Today we’ll talk about the Detroit Tigers, who are probably still smarting from the choke job they pulled in September last season, giving the Twins the AL Central. That debacle was followed by an eventful off season, most notably the trade of Curtis Granderson and the signings of Jose Valverde and Johnny Damon. To an outside observer they might look significantly worse than they were last season. I disagree, and while they shouldn’t be considered favorites in their division, they are right in the thick of things along with Chicago and Minnesota.
|CF Austin Jackson||.300||.354||.405||67||4||65||24||504||in AAA|
|LF/DH Johnny Damon||.282||.365||.489||107||24||82||12||550||w/NYY|
|RF/DH Magglio Ordonez||.310||.376||.428||54||9||51||3||465|
|1B Miguel Cabrera||.324||.396||.547||96||34||103||6||611|
|LF/DH Carlos Guillen||.242||.339||.419||36||11||41||1||277|
|3B Brandon Inge||.230||.314||.406||71||27||84||2||562|
|C Gerald Laird||.225||.306||.320||49||4||33||5||413|
|2B Scott Sizemore||.308||.378||.473||49||8||33||14||292||in AAA|
|SS Adam Everett||.238||.288||.325||43||3||44||5||345|
Unsettled: Outfield at-bats. It will be interesting to see how manager Jim Leyland utilizes the multiple outfield options he has at his disposal. Austin Jackson will be on a short leash leading off and if he struggles look for Ryan Raburn to work his way into the starting lineup. I would also expect to see Raburn filling in for whichever of the veteran options is getting the day off. Damon and Ordonez are almost assured full playing time if healthy, so they are the only real buys in the carousel.
Also in order to cover my bases, the catcher and shortstop positions are also unsettled, but do Gerald Laird, Alex Avila, Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago tickle your fantasy fancy? I didn’t think so.
Target: Magglio Ordonez. I’m going a little out of the box here because Maggs has been bashed by a lot of critics as a fantasy option this season, but hear me out. I am aware that his days of hitting 25 homers are over and that his ISO resembled an anvil last year. However, Ordonez led the majors with a .375 average after the All-Star break and would have driven in plenty more runs if he had men to hit in. Instead, Granderson and Placido Polanco combined for an OBP of .328 last season, often times leaving Maggs (and Cabrera) with nobody to drive in. Jackson and Damon should be able to top this number and I’d expect Ordonez to drive in a healthy amount of runs. Also, having Cabrera hitting behind him should not only allow him to see good pitches, but will give him plenty of opportunities to score runs when he does get on base, something he’s never had trouble doing. I know it’s not sexy to take aging players at the end of drafts, but right now he’s going undrafted in basic size leagues (ADP of 262) when he could be a third or fourth outfielder who provides above average value in three categories (R, RBI, BA). I’m projecting a .315/80/16/85 line out of him which is last round worthy. At the very least you could use him to supplement your late round flier on an unproven prospect like Jason Heyward or Dexter Fowler.
|Justin Verlander (R)||19-9||3.45||1.18||269||63||240|
|Rick Porcello (R)||14-9||3.96||1.34||89||52||170.2|
|Max Scherzer (R)||9-11||4.12||1.34||174||63||170.1||w/ARZ|
|Jeremy Bonderman (R) – Hasn’t been healthy for two years|
|Phil Coke (L)||0-4||4.50||1.07||49||20||60||Long relief w/NYY|
Unsettled: Jeremy Bonderman is finally healthy and unless he gets hurt again, the fourth slot in the rotation is his. The fifth man, however, is totally up in the air. I put Coke in only because I feel like he is the one with the most potential. Andres Galarraga was a one-year wonder who looked awful after teams started to figure him out and Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis are barely worth the time it took me to type their names. So unless Coke really steps up or a miracle occurs, Detroit’s fifth pitcher will not find your fantasy roster this season.
Bonderman might be a different story though. He missed almost all of 2008 after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in his throwing shoulder. He attempted to return last year but was sidelined again basically because he tried to come back too quickly. Doctors have pronounced him fully healthy and ready to pitch this season. He’s not a player that I’d spend a draft pick on, but he’s only 27 years old and the aforementioned injuries were not throwing related. He’s been clocked already this spring around 95 and has had a lot of success in the past, striking out 204 batters while winning 14 games in 2006. The best thing to do with him is to place him in your league watch list and keep an eye on him early.
Target: Out of the three starters that will be drafted, I am liking the value that Rick Porcello could yield this season. His detractors will be coming out of the woodwork during draft season saying they won’t touch him because of his low strikeout numbers, and to some extent they are right to have some fear, as a 4.69 K/9 is a pretty poor number by major league standards. However, Porcello was being handled delicately last season and was not throwing his secondary stuff at all. In fact, he threw almost 80% of his sinker (fastball) and showed next to nothing resembling a curve or slider. His reliance on the fastball at least partially explains the high FIP he had last season because of all the balls in play and I feel like most projection systems are selling him short for ignoring this fact. That being said, this year should be a different story. The pitch counts will be fully lifted allowing him to go deeper into starts and he should unleash the curveball that caused scouts to drool over him in the first place. Remember, this kid has always been in the same conversation as guys like Brett Anderson, Tommy Hanson and David Price, and he hasn’t done anything to take his name out. He’ll take a step forward this season and join them. The best part? With an ADP of 189, he can be had in the 15th round of a basic league. He’s definitely worth it in that spot.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Jose Valverde (R)||25||2.33||1.13||56||21||54|
|Joel Zumaya (R)||1||4.94||1.81||30||22||31|
Chasing Saves: Jose Valverde is the closer and will be the closer no questions asked. He is a top-10 fantasy option at the position and should be drafted so. Joel Zumaya is slated to be the setup man, but I don’t expect him to last long when you combine the injury history with the violent delivery. If by some chance he stays healthy, he would be next in line for saves. Other options include Ryan Perry and maybe even lefty Fu-Te Ni. Also, don’t forget about Daniel Schlereth, another important piece of the Granderson/Jackson trade.
There is a lot of talk that Detroit’s offense is going to be “2009 Mets” terrible this year. I’m not buying it. Not with a player of Cabrera’s caliber being surrounded by players who can get on base. He’s the closest thing this league has to Albert Pujols and his effect on the rest of the lineup is understated. He is a lock for first round numbers and will be for years to come. Damon and Ordonez aren’t what they used to be, but are still being drafted a lot later than they should be and will provide solid value. Also keep an eye on rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore. He has 15/15 potential and won’t hurt your team average.
Steven Lorenz is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Steven in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of AquaMan2342.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!