The Detroit News' Chris McCosky, Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Tony Paul offer up their predictions for the 2019 Tigers, who open the regular season Thursday in Toronto:
You can't predict health, right? Nobody knows if Miguel Cabrera, soon to be 36, will play fewer than 100 games or more than 140 games. Nobody, at least not right now, knows if Nick Castellanos will on the team after July 31. Same for Shane Greene, possibly Matthew Boyd. Shoot, just about any player who has a hot first half can be considered trade bait in July. So, who knows how this will all look in a few months. But, just going on what we've seen the last two months in Florida, a healthy and thumping Cabrera, the added veteran presence of Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison, the continued growth of Boyd, Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum, the combination of power and finesse pitchers in the bullpen — even with the JaCoby Jones injury — you can envision some good times. So, disregarding what I may or may not have said on our Tigers preview show, here's my final prediction, for what it's worth: 75-87, third place in the Central Division.
The good news is, Miguel Cabrera looks capable of being relatively fearsome again, if no longer dominant. The decent news is, Josh Harrison should be a nice addition atop the batting order. The unsettling news is, the Tigers' starting rotation is full of last gasps and long shots. To be remotely competitive, the Tigers need Jordan Zimmermann to be what they thought he was, and for Matthew Boyd to continue his climb. The bullpen could be solid with Shane Greene and Joe Jimenez on the back end, but everything else is a guessing game. When your second-best hitter, Nick Castellanos, isn't even certain to be here all year, you know you're trudging through the deep, deep mud of the rebuild. Prediction: The Tigers will narrowly top their 64-win total of the past two seasons and edge out the Royals for fourth place in the Central. Record: 66-96.
After flirting with 100 losses the last two seasons, there won’t be any expectations in 2019. That’s good, because there probably won’t be much progress in the win column. Not with a rotation that’s missing front-line talent and may struggle just to keep Ron Gardenhire from over-extending his bullpen. If Miguel Cabrera stays healthy — and that’s an annual question now — the offense won’t be nearly as anemic as it was last season. But while that might make for more entertaining games, it probably won’t have the Tigers anywhere near .500 come August. Prediction: 70-92, fourth in AL Central.
You can scrounge around in every corner of the Internet, and you won't find anyone who gives the Tigers a snowball's chance in hell of contending for the American League Central this season. And spoiler alert, you won't find one here, either. That said, stranger things have happened. There's always a baseball team or two that comes out of nowhere each season, and the American League Central is a very weak division, especially given all the significant injury issues going on in Cleveland these days. The Tigers' offense is better, and there's a chance, albeit a small chance, the rotation could be a surprise. That's not to say this team could bust out for 90 wins. No way. But even flirting with 80 could keep the Tigers in contention through at least the early weeks of summer. And wouldn't that leave Al Avila with a pickle of a decision? That said, that would require just about everything going right (Miguel Cabrera stays healthy, Nick Castellanos becomes an MVP candidate, Matt Moore and Tyson Ross and Jordan Zimmerman are good again, and youngsters Christin Stewart and Jeimer Candelario and Grayson Greiner are legit). That's a whole lot of ifs, too many to be anything close to hopeful if you're a fan. Sooo ... 76-86, third place.