ROB PARKER: Tigers won't make postseason in 2016

Posted at 10:37 AM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 10:37:51-04

First, the good news. The Tigers won't finish in last place in the American League Central - again.
Now, the bad news. The Tigers will finish in third place and not make the playoffs.

Of course, some Tigers fans will dismiss this column as an attempt to be negative and ruin the season before it even starts on Tuesday night against the Miami Marlins in South Florida. It's not. (This prediction is coming from the same columnist who picked the Tigers to go 81-81 last season while most MLB experts picked them to win the division.)

Sure, the Tigers played the role of Big Willie and spent much cash this offseason, signing big free agents Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann. They also added closer Francisco Rodriguez and starter Mike Pelfrey. Still, the Tigers - who were a disappointing 74-87 in 2015 - simply need too many things to go right in order for them to compete in a division they once owned.

There are too many healthy questions. The core of the team is really old. The chances of their big guys - especially Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez - all staying healthy seems far-fetched. Again, it's the pitching that is the biggest problem on this 2016 team.

Starting Rotation: The Tigers used to have the best rotation in MLB a few years ago. It's not even close anymore.
Sure, the Tigers should feel better about Justin Verlander back in the ace role after finishing last season strong.
Zimmermann could be key if he's the Zimmermann from two years ago with the Washington Nationals and not the Zimmermann who lost his spot in the rotation in 2015.

Sanchez is coming back from injury and has trouble staying healthy. He was hurt to start the spring, but finished nicely. He hasn't started 30 games in a season since 2012 and has never logged 200 innings. At the back end, it's Pelfrey and Shane Greene. Daniel Norris was supposed to be fifth starter, but is out with a back issue.

The Bullpen: The Tigers may have finally fixed the bullpen which had been a disaster for manager Brad Ausmus.
Many like K-Rod as closer. Plus, the additions of Alex Wilson, now hurt, and Mark Lowe will help.
The pen must get healthy. Blaine Hardy is injured, too.

Bruce Rondon was supposed to finally be a solution out of the bullpen. He had a bad spring and was optioned back to Toledo. Given his stuff, it was a huge setback for the pen. 

The Lineup: The strength of this team will be the offense. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are both coming off injuries. In the past, you normally knew what you were going to get. Not anymore. At 37, Martinez has to prove he can be productive on a regular basis.

Cabrera needs more power. Last year, he hit only 18 homers. In 2014, Miggy had 25. Tigers need 30 plus from him.
J.D. Martinez had seven spring training homers and looks ready to make the All-Star team again. It seems you can pen him in for 30 plus homers and 90 plus RBI.

Another key is Upton, who had a decent year in San Diego last season. Here, the left fielder will bat second behind Cabrera. He should flourish with all those good pitches he will see and provide some power. 

The Defense: The Tigers should be good at catching the ball in 2016. They are strong up the middle with shortstop Jose Iglesias and his tremendous glove and Ian Kinlser, who has played some Gold Glove-looking second the last two years. Maybe, he will finally win the award.

Upton won't be Yoenis Cespedes, who won a Gold Glove for his four months of play in Motown last season.
Third baseman Nick Castellanos still must get better. While he improved from 2014 when he graded out as one of worst at his position, Castellanos still isn't even average.

The Manager: Ausmus will need to make the playoffs to save his gig. He's in the last year of a three-year deal.
The Prediction: The Tigers will struggle and be just a .500 ballclub at 81-81. Royals win the division for the second straight year. Indians win a wild card from the Central.