A Minor Review of 2016: Detroit Tigers

Welcome to the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as an early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.

The Graduate: Michael Fulmer (RHP): At just 23, Fulmer is already a beast of a man. He combines control with a power fastball and promising secondary stuff. He’s just scratching the surface of his potential but he’s already a good big league pitcher. After throwing 174 innings in 2016, he’s poised to break the 200-inning mark in ’17 and could be an innings-eater for years to come for the Tigers. His ability to command his changeup consistently allowed him to combat left-handed hitters well (He held them to a .220 average). Fulmer’s biggest need is to pace himself a little better throughout the season after perhaps tiring a bit in the second half when he became more hittable.

The Riser: Christin Stewart (OF): The Tigers hit a lot of home runs (eighth in the league in 2016) so Stewart will eventually fit right in. It’ll likely be another year at least before he impacts the majors, though, after spending most of 2016 in high-A ball. He added 24 games in double-A and, combined, slugged 30 home runs in just 128 games. Stewart, 23, may not hit for a great average due to the swing-and-miss in his game but he should get on-base at a good clip and walked 87 times last year. Look for him to spend most of 2017 in double-A and perhaps reach triple-A in late summer; with Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez on the corners, there is no reason to rush the outfield prospect.

The Tumbler: Zach Shepherd (3B): Signed out of Australia all the way back in 2012, Shepherd — now 21 — has regressed mightily since turning pro. He hit just .186 with 159 strikeouts in 121 high-A ball games in 2016. His already-high strikeout rate of 26% in ’15 jumped to a startling 33% in ’16. Now, he has some power (20+ homer potential in a full season) and will take a walk but a sub-.200 batting average isn’t going to cut it. After two down seasons in A-ball, 2017 could be a make-or-break year for Shepherd.

The ’16 Draft Pick: Matt Manning (RHP): Drafted ninth overall in 2016, this 18-year-old starter could be a beast in the future. Standing 6-6, he throws hard and could eventually hit triple digits as he fills out and matures as a pitcher. The son of a pro basketball player, Manning has pedigree and athleticism to spare. That should allow him to develop rather quickly despite splitting his focuses between basketball and baseball in high school. He walked just seven hitters in his debut while striking out 46 in just 29.1 innings. Look for him to ascend to full-season ball in 2017.

The Lottery Ticket: Gerson Moreno (RHP): The Tigers have churned out quite a few hard-throwing relievers in recent years with mixed results. Moreno is another young pitcher capable of hitting the upper 90s with his heater and pairs it with a potentially-strong slider. He threw very well early in the year in low-A ball but struggled after a promotion to high-A ball when he walked 20 batters in 24.2 innings. Moreno, 21, has high-leverage potential but he’s also a smaller-framed pitcher with that big velo so he’ll need to prove his durability. Look for him to return to high-A ball to begin the 2017 season.





Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Creamy
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Creamy

Thanks for the write-up on the Tigers, Marc.

Thoughts on Dixon Machado? Looked like he had a solid season at Toledo–good contact skills and some speed. Could he replace Iglesias at SS this year or next?

KwisatzHaderach
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KwisatzHaderach

He’s out of options this year. Hopefully they can do something with him. Use him in a deal or, since the Tigers always carry two light hitting utility infielders, keep him for a while. He’s a fine shortstop, but it feels like he’s not even going to hit to Iglesias’ levels.