Last week, we looked back at the Tigers rotation from 2013 and ahead to what they might become in 2014. Today, we’ll do the same thing with the Tigers’ outfield. Thankfully, there aren’t many moving parts so we don’t have to dig into all sorts of complicated permutations. The Tigers 2014 outfield is going to look a whole lot like the outfield from 2013.
On the whole, Jackson had a very nice 2013 season. He hit .272/.337/.417 in 614 PA which factors out to a 107 wRC+. He ran the bases well (5.7 BsR), and even though his defensive metrics were a touch below the average centerfielder, he put together 3.1 fWAR over the course of the season. His production was up and down, but on the whole, it was a very strong year. It wasn’t on par with his excellent 2012 season, but he’s still young and could easily settle in as one of the best handful of centerfielders in the game.
The second link above takes you through some more detailed thoughts on 2014, but Steamer/Oliver/ZiPS all project him to be worth about three wins for the upcoming season. You have to prepare yourself for a two or three week DL stint due to a hamstring or oblique injury, but Jackson is a solid performer with a pretty nice ceiling.
The big question entering Hunter’s first year with the Tigers was if he could sustain his new found opposite field, line drive, high BABIP approach. Turns out that he can and it’s allowed for an offensive reinvention for the aging corner outfield. He didn’t shine in right field for the Tigers, but he was replacing Brennan Boesch, so it still looked pretty good. He hit 117 wRC+ and ran the bases at a league average rate, so playing iffy defense in a corner still produced 2.5 fWAR.
It’s probably safe to safe that his new approach is real and that we should expect a higher BABIP this year than his pre-2012 track record, but he’s also aging and has taken a turn defensively. Hunter probably isn’t going to get better in 2014, but he’s a solid player and figures to be right around league average in 2014. Steamer/Oliver/ZiPS have him at 1.9/1.3/1.3 for 2013, but I’m a touch more optimistic about his ability to sustain his above average bat than they are.
Dirks took a step back offensively in 2013, but he made up for it with some really nice defense out in left field. He’s a great example of how value is value no matter where you find it. He’s never had a big platoon issue, but for some reason he keeps find himself in platoon arrangements. He had Matt Tuiasosopo in 2013 and will have Rajai Davis in 2014, but Dirks remains a guy who can hit right around league average with nice defense in a corner. Pretty much the definition of a player who is under-appreciated.
Steamer/Oliver/ZiPS have him at 0.8/1.6/1.3 WAR for 2014, but they have very different PA assumptions 268/600/455. I’d bet more in the 1.5+ department if he stays healthy.
Matt Tuiasosopo/Don Kelly/Nick Castellanos/Avi Garcia
Tuiasosopo got most of the at bats that didn’t go to Dirks and he raked for the first couple of months. Then life caught up with him and he reverted back to the player who couldn’t keep a big league roster stop for most of his career. The overall body of work was pretty solid for a bench player, but it was a tale of two halves – and the next act ends with him in the Diamondbacks organization. Kelly played the normal Kelly role, Castellanos only had a handful of trips to the plate, and Garcia was sent out of town for Iglesias.
Kelly will continue to fill in for 2014 and Castellanos will primarily be at third, so we don’t really need to look forward with this group.
Davis joined the Tigers this offseason on a 2 year, $10 million to share time with Dirks and will play primarily against left-handed pitching. He can hit a lefty (112 wRC+ career) and is one of the very best baserunners in the game (9.5 BsR/600 PA), so he’ll be a nice compliment to the Tigers outfield going forward. He can’t bring the same kind of thump as Tuiasosopo, but he should be able to match his overall production.
There’s also a good sense that Davis is a well-known quantity. He’ll hit lefties well enough, he’ll run like crazy, and he’ll be okay defensively in left. You don’t have to worry about a huge variance in his performance, which is nice for a Tigers fan base that can often fret about performance fluctuations. Steamer/Oliver/ZiPS peg him for 0.3/1.6/0.3 WAR for 2014, but I think something right around 1.0 is a good bet, but it’s all going to depend on playing time for one of the newest Tigers.
All told, the Tigers outfield should provide very similar value to the 2013 iteration. Maybe a little better, maybe a little worse, but don’t expect a whole lot of difference.