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Inbox: How will Cabrera fare in '19?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers questions from fans
DETROIT, MI - MAY 01: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers not playing due to injury takes practice swings in the dugout while playing the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park on May 1, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
November 12, 2018

It's time to clear out the leftover questions in the Tigers' Inbox ahead of Thanksgiving.

It's time to clear out the leftover questions in the Tigers' Inbox ahead of Thanksgiving.

I've always thought that Jose Cabrera's ability to hit for average and contact would age better than his power thanks to his ability to hit to the opposite field, similar to how Magglio Ordonez remained a .300 hitter through age 36. The ruptured biceps tendon that ended Cabrera's 2018 campaign as well as the surgery to repair it create some questions as to what his swing will look like in the aftermath.
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Cabrera was having a nice bounceback season before the injury, batting .299 with an .843 OPS despite the miserable early-season weather. His average launch angle had dropped from the 12-degree range to 7.3, according to Statcast™, but his hard-hit rate jumped to 54.6 percent, his highest since Statcast™ started tracking such things in 2015. His strikeout rate, which rose in 2017 as he struggled to reach fastballs off the plate, returned close to his career norms.
Steamer projections via Fangraphs predict a .282 average for Cabrera with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs in 649 plate appearances over 150 games next season. The Bill James Handbook projects Cabrera to hit .301 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs in 530 plate appearances. We'll see what PECOTA projects from Cabrera later this offseason. I still think Cabrera's capable of hitting .300 with 20-25 homers and an .886 OPS. What he does in terms of run production depends on the lineup around him.
Pujols is three years older, but has been healthier than Cabrera the last couple years. Cabrera has a litany of injury concerns following him, but he has been the more productive player when healthy. I think Cabrera has more to offer based on age and productivity, but with both players, health is such a major factor.
Woodrow has opened some eyes in the Arizona Fall League, both with his hitting (.370 entering Monday) and his speed (11-for-11 in stolen bases, including a steal of home). His lack of power is a detriment, but with his speed and contact, plus the ability to play across the outfield, he could have a chance to compete for a spot on the Tigers' roster down the road. The style of play manager Ron Gardenhire is trying to instill in Detroit favors Woodrow's skill set. For 2019, his future is at Triple-A Toledo.
First, we have to see if Shane Greene remains a Tiger next spring or if he's traded. (My guess is that he stays.) If he stays, I don't see a change in the closer's role at the start of the season. I do think Joe Jimenez is the Tigers' closer of the future, but it's not necessarily the immediate future. I also think the Tigers would like to see how Greene is throwing in Spring Training and into the season, for both competitive reasons and for potential trade value.
The Cubs would need to do a lot more than trade Kyle Schwarber to create payroll space for Bryce Harper. And while I think Schwarber is an exciting player, I don't think trading for him would do nearly as much for fans as winning would.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.