcast data shows him as being in the top half to third of the league in most hard-hit metrics, which is encouraging for a young player, but not something that signals an imminent breakout. He needs to elevate his launch angle (2.8%) in order to tap into more over-the-fence power, and he really needs to cut down on the 28.7% strikeout rate. In the same area of the draft you could be looking at Andrew Benintendi, Alex Verdugo and Ramón Laureano as options. Give me the safety and track record of any of those guys over the risk/reward of Greene, at least for 2023.
Fantasy Baseball Prospect to Know: INF Colt Keith
With the graduation in recent years of Spencer Torkelson, Casey Mize and Riley Greene, this is a somewhat depleted farm system. Former top pick Jackson Jobe could be the next big pitching prospect to develop, but the top prospect right now is without a doubt Colt Keith. He probably isn’t going to make the majors this year, but Keith has the potential to hit for average, take walks, keep the strikeouts to a minimum and show good pop in the bat. The one downside here is his limited defensive ability, which is really what could slow his journey to steady at bats in the majors. However, if he continues to tear up the minors, the Tigers might not have much of a choice but to push Keith up and find at bats for him.
Bold Prediction: No Tigers starter goes over 130 IP
I will admit, the likelihood of this happening on a major league team over the course of an entire season is low, but that should tell you how truly dicey this rotation looks heading into the 2023 season. Shall we break it down? To begin with, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal will open the year on the IL, and even when/if they make their debuts they will have their loads managed very closely, so they won’t make it to 130 IP. Spencer Turnbull is returning to the rotation after missing all of 2022 recovering from TJS, so maybe he will cap out around the 115-inning mark. Michael Lorenzen has a shot, but the highest watermark in his career came in 2015 with 115 innings, and he’s struggled to handle a starter’s workload every time the opportunity has arisen in the past. The returning Matthew Boyd has his fans across the fantasy community, but after throwing 13.1 innings in 2022, I put a higher possibility on my teenager finding one of my “dad jokes” genuinely funny than Boyd eclipsing even 100 innings. So, that leaves Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Manning. If I had to put money on one of them, it would be Rodriguez. He has the track record and experience with his time in Boston and is probably the only Tigers pitcher worth investing in for fantasy teams. That being said, his last few years have been a mixed bag of physical issues, emotional/personal issues and uneven results on the field even when healthy.