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The smell of hot dogs and Cracker Jack is in the air, and that means one thing: baseball is back. With Opening Day upon us, I would like to make some bold predictions before the first pitch of the 2019 season is thrown for the Detroit Tigers.
So without further adieu, here they are:
Miguel Cabrera will hit 35+ home runs and have 100+ RBI
I know, I know. There can be two sides of the coin on this one. Some might say this isn’t that bold when talking about one of the most feared hitters in the history of baseball. But there are some that will say this is insane because Cabrera hasn’t been healthy in three years. I am going to go out on a limb and say that a 35 year-old (who turns 36 in April) Miggy will actually be relatively healthy this season.
My reason for optimism are the numbers that Cabrera put up in spring training this year: 20 games, five home runs, 15 runs batted in and a .340 batting average. These are some eye-popping stats and could be a predictor of good things to come over a full 162-game schedule.
The last time that Cabrera put up both of those numbers came back in 2016 (his last fully healthy season) when he played in 158 games and hit 38 home run, had 108 RBI and batted .316. He has hit 35+ homers in a season in five of his 16 career seasons and has had 100+ RBI in 12 of his 16 years in Major League Baseball.
But over the course of the past two seasons, Miggy has missed 156 total games. If that trend continues, the Tigers could be in trouble as he is signed for another six years (through 2025) and is being paid like a superstar. While he earned that contract with his prior play, an injury plagued twilight of Cabrera’s career is not what anyone expected from a guy who played in 119+ games in every season after his rookie year in 2003 until last season when he played in 30 games.
If this prediction comes true, Cabrera will become the 28th member of the 500 home run club and join the likes of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams as he is sitting on 465 career home runs. The last player to join this prestigious group was David Ortiz in 2015 at the age of 39.
The Motor City is rooting for you, Miguel.
Christin Stewart will hit 25+ home runs
The highly touted outfield prospect, who made his major league debut last September, should get plenty of playing time for Detroit this season.
Last season, Stewart hit 23 home runs for the Toledo Mud Hens, Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate. He was called up near the end of the year and put up some decent numbers. In the 17 games he appeared in, he had 60 at-bats, hit two home-runs, had 10 RBI and a batting average of .267. While those stats aren’t eye-popping, they could translate into a nice season for a player in his first full season at the MLB level.
Stewart is known for having some pop in his bat and has 93 career homers in four seasons across the minor leagues. The most he has had in one year came in 2017 for the Erie SeaWolves, the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate, when he cranked out 28 bombs.
Stewart’s numbers this spring give me reason for hope that he could reach this number. In 20 games, he hit three dingers over 56 at-bats and had 13 RBI. The only thing that is troubling was his low .232 average. He has a career .262 batting average in the minors, so I believe this number will correct itself and give him a great chance at cracking the 25 home run plateau in 2019.
Shane Greene will have 35+ saves and a sub-2.75 earned run average
This may be my boldest prediction yet. Greene, who became a full-time closer for the first time last season, has 43 career saves and a 4.89 ERA in five seasons in the MLB.
But 32 of those saves came last year as Detroit’s closer and I think that number could inch a little higher if Detroit improves on their 64-98 record and he can cut down on his six blown saves.
While his ERA was a horrendous 5.12 in 2018 to go along with a sky-high 1.37 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in 63.1 innings, I believe Green can almost cut it in half.
He had a sizzling spring as he appeared in nine games and pitched nine innings. In those appearances, he gave up one run for a sparkling 1.00 ERA. He also only gave up five hits and one walk for a crazy .667 WHIP.
While I don’t believe he will continue to be this hot once the season begins, I think he can be a better pitcher than he has shown in his career so far. If he stays the full-time closer (keep an eye on Joe Jimenez) and the Tigers improve even slightly, I think Greene has the stuff to reach these numbers.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and Baseball-Reference.com.