DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers did their best to hide the truth for the first 50 days of the season, but reality came crashing down last week: The current state of the organization is a total disaster.
The first five weeks of the season were a pleasant surprise. Detroit started 15-16 with some dominant pitching performances and the occasional timely hit. In the minor leagues, there was hope from the pitching prospects and a few young hitters.
Now, even with the Miami Marlins coming to town, the outlook is bleak. Here's why:
1. Completely uncompetitive home stand
The Tigers have been a punching bag for most of May, losing by 15-3 against the Kansas City Royals on May 4, 13-0 against the Los Angeles Angels on May 9 and by a combined 11 runs in two losses to the Minnesota Twins.
Well, they took it to a whole new level this week, getting demolished by a combined score of 57-15 over a seven-game stretch. The Houston Astros series was somewhat understandable because that's a World Series contender. The Oakland Athletics, though, arrived at Comerica Park as a last-place team.
Oakland outscored the Tigers 33-9 in a four-game sweep. Technically, the final innings of Sunday's game will be played out in September, but we all know how that will end.
Assuming the Tigers polish off that loss in September, it was an ugly 0-7 week in which the Tigers lost by at least seven runs three times.
After being within a game of .500 just two weeks ago, the Tigers are now within five games of the No. 1 overall pick, which looked impossible after the Marlins started 10-31.
Only the Baltimore Orioles have a worse run differential.
2. Nobody can hit -- at all
The state of the Tigers' offense has reached an alarming level of ineptitude, from the MLB level through the minor leagues.
Detroit has an awful team OPS of .654. It has scored the fewest runs of any team in the American League and ranks 29th in baseball, only ahead of Miami. Only the Marlins have fewer home runs.
The team numbers aren't as much of a concern as the individual stats, though, because the Tigers are rebuilding. More problematic is the fact that absolutely nobody looks like a future everyday option.
Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos were supposed to be the offensive leaders, but neither can even muster an OPS of .750. Castellanos has 45 strikeouts and a terrible .310 on-base percentage. Cabrera is hitting .292, but it's an empty batting average supported by just one home run and eight doubles.
Three of the team's potentially interesting options have been complete nonfactors at the dish. Niko Goodrum had a breakout 2018 but has followed up with a .657 OPS. He's drawing more walks this season, but the power and contact skills aren't close to what he showed a year ago.
Jeimer Candelario, a former top 100 prospect and the presumed third baseman of the future, was so bad the Tigers sent him to Triple-A. He struck out 46 times while batting .192 in 38 games.
Grayson Greiner got his chance to be a regular catcher, but is hitting .189 with six extra-base hits and 35 strikeouts in 30 games.
Last week, I wrote that the Tigers only have three interesting hitters on the roster: Christin Stewart, Ronny Rodriguez and Dawel Lugo.
Stewart is 4-for-33 with no home runs and 10 strikeouts in 10 games since returning from the injured list. Rodriguez is 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts in his last five games. Lugo has just two hits in four games.
OK, so the current MLB roster has basically no promise, but what about the farm system?
The Tigers only have one hitter among the top 100 prospects: Isaac Paredes. In 38 games with Double-A Erie this season, he owns a .699 OPS with one home run and six doubles. His walk-to-strikeout rate is the only promising part of his offensive stat line.
No. 5 prospect Daz Cameron has shown some pop, but his .313 OBP and 45 strikeouts in 36 games are concerning.
Parker Meadows, Wenceel Perez and Kody Clemens aren't hitting well, either. As you move lower on the team's top 30 prospects list, the numbers only get worse for players like Sergio Alcantara, Jake Robson, Daniel Woodrow and Brock Deatherage.
Willi Castro and Jake Rogers have been the only promising offensive prospects for the Tigers this season. Castro is hitting .314 with seven steals and a .856 OPS while Rogers is already raking after a promotion to Triple-A.
With only two realistic future pieces hitting well in the entire organization, there's justified concern about the Tigers' offense going forward.
3. Matt Boyd's two worst starts
Boyd has been one of the few consistent positives for the Tigers this season, consistently posting quality starts and high strikeout rates amid the offensive struggles and pitching injuries.
Even Boyd couldn't escape Disaster Week 2019, though, allowing seven earned runs on 12 hits over 10.1 innings.
He only lasted four innings in his start against Houston, throwing 96 pitches to 18 batters while striking out only two. Boyd only allowed three runs, but he generated only three swinging strikes and surrendered a pair of home runs.
Oakland also hit two homers against Boyd. He allowed a season high seven hits and four earned runs in the outing, though he got 15 swinging strikes and eight strikeouts.
These were bad starts for Boyd, but not yet cause for concern. The concern stems from his fairly long track record of being a decent, but not great, starting pitcher. If he reverts to that, it would be a major disappointment following his hot start.
Still, his numbers are excellent and he could bounce back. If he struggles against a brutal Marlins offense this week, it's time to sound the alarm.
4. Weak trade chips
While the state of the Tigers' farm system is up in the air, general manager Al Avila has done a solid job acquiring some of the organization's top prospects in trade deadline deals.
Over the last few years, the Tigers have brought Candelario, Paredes, Rogers, Lugo, Cameron, Castro, Alcantara and others into the fold thanks to deadline trades. This year, however, the Tigers might not have much to offer.
Castellanos figured to be an obvious trade chip by July, but he's having his worst season since 2015. The power that helped him rack up 49 home runs over the last two seasons is nowhere to be found, and his improved OBP has fallen by 44 points.
Since Castellanos is a below-average defender, he has to hit to be a valuable trade chip. So far, he's not helping his value.
Boyd still holds tremendous value as a starting pitcher with three more years under team control, but he needs to bounce back and show he can handle good offensive teams.
Shane Greene hasn't done anything to hurt his value, but since the Tigers never have a late lead, he's only pitched once in the last nine days and three times since May 5.
Possible preseason trade candidates Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer have no value left.
The Tigers should be active at the trade deadline, but it's looking like the return will be pretty uninspiring.
5. Pitching prospects stumbling
Coming into the season, and even throughout April, the one sign of promise for the Tigers' future was the wealth of young pitching prospects. That depth has some into question over the last couple of weeks.
Casey Mize and Matt Manning still look like possible future aces and have dominated Double-A Erie. Beyond that, though, things aren't going well.
Alex Faedo was having an excellent bounce-back season for the SeaWolves before the most recent starts. He's allowed 11 runs in 9.1 innings while surrendering four home runs, and now his numbers are starting to resemble the ones that dropped him from the top 100 prospects this offseason.
If Faedo can't get the home runs under control, he won't be a high-end starting pitcher for the Tigers.
The worst news, however, has come from No. 3 prospect Franklin Perez, the prized piece of the return in the Justin Verlander trade.
Perez was the No. 35 prospect in baseball when the Tigers acquired him in 2017. Since then, he's been on the injured list four times and pitched only 23.1 innings. The Tigers announced this weekend he would return to the injured list with shoulder inflammation just days after returning from the injury.
He's only 21 years old, but it's hard not to worry about Perez's health going forward.
Beau Burrows is also on the shelf with a shoulder injury. He had three bad starts in a row before going on the injured list, a concern after his mediocre 2018 in Double-A.
Kyle Funkhouser has been completely unable to throw strikes in Triple-A, walking 18 batters in 17.2 innings. At 25 years old, his 7.64 ERA and 1.87 WHIP were concerning enough before he went on the injured list with a shoulder issue.
Out of the six pitchers in the Tigers' top 10 prospects, only two are playing well right now, and there isn't much else lower in the rankings.
Tarik Skubal has been solid this season, but the last five starts have been inconsistent at Single-A Lakeland. As the team's only true breakout minor league pitcher this season, Skubal needs to stay on track.