Miguel Cabrera is a near-lock for the Hall of Fame, but the Tigers first baseman’s best days are likely behind him.
Cabrera, who turns 35 on Wednesday, is coming off his worst season, which was hampered by two herniated disks in his back, and is off to a lukewarm start through the first few weeks of the 2018 campaign, hitting .245 with just one home run (but a team-leading nine RBIs).
The days of winning the Triple Crown are long gone. Cabrera is No. 83 in ESPN’s top 100 players in Major League Baseball, the back half of which was posted Tuesday.
For Cabrera, the ranking is a 60-spot freefall from ESPN’s 2017 list.
“Cabrera finally showed signs of slowing down last season as he posted career lows in batting average (.249) and OPS (.728),” writes John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information. “Even if he doesn’t return to his Triple Crown ways, a slight increase in those numbers would still make an effective everyday hitter.”
And, while it’s assumed age played at least a part in Cabrera’s slide in the rankings, one of the Tigers younger players also saw his standing dip: Right-hander Michael Fulmer, the 25-year-old ace of the staff, checks in at No. 94 — down 16 spots from No. 78 last season.
Fulmer is 1-2 in three starts this season with a 3.86 ERA and 1.41 WHIP — numbers inflated following a disastrous start last week in Cleveland in which he yielded nine runs (six earned) on eight hits in three innings.
“In Fulmer's first two major league seasons (2016-17), he ranked fifth among AL pitchers with 0.81 homers per nine innings,” Sopan Shah of ESPN Stats & Information writes, “and led the league in that category in 2017 (0.71). The 2016 AL Rookie of the Year made his first All-Star appearance in 2017.”
Also landing in ESPN’s back half of the top 100 was former Tigers outfielder Justin Upton, who checks in at No. 58 after a season in which he landed with the Los Angeles Angels in a trade as part of Detroit’s rebuilding efforts. That’s a bump up of 42 spots from the 2017 rankings.
Also on the list: former Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (69), former Tigers starter David Price (81) and Birmingham Brother Rice product D.J. LeMahieu (91), a second baseman with the Colorado Rockies.
ESPN releases its top 50 on Wednesday.