MLB Team News & Rumors: Detroit

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Detroit Tigers

Our expert from,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.

Detroit Tigers Team Projection

The Tigers had their thumb on the Red Sox after winning game one of the ALCS in Boston and leading 5-1 with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th inning. One pitching change and one homerun later, the series momentum shifted back to the Red Sox. It left Detroit full of what if's. The Tigers have made it to the playoffs in 3 straight seasons. They were 2nd in the majors in runs (796) and 1st in batting average (.283). Detroit had the 3rd best ERA (3.61) in the AL led by Max Scherzer (2.90). They also led the league in K's (1428) and allowed the lowest amount of HR's (128) in the AL. The Tigers traded SP Doug Fister to the Nationals for IF Steve Lombardozzi, P Ian Krol, and P Robbie Ray. They also acquired 2B Ian Kinsler from Texas for 1B Prince Fielder. This move allowed Miguel Cabrera to move back to 1st base while upgrading the 2nd base position. Their #1 prospect Nick Castellanos is expected to take over 3B, while they signed RP Joe Nathan to take over the closer job. They also added RP Joba Chamberlain for bullpen depth and signed OF Rajai Davis to add speed to their roster. P Drew Smyly is expect to move into the starting rotation. The Tigers have two elite arms if Verlander can regain his previous form, plus they have solid arms at the back of the rotation. Their offense may take a step backwards in 2014, but overall they have enough talent to be the favorites again in the AL Central.

1. OF Austin Jackson

Austin Jackson fantasy baseball

Jackson's production regressed across the board in 2013. He had a career low 8 SB's with 5 of those steals coming in April. A mid May hamstring injury cost him about a month of the season, plus it killed his SB upside. His K rate (21%) remains high, but it was a career low. His walk rate (8.5%) is only major league average and his approach at the plate is a big reason some fantasy owners believe he will drop in the batting order in 2014 with Kinsler now on the team. I don't agree. Jackson scored 49% of the time when he was on base last season, which is a very good number. He offers speed at the top of the batting order with some pop. Last year, he really struggled with LH pitching (.213). Austin hits a high % of line drives (27.6% in 2013 - 23.2% in his career). This results in a low FB rate (30.7% in 2013 - career). He has high run upside if he could play a full season. Last year, Jackson didn't deliver on his upside. His power has 20 HR upside if he starts to hit with more loft and he has upside in SB's. His high K rate does invite some batting average risk, but I expect an uptick year.

2. 2B Ian Kinsler

Ian Kinsler fantasy baseball

After two straight relatively healthy seasons, Kinsler missed 26 games last season with a rib injury. Ian had a career low K rate (9.6%). His walk rate (8.3%) has been major league average over the past 2 seasons after showing upside in 2010 and 2011, while his FB rate (39.4%) has declined over the past 2 seasons. This drop has led to a much lower HR/FB rate (6.7%). Kinsler had success against LH pitching (.306), but only had 2 HR's against them in 157 at bats. Ian has a solid major league resume. His approach at the plate should lead to upside in batting average. His speed is fading and his power has regressed in 2 straight seasons, and he has been injury prone in the past. This year, I expect him to hit in front of Miguel Cabrera, which gives him a chance of seeing more fastballs. His RBI rate has been much stronger over the past 2 seasons. Kinsler should be an asset in all 5 categories in 2014. His bar has dropped to a 20/20 skill set with downside risk in both HR's and SB's. Possible juicer, which means his elite days could be over.

3. 3B Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera fantasy baseball

Cabrera was denied a 2nd straight triple crown by Chris Davis. Miguel led the AL in batting average (.348). His production was almost identical to his 2012 season, despite being limited in September (1 HR and 7 RBI in 72 at bats) with a groin injury that required surgery in the offseason. Last year, Cabrera made a huge step forward against LH pitching (.368 with 13 HR's and 35 RBI in 133 at bats). It was the first time in his major league career that he hit more than 10 HR's against lefties. His HR/FB rate (25.4%) was a career high for the 2nd straight season, while his K rate (14.4%) has been in a very good area for a power hitter over the last 4 seasons. His walk rate (13.8%) is also very good. The biggest question fantasy players have about Cabrera headed into this season is the affect of Prince Fielder no longer hitting behind him. His best two homerun seasons have been the last 2 years with the big guy watching his back. Miguel has hit 30 or more HR's in his last 7 seasons and has 100+ RBI in his last 10 years. Cabrera is the best player in the league and is a huge edge on a fantasy roster.

4. DH Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez fantasy baseball

Last year, Martinez came to the plate with 478 runners on base, which is a very attractive number. With Fielder off the team, Victor should move to 4th in the lineup. Last year, Prince came to the plate with 536 runners on base. The cleanup slot on the Tigers lineup is probably the best RBI opportunity in baseball, even with Cabrera cleaning the bases with plus HR's. During his career, Martinez has been a 18% run producer. With 500 RBI chances, he can't help but drive in 100 runs. He played in a career high 159 games and set career highs in at bats (605) and hits (182). His K rate (9.3%) is elite and his walk rate (9.3%) was in line with his career resume. Victor hit .361 after the All Star break with short power (6 HR's). His HR/FB rate (7.2%) was a career low for a full season. This year, he will only qualify at DH. He has 100 RBI upside with a plus batting average. His power is only a bonus. I'd draft him hoping for 15 HR's and pray for a breakout season. Solid major bat with a plus opportunity.

5. OF Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter fantasy baseball

Hunter is just a professional hitter. He plays hard and wants to win. Last year, he spent most of the season batting 2nd in the lineup. He had a career high in at bats (606) and hits (184). Torii hit over .300 for the first time in his career. His walk rate (4.0%) is almost none existent, while his K rate (17.3%) is slightly better than the major league average. Hunter struggled with his power (4 HR's in 300 at bats) over the first 3 months of the year. His HR stroke returned in July (7 HR's and 22 RBI in 99 at bats). Furthermore, his 13 HR's over the 2nd half of the year may give him upside in power in 2014. Torii hit well against both RH (.305) and LH (.300) pitchers. Hunter's GB rate (49.5%) has been very high over the last 2 seasons. His spike in GB rate may be due to him hitting 2nd in the line up. Torii was willing to go the other way to hit behind the runner, plus take a single to set up Cabrera and Pujols. This year, I think the Tigers need him to be more of a run producer. I expect him to hit 5th. His batting average may take a hit with a few more swings for the fences approach. Possible 20 HR upside, but his speed looks like it is a thing of the past.

6. 3B Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos fantasy baseball

The Tigers cleared the door for Castellanos in the offseason. He played a successful season at AAA where his approach at the plate showed improvement (K rate - 16.8% and BB rate - 9.1%). Nick is a career .303 hitter in the minors. His swing is built to hit the ball to all fields, so his upside in power is limited during his rookie season. In a way, his path is similar to Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera didn't show plus power in the minors and only had a .286 career batting average. Castellanos has power to right center, so he will have upside in HR's down the road. Nick is a talent player with upside in batting average when he gets some major league experience. From a fantasy prospective, he may fall short of expectations in 2014. I see him as a nice value player in an AL only league. I'd draft him thinking 15/60 with a neutral batting average.

7. C Alex Avila

Alex Avila fantasy baseball

Avila has been unable to repeat his 2011 breakthrough season. Last year, he missed time in June with a forearm injury and suffered a concussion in August. His K rate (29.6%) was a career high and it has declined in each of the last 3 seasons. His walk rate (11.6%) has been strong during his entire major league career. Alex was worthless against LH pitching (.139 with only 1 HR in 79 at bats), and struck out 32 times in 88 at a bats against lefties. His FB rate (29.8%) has been low in his last 2 seasons, but his HR/FB rate (16.9%) was a career high. Over the last 3 months of 2014, he hit .281 with 6 HR's and 34 RBI in 167 at bats. Avila has struggled with injuries over the last 2 seasons. He has a decent approach at the plate, but his regression in K's invites plenty of batting average risk. He has upside in power if he stays healthy. While he looks dead on the mat to most fantasy owners, his underlying skill set suggests 20 HR power with a better swing path.

8. OF Andy Dirks

Andy Dirks fantasy baseball

The Tigers gave Dirks a legit shot to prove he was an every day player in the majors in 2013. He struggled against LH pitching (.234 with 2 HR's and 4 RBI in 77 at bats), which led to him being a platoon player. Andy struggled with runners on base (9% RBI). His K rate (17.4%) declined slightly from his 2012 season (15.4%), but he did improve his walk rate (8.7%). Overall, he was non-productive in every month except May (4 HR's and 11 RBI). Dirks is a LD hitter with limited upside in power. The addition of Rajai Davis insures he won't get full time at bats and Davis may bring more to the table on an everyday basis. Decent bat, but his window is just about closed to make a fantasy impact.

9. SS Jose Iglesias

Jose Iglesias fantasy baseball

Iglesias gave Boston 112 plus at bats in late May and June (.402), but only hit 1 HR. His slugging % was over .500, which is a good sign. His success didn't match his minor league resume (.257 BA and .314 SLG %). Over the 2nd half of the year, the real player emerged (.235 with 2 HR's and 13 RBI in 170 at bats with a .306 SLG %). The Tigers took the bait as they knew Jhonny Peralta was going to be suspended for 50 games. His K rate (15.7%) was much stronger with Boston (12.8% - 20.3% with the Tigers). He barely took a walk (3.9%) with either team. Jose has a high GB rate (56.5%) and a weak FB rate (25.5%). He has hit an incredible high % of infield flies during his short major league career (21.4%). Iglesias has a solid glove, but offers no power with weak speed. He has no fantasy value in any format.

10. OF Rajai Davis

Rajai Davis fantasy baseball

In fantasy baseball, fantasy players are always looking for the next closer in waiting. In a way, Davis has been a base stealer in waiting over the last 2 years. Rajai has 216 steals over the last 5 seasons, despite only averaging 403 at bats per season. His K rate (18.6%) is high for his skill set and he doesn't take any walks (5.7%). Davis is a career .294 hitter (319 in 2013) against LH pitching. His power has risen slightly over the last 2 seasons, but he has no upside in RBI. I expect him to be in the lineup against lefties and he will provide speed off the bench. Nice bench player with plus speed upside.

11. C Bryan Holaday

Low upside player that may see time against LH pitching. He is .243 hitter in the minors with 16 HR's in 1027 at bats.

12. MI Steve Lombardozzi

He is hitting .264 in 705 major league at bats with 5 HR's and 9 SB's. He has more upside in speed than power. He will be the first option off the bench in the infield and can play some outfield.

13. OF Don Kelly

Last year, he played every position for the Tigers except catcher and shortstop. Kelly is a part time player with some power.


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