The 2010 season could accurately be described as a tease for Detroit Tigers fans. An off-season filled with dreams of an AL Central title lead to a year that started off strong, as the Tigers were fending off Minnesota and Chicago going into the All-Star break. Miguel Cabrera was playing the best ball of his career, and the revamped bullpen led by the mercurial Jose Valverde was among baseball’s best. Those dreams quickly turned into nightmares around late July, however, when the team went on a putrid 6-22 run that continued through mid-August. This effectively eliminated them from playoff contention and put a damper on bright spots like Cabrera and rookie Austin Jackson, who finished second behind Texas’s Neftali Feliz for AL Rookie of the Year.
This off-season’s free agent period was much of the same. With multiple bad contracts finally coming off the books, there was plenty of money to throw around at a decent free agent pool. Dave Dombrowski got off to a quick start by signing Victor Martinez to rotate between catcher and DH and also rewarded RP Joaquin Benoit for his career year by signing him to a crazy three-year, $16.5 million contract. Outside of these two signings, the only other splash Detroit made via free agency was to bring in an aging Brad Penny on a one-year deal.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Alex Avila||.228||.316||.340||28||7||31||2||294|
|1B Miguel Cabrera||.328||.422||.622||111||38||126||3||548|
|2B Will Rhymes||.304||.350||.414||30||1||19||0||191|
|SS Jhonny Peralta||.249||.311||.392||60||15||81||1||551||w/2T|
|3B Brandon Inge||.247||.321||.397||47||13||70||4||514|
|LF Ryan Raburn||.280||.340||.474||54||15||62||2||371|
|CF Austin Jackson||.293||.345||.400||103||4||41||27||618|
|RF Magglio Ordonez||.303||.378||.474||56||12||59||1||323|
|DH Victor Martinez||.302||.351||.493||64||20||79||1||493||w/BOS|
Unsettled: Second Base. I’m not a believer in Will Rhymes as a full-time major league contributor. He will likely be the Opening Day starter as straw man Carlos Guillen continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. If Guillen can somehow stay healthy (fat chance), the job will likely be his. When the inevitable injury occurs, I see Scott Sizemore overtaking Rhymes, seizing his second opportunity and firmly establishing himself as Detroit’s second baseman of the future. His initial chance was marred by a tough recovery from an ankle surgery in late 2009, and he was demoted in May and again in July. However, after a late season call-up, he was fully healthy and had a nice slash line of .308/.357/.577. If he gets another chance, he’s worth a look in deeper leagues. I wouldn’t touch Guillen or Rhymes.
Target: Austin Jackson. I can see the heads shaking right now. 27.5% K rate. An unbelievable .396 BABIP (33rd highest of all-time). An OPS of .745. I could probably continue. I see value in Jackson though. His walk rate increased as the season went on. He’s hitting at the top of an improved lineup that will be better with Ryan Raburn getting regular at-bats and Magglio Ordonez healthy. His 32 infield hits last season lead me to believe that his BABIP will always be relatively high. He really reminds me of a poor man’s Ichiro: low ISO numbers, high BABIP, will score some runs, steal some bases and hit for a solid average. The key for Jackson is that walk rate; if he can continue to build on his late season improvements, he could be in line for a season similar to what he put up in 2010. Don’t forget that he was only a rookie last year. Many see him as an obvious candidate for a sophomore slump. I’m not buying it. He can be had with an 18th-round pick right now; not bad for one of only 17 players to score 100 runs last year.
|Justin Verlander (R)||18-9||3.37||1.16||219||71||224.1|
|Max Scherzer (R)||12-11||3.50||1.24||184||70||195.2|
|Rick Porcello (R)||10-12||4.92||1.38||84||38||162.2|
|Phil Coke (L)||7-5||3.76||1.44||53||26||64.2||as RP|
|Brad Penny (R)||3-4||3.23||1.29||35||9||55.2||w/STL|
Unsettled: Phil Coke. I’m not really high on Coke. I was for a while, but I saw the error of my ways and am no longer a believer. Many see him and think: southpaw converted from reliever to starter. Must be the next C.J. Wilson! Not so fast. He won’t have the K numbers that Wilson did, and while he’s decent against right-handed hitters and has a solid change-piece, he’s too much of a fly ball pitcher to find a ton of success in the rotation. A name to keep an eye on in case he falters is Andy Oliver. Much like Sizemore, Oliver’s MLB debut didn’t go well at all, but with a wicked fastball and improving slider, Oliver wouldn’t surprise if he landed in the rotation at some point this season.
Target: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. All three of these guys are going at good values. Verlander is a capable fantasy ace and is currently a mid-fifth round pick in most drafts. Scherzer is a top-flight No. 2 starter with the stuff to be a No. 1 and is a solid 9th round pick as of today. Porcello is a different story. He’s only 22 years old. The organization has held him back from throwing too many breaking balls to prevent early injury. He’s talented as hell though. What I like about him is his bulldog mentality, and while that might not be a fantasy stat, it bodes well for his future as a major league pitcher. After throwing 180 or so innings between Triple-A Toledo and Detroit last year, Porcello should see the reigns should come completely off, and I think we’ll see a different pitcher this year. Look for his K numbers to rise as he’ll become a solid back-end option this year in most leagues. He’s currently an undrafted free agent in almost any format. Take a last round flier on him.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Jose Valverde (R)||26||3.00||1.15||63||32||63|
|Joaquin Benoit (R)||2||1.34||0.68||75||11||60.1|
Chasing Saves: Jose Valverde is firmly entrenched as the team’s closer but suffered a rough second half last year. He’s currently being drafted in the middle of the closer pack, which is about where I think he should go this year. He’s a solid CL option on any team. I’m also believer in Benoit. Yes, he was overpaid, but a 6.8 K/BB ratio does not scream regression to me. Will he repeat last year’s ERA/WHIP lines? Probably not, but he’ll still likely be one of baseball’s best setup men and should be drafted late as a handcuff option who can help your ratios.
Detroit has a lot of intriguing fantasy options this year. I don’t see one player on their roster who is currently being over-drafted. Depending on the size of your league, you can find draft day value at almost every position. Ordonez was having a solid year before getting hurt last year. Jhonny Peralta could be a nice back end MI option who provides solid HR/RBI numbers. Raburn has become a hot name because of his second base eligibility but I’m cautiously optimistic he’ll live up to the hype. Ignore the drinking talk; Miguel Cabrera will do what Miguel Cabrera does. If anything, the negative pub around him could positively affect his draft status for smart drafters. Take him anywhere after the second pick. Draft Verlander with complete confidence and give young guns Jackson and Porcello a chance. Finding values on draft day is what can win fantasy championships. Keep an eye on Tiger players, as I believe they’ll be a common sight on many winning squads this year.
Check back tomorrow as we continue “30 Teams in 30 Days” with the Kansas City Royals.
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.
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