The AL Central made some big strides in 2020.
One of the weaker divisions in baseball over the last few years while teams such as the Tigers, Royals and White Sox entered or were tidying up rebuilds, the division was far stronger a season ago.
The White Sox made good on a productive offseason last winter and went 35-25 despite going 2-8 over their final 10. The Twins and Indians combined to go 21 games over .500, but even the bottom-dwellers exceeded expectations.
Both the Tigers and Royals exceeded their projected win totals, and the Tigers went 22-24 against teams not named the Chicago White Sox, a win percentage of .478 that rivalled the .483 mark the Houston Astros put forth in 2020.
Nonetheless, three of the top five winning percentages in the American League belonged to the Central a season ago, so let’s see what’s in store for each of its teams this offseason as we check in on some odds, needs, free agents targets, 2021 season outlook and a futures rating so we know where we should put our money on the futures market when it comes to the AL’s deepest division.
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
- Last Season: 36-24 (1st in AL Central)
- Playoffs: Lost Wild Card vs. Astros (2-0)
- 2021 World Series Odds: +1800
- 2021 American League Odds: +900
Get ready to see a lot of starting pitching needs in these pieces, because, well, who doesn’t need more starting pitching? As we transition from a 60-game season to (hopefully) a 162-game campaign in 2021, teams are going to be on the hunt for pitching depth up and down their staffs.
Besides, the Twins also lost right-hander Jake Odorizzi and southpaw Rich Hill to free agency – at least so far – and have Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer currently penciled into the four and five spots in the rotation for the time being.
The rotation is strong in the top three with Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda likely to hold down the fort up front, but even Pineda has a lengthy injury history, and again, starters around the league are going to spend the winter building up their arms for the grind of a six-month regular season. Don’t be surprised if inning totals from starters are down in 2021 from the last full season we witnessed in 2019.
At the moment, rookie Alex Kiriloff is expected to get the bulk of the DH reps for the Twins, but he’s yet to register a regular-season plate appearance after debuting with four of them in Game 2 of the Wild Card round against the Astros. So far, he’s also skipped the Triple-A level all together and has just 411 regular-season plate appearances above the High-A level, so handing the DH job to the 22-year-old may not be the best course.
Also, remember that guy named Nelson Cruz? Well, he’s a free agent after leading the Twins offense in just about every category imaginable over the last two seasons, accumulating 6.3 fWAR in that time despite not playing defense or running well.
Nelson Cruz is a three-homer game machine 😳
— SI MLB (@si_mlb) August 4, 2019
Of course, a reunion with Cruz is very much in the cards, but he’s going to have a market give his age-defying production, so it’s also possible the Twins will have to look elsewhere to fill a DH void.
The Twins tied the Rays for first in the league with a 3.6 fWAR from their bullpen a season ago. So, why the need?
The need arises from losing a trio of impactful right-handers in Trevor May, Tyler Clippard and Sergio Romo. The Twins declined Romo’s option for the 2021 campaign while the other two were scheduled to hit the open market to begin with.
All three of those arms threw a minimum of 20 innings a season ago, and all registered an ERA of 4.05 or better. That mark belonged to Romo while May turned in a 3.86 mark and Clipped a 2.74 figure while leading the team with 0.8 fWAR.
For a team that will once again boast World Series aspirations, they cannot let their bullpen regress a whole lot, especially if they can’t retain Cruz or bring on an impactful starting pitcher.
Free Agent Targets
Given the Cy Young-caliber season the Twins received from Maeda in his first season with the club and the continuing ace trajectory of Berrios, I wouldn’t expect the Twins to go big-game hunting at the top of the starting pitching market, but with Pineda’s injury history and an uninspiring duo at the bottom of the rotation, I could see the team adding a reliable third/fourth arm to lengthen this group.
There are certainly some names that fit that bill on the market, and many will be forced into a one-year deal given the economics around the league. A playoff pedigree would help, making the likes of Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright an option. The team could also look into names such as Brett Anderson, Mike Fiers and Matt Shoemaker, all of whom have a fairly consistent track record and fit the bill of a middle of back-end rotation member on this staff.
The Twins are in good shape financially, but also handed a big sum to Josh Donaldson last winter and I wouldn’t expect them to open up the purse strings this offseason, especially if Cruz remains in their plans, so look for a cost-efficient veteran or two to fill out this rotation.
Of course, Cruz is the main goal here. Anything else would be a downgrade. Over the last two seasons, his 6.2 fWAR is by far the best in the business among DH’s, ahead of Marcell Ozuna’s 5.0 mark. Ozuna’s market is expected to be robust after an MVP-caliber 2020 season, so don’t expect him in the Twin Cities next season.
The other available targets would be Edwin Encarnacion and Shin-Soo Choo. Both are 38 and coming off down seasons, however.
Another option is to explore the first base market and add someone who can either spell or replace the defensively-challenged Miguel Sano, who has been consistently poor with the glove in his MLB tenure. This is, of course, a contingency plan if they don’t retain Cruz.
If that’s the case, they could look to add someone like former Indian Carlos Santana, re-unite with C.J. Cron or add righty-masher Mitch Moreland and have Sano spell him at first against left-handed pitching only.
The list of bullpen names is deep in both quantity and quality. The financial stress on the league has seen some productive names hit the market. Former Indians closer Brad Hand is the best example as the small-market Indians declined his $10M option despite elite results in his Tribe tenure.
That said, they should certainly be in the market for a significant contributor or two, and it’s not going to cost them much in term or salary. Mark Melancon has closing experience and could form a back-end tandem with southpaw Taylor Rogers. Pedro Baez and Shane Greene are high-leverage arms on the market while Anthony Bass, Darren O’DAy and Keone Kela fit that bill too.
More so than middle-relief, the Twins should be in the market for proven, high-leverage arms that can help lock down leads in 2021.
The Twins have won back-to-back division titles, but there’s work to do. Their offense regressed in 2020 after nearly every member of the lineup enjoyed career-years in 2019, and losing their best offensive player in Cruz would further damage that group.
The rotation needs length and depth at the back end, and it appears the bullpen is in need for significant patchwork after losing a trio of impact arms to the open market, for now.
Of course, they could solve these needs in free agency, or potentially trade. However, I do not view them as the best in the Central at this point and neither do the sportsbooks.
I don’t hate the odds value, but for now I’m monitoring the situation and holding off on my Twins futures plays for now.
Futures Value Rating: 6/10
READ: AL East Offseason Odds, Needs, Targets & Outlooks
- Last Season: 35-25 (2nd in AL Central)
- Playoffs: Lost Wild Card vs. Yankees (2-0)
- 2021 World Series Odds: +2500
- 2021 American League Odds: +1200
It’s no secret the Indians outfield has been a sore spot on the team for the last couple of years. In 2019, their outfield ranked 24th with a .310 wOBA. Those numbers were boosted once they acquired Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig at the trade deadline. In 2020, that number fell to an atrocious .255 mark, good for 29th in the league, ahead of only the Pittsburgh Pirates and their .240 mark.
The defensively-challenged Reyes is bound for full-time DH duty, and the current outfield mix consists of some uninspiring combination of Tyler Naquin, Delino DeShields, Josh Naylor, Jordan Luplow and Oscar Mercado. Bradley Zimmer should get some reps as well. At the end of the day, no one is mistaking any of those six players as All-Stars, and in some cases wouldn’t even crack a three or four-man outfield mix on most contenders. I would expect to see Naylor get notable reps at first base with Carlos Santana on the free agent market after his option was declined.
This is bar-none the biggest need the Indians should have on their offseason checklist.
Another offensive need comes at the keystone. Gold Glove winner Cesar Hernandez was a fine one-year addition for the club last winter as he posted a quality 108 wRC+ and 1.9 fWAR, but such a season might price him out of a return to Cleveland as he’s regarded as a top name on the second base market this offseason.
Currently, it’s infield utility man Yu-Cheng Chang projected to get the bulk of second-base reps. Prospect Owen Miller – acquired in the Mike Clevinger deal along with Josh Naylor from the Padres – could make the jump from Double-A, if needed.
Without Santana and Hernandez, however, combined with a weak outfield mix, the offense looks overwhelmingly on the shoulders of Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, so the Indians may want to explore a Hernandes reunion or grab an impact bat at second.
Free Agents Targets
Declining Hand’s option was a clear-cut sign the notoriously frugal Indians aren’t about to open up the purse strings after plenty of lost revenue in 2020. As a result, don’t expect to see George Springer or Ozuna join the outfield mix in Cleveland.
Honestly, it’s possible they don’t add much, if anything, and simply roll with the cost-efficiency options in-house. That could increasingly be the case given the thin crop of impact outfield bats beyond Springer and Ozuna.
Since more production is needed, I would entertain bringing Puig back after he sat out all of 2020 after going unsigned. Adam Eaton is another option with pop and speed while Joc Pederson adds thump versus righties and Jackie Bradley Jr. at least adds value with his glove, although the Indians would almost certainly roll with the glove-first DeShields in center if it came to it.
The trade market might need to be explored considering the thin group of impact bats among free-agent outfielders this offseason.
Unfortunately, it’s a similar situation at second base as it’s not a position that is oozing with high-end offensive talent on the open market. Hernandez should be a top option, but he’s probably too rich for the Indians’ blood. That’s absolutely the case with top free-agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu while Jonathan Schoop should also get a deal out of the Indians’ range.
After the Cardinals declined his option, Kolten Wong is a possibility, and like Hernandez, he’s a Gold Glove winner from 2020. He’ll be of interest to some clubs, but there aren’t a ton of teams that need second base help, and not many at all need it as bad as the Indians.
Bargain shopping for names such as Jose Peraza, Dee Strange-Gordon or maybe Enrique Hernandez makes more sense for the low-budget Indians. Barring a trade, it seems an unsexy second-base addition is the likeliest of outcomes if they decide to add to the position in free agency.
This one, to me, is grim.
Sure, the rotation should remain among the game’s best with 2020 AL Cy Young lock Shane Bieber leading the rotation, but even he isn’t likely to retain his 1.63 ERA from 2020 moving forward. It remains a deep group, however, with the likes of Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale and rookie Tristan McKenzie set to form one of the best and deepest rotations in baseball.
The bullpen loses a dominant arm in Hand and fellow impact lefty Oliver Perez is also a free agent. James Karinchak burst onto the scene as one of the more dominant relievers in the American League last season, but to me this is a group that could use some help. I certainly could have list the bullpen as a need, but I expect such fringe additions in that area while the bullpen is a need for just about every teams in the league.
It’s just the offensive outlook is so bad. Couple that with the fact that pending free agent Francisco Lindor isn’t even a lock to be on the team come Opening Day 2021 and we could be looking at the worst offense in the AL dead in the face here.
Like usual, the starting pitching will carry them as far as they go, but I’m not a fan of Indians futures regardless of where they’re at.
BREAKING: It now appears that the Indians plan to trade Lindor prior to the 2021 season, as per USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale. This crushes the value of Indians futures.
Cleveland, strapped for money, intend to trade All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor by opening day, several rival teams have been informed. Lindor earned $17.5 million last season and is projected to earn about $21 million in salary arbitration in his final year before free agency
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 5, 2020
Futures Value Rating: 1/10
Chicago White Sox
- Last Season: 35-25 (3rd in AL Central)
- Playoffs: Lost Wild Card vs. A’s (2-1)
- 2021 World Series Odds: +1400
- 2021 American League Odds: +650
The White Sox had one of the better offenses in the game in 2020 after a busy offseason last winter. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion was one of those moves in the hopes the veteran would help complement the elite young talent on board, but Encarnacion largely disappointed in 2020 before having his 2021 option declined. Encarnacion homered 10 times with a strong .220 ISO, but also hit just .157 with a .272 wOBA and 71 wRC+.
While the offense will be fine without him, there’s a trickle-down effect. Keep in mind that Encarnacion split the DH duties with both 2020 catchers Yasmani Grandal and James McCann, the latter of whom is also a free agent. With Grandal set to assume full-time catching duties in 2020 and Encarnacion and McCann out of the picture, there’s clear need at the DH position.
Worth factoring in is the subpar defense of Eloy Jimenez in left field. The defensively-challenged Jimenez will therefore see reps at the DH position, so adding an outfielder – not necessarily a Gold Glove-caliber one – is a prudent move in what could become a timeshare with Jimenez at both left field and DH.
Lucas Giolito is the ace and 2019 offseason addition Dallas Keuchel finished second to Bieber with a 1.99 ERA among qualified AL starters in 2020. The young, high-upside trio of Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning are present, as is the oft-injured Carlos Rodon and right-hander Reynaldo Lopez who cannot seem to get his ERA under the 5.00 mark these days.
The good news is the depth is certainly there. The White Sox could probably go with that group and see how it goes. That said, Kopech hasn’t pitched a meaningful inning since 2018, Rodon can’t stay healthy, Lopez continues to struggle and Cease sported an ugly 5.25 BB/9, 1.85 HR/9, 6.36 FIP, 5.87 xFIP and 5.86 SIERA despite his solid 4.01 ERA in 2020. In a normal season, major regression would have been had.
So, it appears adding a proven, impact starter could be prudent. Someone to take the ball every fifth day, nothing flashy, and get the job done. Leave the bottom two spots to be filled by the depth options, but leaving the bottom three open for competition is a hair-raising proposition for a team boasting World Series aspirations.
Free Agent Targets
The White Sox need for a player who can take some reps in left field but is also fitting for a DH role has many believing they are the perfect fit for Ozuna coming off a monster season with the Braves.
Both FanGraphs and Statcast were okay with Ozuna’s defense in left field last season, and certainly the long-term goal with Jimenez is to work on his defense with the goal of becoming a more valuable, all-round player rather than simply a future DH. Not at the age of 23.
For now, however, they can limit his exposure in left if Ozuna can split time there while also maintaining his own bat-first skill set at the age of 29. He can still play the field, but if Ozuna lands his lucrative, long-term deal this offseason, it will be with a team knowing he will gradually slip into a full-time DH role toward the back-end of the deal.
There would seem to me more than enough 2-3-4 caliber starters on the free agent market. I would suggest names such as Jake Odorizzi, Masahiro Tanaka, Taijuan Walker, and Rick Porcello fit that bill. They could even re-unite with Jose Quintana who pitched the best years of his career on the south side.
If the White Sox want to go more than one-year variety, names such as Jon Lester, Brett Anderson, Jeff Samardzija and Mike Fiers could fit that bill.
Again, someone with a history of stability, and an ability to yield an ERA somewhere in the 4.00-4.50 range. Keuchel was on the high-end of such a list last offseason, and while he’ll regress in 2021, he was a fantastic addition to this White Sox rotation last season.
Look for Rick Hahn to shop for reliability over glitz to add to his rotation this winter.
After years of rebuilding, the White Sox got back over the .500 mark with authority in 2020, the first time since the 2012 season.
The future has not only arrived, but with a major impact as Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Jimenez and Luis Robert are impact bats and gloves. Second baseman Nick Madrigal is also set for a full-time role in 2021 while the likes of Cease, Kopech and Dunning are working their way to help fill a youthful, deep rotation for years to come.
Think we got our swagger back! Tim Anderson with a leadoff homer and then silences the “crowd”
Stream: https://t.co/vUcq3vTmzx pic.twitter.com/BD1K7978pa
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) August 12, 2020
What looked like a season with serious World Series potential fell apart late. The Sox stumbled down the stretch, going 2-8 over the final 10 regular-season contests, a stretch that cost them the AL Central lead. It forced a Wild Card series with a tough AL West-champion Oakland A’s and the Sox were ousted in Game 3 of the Wild Card series.
That said, this team is a full-blown contender. The offense will rake, the rotation is already deep and will be set with a mid-rotation addition and the bullpen, despite losing closer Alex Colome, easily ranked in the top 10 last season and while they could add some help, this remains one of the deepest groups in baseball. After all, every team in the league is going to add some form of relief help this winter, but the White Sox are among the teams that could live without.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan of their chances in 2021 and I believe their futures are absolutely worth a look.
Futures Value Rating: 8.5/10
Kansas City Royals
- Last Season: 26-34 (4th in AL Central)
- Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
- 2021 World Series Odds: +12500
- American League Odds: +5000
The Royals are actually fairly set internally with the rotation in what is sure to be another year dwelling in the AL Central basement. It’s not the best group around, but this organization isn’t going to go out and bolster the group with fancy, expensive upgrades and will instead look to get deep with their starters.
With Brad Keller, Danny Duffy and Jakob Junis capable of eating plenty of innings at the top, don’t expect much movement there. Brady Singer, who debuted with a solid 4.06 ERA/4.08 FIP 64.1 innings last season, will continue on his path as one of the better young pitchers in the game in 2021.
That seemingly leaves the fifth spot to southpaw Kris Bubic who actually turned in a solid 4.32 ERA despite being fast-tracked to the majors after being drafted in 2018 and without a pitch above the High-A level before debuting in 2020.
Whether the fifth spot goes to Bubic or not, the Royals are not deep in starting pitching, so they’ll likely add a veteran or two in free agency, especially with Mike Montgomery a free agent after not accepting his outright assignment to the minors.
Free Agent Targets
Any veteran will do. Not literally, but there’s just a wealth of pitchers on the market that will fit the bill as to what the Royals will be looking for this offseason.
They could look into the likes of a starter/long relief type pitcher to fill what Montgomery brought to the table, and a name like Alex Wood fits that description. After opting out of the 2020 season, former Astro – and ever so briefly, a Red Sock – Collin McHugh could also be an option in such a role. If Bubic locks down the fifth spot, the Royals certainly don’t want to give his inning away to a veteran but should absolutely let him develop at the big league level so long as he doesn’t struggle too much.
In addition to Wood and McHugh, names such as Tyler Chatwood, Drew Smyly, Gio Gonzalez, Garrett Richards and Tommy Milone seemingly fit the bill of a group of arms capable of making some starts while offering multiple innings out of the bullpen, a valued asset as the schedule hopefully lengths to a normal 162-game campaign in 2021.
Only one need on a Royals team that struggled again in 2020? To be honest, yes.
As noted, this organization isn’t going to, and never has, injected a bunch of free-agent resources into this team. And frankly they’ll return a similar lineup to 2021 as they had in 2020. Whatever holes they have in that group they are likely to be filled internally or with the cheapest of open-market additions.
Let’s also keep in mind that despite their record, the Royals’ bullpen was a major strength, ranking eighth with a 3.84 ERA a season ago. For good measure, their 4.02 FIP checked in at ninth. They lost back-end arm Ian Kennedy, but the likes of Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, Kyle Zimmer and Jake Newberry are set to fill the void. As all teams will, the Royals will probably add an arm or two to lengthen the group and create spring training battles, but this isn’t a major need after what this group showed in 2020.
Still, let’s not expect much winning from a group that will look nearly identical as the one that posted a .433 winning percentage last year, good for a 70-92 record in a normal year.
Futures Value Rating: 1/10
- Last Season: 23-35 (5th in AL Central)
- Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
- 2021 World Series Odds: +6600
- 2021 American League Odds: +3300
For a team that ranked dead-last with a ghastly 6.37 ERA from their starting pitching last season, starting pitching is absolutely a need for this club. However, there’s some caveats to be factored in.
For one, ace Matthew Boyd endured a miserable 2020 season. His 6.71 ERA was the worst among qualified starters, but his 2019 season included a 4.32 FIP, 3.88 xFIP and a 11.56 K/9 that ranked sixth among qualified big-league starters. A major bounce back can be expected.
Second, the team’s farm system is chock-full of elite starting pitching prospects, including 2018 No.1 overall pick Casey Mize and MLB Pipeline’s No.42 prospect Tarik Skubal, both of whom made their big-league debuts last season. Pipeline’s 20th-ranked prospect, right-hander Matt Manning, will follow suit at some point in the 2021 season, likely late in the season.
Casey Mize, Ankle Breaking 87mph Splitter. 🦶 pic.twitter.com/rReuvVo4xy
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 30, 2020
So, while the future looks bright and is coming ASAP, the Tigers need to find starting pitching for the immediate term, likely a veteran or two who can help guide the youngsters while providing meaningful innings for a team that intends to take a step forward in 2021
The Tigers surprised early with some quality bullpen work, but that work eroded as the season moved along and they finished 25th with a 4.94 ERA, one season after ranking 24th with an identical ERA figure. It’s time this group improves.
Not helping is the fact that closer of the future Joe Jimenez has done nothing but struggle in his big-league tenure despite some impressive strikeout numbers and the team has gotten very little help from their minor league system in this department, at least until Bryan Garcia and Gregory Soto largely impressed in their work as high-leverage relievers a season ago.
Still, this remains an anonymous group of relievers competing for big-league jobs, but as it stands today this Tigers bullpen will struggle if additions and improvements are not made.
When it comes to the Tigers, there is no ranking their needs as they all seem to be relatively equal areas needing to be addressed, but there’s no doubt the team needs to upgrade its catcher positions for 2021.
They attempted to do so by signing former Yankee Austin Romine last winter, and while he started strong, Romine struggled mightily as the summer went on, finishing with an ugly .253 wOBA and 55 wRC+ at the plate, posting a -0.5 fWAR in the process.
Jake Rogers is seemingly the catcher of the future, but the team didn’t even give him a look at the big-league level in 202o after he scuffled at the plate in his debut in 2019. Nonetheless, he’s an elite glove-first backstop with power, so expect Rogers to at least get an opportunity to prove himself as the prospect shine continues to wear off at the age of 26.
Free Agent Targets
As noted, the future Tigers rotation will take more shape as the 2021 season moves along, so we can certainly expect one-year deals on veteran, inning-eating arms while the prospects begin to make an impact at the big-league level. As they’ve done in years past during the rebuild, they’ll do so with the hope they can flip them at the deadline for prospects.
So, they’ll be in the market for veterans looking to re-establish their value, perhaps for a potential deal to a contender at the deadline or with the hope of earning a guaranteed deal on next year’s market.
Names such as former Tiger Robbie Ray, Julio Teheran, Chris Archer and Michael Wacha would fit into the re-establish category. If they are looking for a veteran with potential trade deadline appeal, another reunion might make sense in the form of Rick Porcello, while James Paxton, Jose Quintana and Matt Shoemaker might make sense. In fact, MLB Trade Rumors predicted a one-year, $5M reunion with the Tigers for Porcello.
When you’re in the type of market the Tigers are for rotation help, the list of candidates is long, but these names seem to make the most sense.
Again, nothing splashy to be had here as the Tigers will add on the fringe and allow their young bullpen arms another season to develop and earn a spot moving forward. Given the importance of relief pitching in the playoffs, a trade deadline flip is the hope here as well.
Veterans such as Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw – both of whom struggled at Coors Field with the Rockies in recent years – could rebound in the pitcher-friendly Comerica Park in Detroit. David Robertson is another veteran that will be looking to re-establish his value, although he’s coming off Tommy John surgery. Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Tommy Kahnle, Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock are all names that either dealt with injury to underperformance in 2020 and will be eager to bounce back.
Narrowing the list is difficult, but the Tigers will employ a wait-and-see approach – like much of the league – before adding some arms to their bullpen mix this winter.
The catching market is far more defined than the pitching market to be sure. They won’t be in on the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes and former Tiger James McCann won’t be back as the second-best catcher on the market.
In yet another case of a potential reunion, the patient left-handed bat of Alex Avila – son of Tigers GM Alex Avila, no less – makes sense. He’ll be cheap, and a Tigers team that tied for last in the league with a 7.1% walk rate last season could benefit from his monster 17.7% mark from last season and 14.4% career mark.
Considering Rogers and fellow catching options Grayson Greiner and Eric Haase all hit from the right side, a left-handed bat like Avila makes sense, as does veteran Jason Castro who also takes his walks with a BB/9 of 12% or above in each of the last three seasons.
Avila would be my pick of the litter, but nevertheless look for the Tigers to address a thin catching position again this time around.
There’s little doubt the outlook is improving for a team that’s finished with the worst record in two of the last four seasons, and the Tigers are set to pick third in the 2021 draft after a third-to-last finish in 2020.
Mize and Skubal saw their fair share of struggles in their first taste of big-league action last season, and the same will likely go for Manning upon his arrival. As per FanGraphs’ projections, 2020 standout rookie Willi Castro and 21-year-old Isaac Paredes are projected to finish second and third, respectively, among position player fWAR. That’s not a good sign for the offense, one that tied for 26th with a .303 wOBA a season ago, although one that was interesting the best in the business against left-handed pitching. Another reason to add a left-handed-hitting catcher.
I haven’t yet mentioned the arrival of manager A.J. Hinch, whose background in player development and knowledge of analytics will certainly help this young Tigers core. His reputation from the Astros’ cheating scandal aside, Hinch has a reputation, as a former player, of developing well and helping young players reach their potential, as he helped do with the likes of Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman with Houston.
The trajectory is on the rise, and sportsbooks feel a lot better about this team than they did prior to last season, but now is not the time to hammer Tigers futures with holes all over the lineup and pitching staff.