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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Devon Travis, 2b|
|2. Steven Moya, of|
|3. Buck Farmer, rhp|
|4. Derek Hill, of|
|5. Domingo Leyba, ss/2b|
|6. Kevin Ziomek, lhp|
|7. Robbie Ray, lhp|
|8. Hernan Perez, ss/2b|
|9. James McCann, c|
|10. Tyler Collins, of|
No team has matched the consistent regular-season success of the Tigers over the last four seasons. Detroit has won more games than any team in baseball in that stretch. And while the Dodgers and Cardinals repeated as division champions in 2014, the Tigers rattled of their fourth straight American League Central title.
Yet the season still ended on a bitter note, with the Orioles sweeping the Tigers in the AL Division Series, the first time in four years the Tigers were unable to reach the AL Championship Series.
Several of the team’s moves helped the Tigers offense. Unloading Prince Fielder to the Rangers netted the Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who was more valuable than Fielder in 2014. The move also enabled Miguel Cabrera to move back to first base and let rookie Nick Castellanos take over at third.
Picking up J.D. Martinez, whom the Astros released in spring training, ended up being one of the steals of the year. He hit .315/.358/.553 with 23 home runs in 441 at-bats, then batted fifth in the Tigers’ lineup during the playoffs.
With Victor Martinez leading the majors in OPS, the Tigers ranked second in baseball in runs scored. Yet the bullpen continued to be an area of weakness for the Tigers, one that proved costly in the postseason.
The Tigers paid a high prospect cost—righthanders Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel—to trade for Joakim Soria from the Rangers in July, but he didn’t perform well immediately and quickly lost the trust of manager Brad Ausmus.
Giving Doug Fister to the Nationals for an underwhelming trade return of lefthanders Robbie Ray and Ian Krol and utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi also proved costly, and proved to be a rare misstep for general manager Dave Dombrowski, whose trading track record is among the best in the game.
The farm system remains light, but that’s always been the case for the Tigers throughout their run of division titles. The system only thinned out further with the Soria trade and the July acquisition of David Price, who gives the Tigers an ace for next season as they prepare for life without Max Scherzer, but also cost them low Class A shortstop Willy Adames, along with center fielder Austin Jackson and lefty Drew Smyly from the big league team.
Few prospects in the organization have star potential. The pitchers are a mix of possible back-end starters and relievers. The position players are more steady than special, with Devon Travis blocked at second base by Kinsler. Steven Moya is an exception, with his electric power combined with a reckless offensive approach making for a high-risk, high-reward player. Derek Hill has exciting tools, but he’s a 2014 high school draft pick who struggled in his pro debut.
The Tigers have the talent to compete next year for their fifth straight AL Central crown, but the competition in the division has become stiffer with the emergence of the Royals. The talent level is still is still high in Detroit, but it’s no longer an easy call to forecast them as AL Central favorites.