Niko Goodrum: Cause of death? 2019 Tigers (MLB Gifs)

After dispatching with the 2018 World Series champs, the Yankees face the worst team in baseball from the last two seasons, the Detroit Tigers.

Their Story So Far

At 42-100, the Tigers possess the worst record in baseball and have the inside track on the No. 1 overall pick in the draft for a second time in three years. They should be awarded no points, and may god have mercy on their soul.

Mired in last place in an already bad AL Central, the Tigers had a minor sell-off with closer Shane Greene and outfielder Nick Castellanos shipped to NL teams. However, the team held on to starter Matt Boyd despite his high trade value.

Their offense is historically bad. Detroit has a 77 wRC+ as a team, an OBP under .300 and slugging percentage under .400 in a year of eye-popping offense. The Tigers have to hope this is the bottoming out. It has to be, right?

Injury Report

Pitchers Michael Fulmer, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross and Blaine Hardy are all likely out for the year, as is outfielder JaCoby Jones. Niko Goodrum, one of the few fun players to watch on this team, is down with a groin strain and could also miss the rest of 2019.

Player Spotlight: Casey Mize and Matt Manning

If Goodrum was healthy, I’d have written a player spotlight on him. Catcher Jake Rogers would have been another good candidate. However, I going off the current roster to write about the rotation of the future with Casey Mize and Matt Manning.

You may recognize Mize’s name as the No. 1 overall pick from 2018. The right-hander out of Auburn tore through High-A Lakeland with a 0.88 ERA in 30 2/3 innings this year before moving on and pitching well with Double-A Erie. The 22-year-old’s first start with Erie was a nine-inning no-hitter. Unfortunately, he dealt with elbow injuries and lost about a month at midseason.

From their midseason rankings, here was Baseball Prospectus’s reasons why Mize would succeed:

Mize throws four pitches that all rate as plus offerings, and we’ve seen everything flash higher in individual viewings. His command and pitchability are off the charts. On skill, he’s probably a good major league pitcher right now, and there’s ace upside here.

Baseball Prospectus

Manning, meanwhile, was the Tigers’ top selection (9th overall) in the 2016 draft, a California high school arm who will be 22 by Opening Day 2020. Like Mize, he’s a consensus top 100 prospect and may have surpassed Mize in some scouts’ eyes. He dominated Double-A this season with a 2.56 ERA and 148 strikeouts over 133 2/3 innings.

For most publications, Mize is a top 10 prospect while Manning sits somewhere in the middle of the top 50. They both should be in Detroit by the end of next season (Yankees only play DET in April next year). Both may settle in as mid-rotation starters in the Majors and Manning’s lack of a third pitch may send him to the bullpen. Despite the elbow worries, Mize is as close to a sure thing MLB starter as a pitching prospect right now, which unfortunately isn’t all that sure.

Projected Lineup

  1. Victor Reyes, CF (.307/.341/.420, 100 wRC+)
  2. Harold Castro, 2B (.283/.296/.373, 73 wRC+)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (.291/.354/.402, 101 wRC+)
  4. Christin Stewart, LF (.242/.318/.419, 91 wRC+)
  5. Jeimer Candelario, 1B (.193/.287/.318, 61 wRC+)
  6. Dawel Lugo, 3B (.253/.276/.378, 67 wRC+)
  7. Travis Demeritte, RF (.231/.299/.347, 70 wRC+)
  8. Jake Rogers, C (.102/.210/.250, 21 wRC+)
  9. Willi Castro, SS (.189/.228/.245, 22 wRC+)

On their bench, they have catcher Grayson Greiner, C/1B John Hicks, utility man Gordon Beckham, INF/LF Brandon Dixon, shortstop Jordy Mercer and infielder Ronny Rodriguez. With this being a rebuilding team, just about everyone has gotten starts in the last week.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (6:40 p.m. EDT): TBD vs. Edwin Jackson (vs. Yankees)

Jackson, fresh off a failed stint with the Blue Jays, is with the Tigers to eat innings for a pitching staff short on arms. Their rotation is missing multiple starters to season-ending injuries, so Jackson has a role despite his poor numbers.

In 57 innings this year, he’s allowed 67 runs (58 earned) and has a 7.32 FIP. His strikeout rate as ticked up in Detroit while he’s halved his home run rate — pitching in Comerica has to help — yet he still has a 7.22 ERA with the Tigers.

The Yankees have hit him well over the years and the lone start against them this year was no exception. They tagged Jackson for six runs with two long balls — one each from Aaron Hicks and Gio Urshela.

Jackson (Baseball Savant)

Wednesday (6:40 p.m. EDT): CC Sabathia (vs. Tigers) vs. Matthew Boyd (vs. Yankees)

Matt Boyd is the Tigers’ ace for the moment, one of the few bright spots in an ugly season. However, after Detroit held onto him at the trade deadline, his performance has suffered with his ERA rising to 4.58 for the season.

In the second half, he has a 5.74 ERA in 64 1/3 innings with his home run and walk rates spiking. He’s given up the most home runs in the AL with 36 long balls. Perhaps he’s tiring down as he’s just eclipsed his innings total from 2018, but he’s consistently able to pitch deep into games for the Tigers and his strikeout rate remains high.

Boyd struck out 13 Yankees in April while holding the Bombers to one run over 6 1/3 innings. That was one of his best games of the season as he dazzled the Yankees with his high-spin fastball. Let’s see if he can duplicate those results five months later.

Boyd (Baseball Savant)

Thursday (1:10 p.m. EDT): J.A. Happ (vs. Tigers) vs. Spencer Turnbull (N/A)

Don’t let the 3-14 record fool you: Turnbull has been an effective back-end starter for the Tigers this year. The right-hander has thrown 127 innings of league-average ball (103 ERA+). At age-26, he’s likely earned himself a role on the 2020 Tigers.

But he’s had a dreadful second half. In nine starts, he sports a 7.96 ERA with batters hitting .311/.409/.500 against him. He lasted just five outs in his most recent start. He’s lasted three or fewer innings in four of his nine second-half starts.

Turnbull relies on a low-to-mid 90s fastball and sinker 65 percent of the time before turning to a slider and curveball. The offspeed pitches are his best swing-and-miss offerings, but Turnbull focuses on a diet of fastballs.

Turnbull (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

Here’s the rundown of relievers they have:

RHPs: Joe Jimenez, Buck Farmer, Jose Cisnero, Bryan Garcia, David McKay, Zac Reininger, John Schreiber, Drew VerHagen
LHPs: Tyler Anderson, Matt Hall, Nick Ramirez, Gregory Soto, Daniel Stumpf

The Tigers’ token All-Star in 2018, Jimenez is their closer despite a 4.78 ERA. Farmer (don’t spoonerize him) and Cisnero have been middle relief arms while Stumpf is the team’s LOOGY. VerHagen has been a swingman for Detroit for multiple seasons now.

The southpaw Ramirez has strong numbers as a multi-inning reliever as a rookie while Soto has a 3.58 ERA in 27.2 innings, the best mark among pitchers still on the roster. Beyond them, it’s a mix of anonymous arms trying to make a name for themselves. We’ll see plenty of them.