StrategyFebruary 22, 2013

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

By R.J. White

The move to bring Prince Fielder into Detroit to pair with Miguel Cabrera worked out fantastically for the Tigers in 2012, as the team won the AL Central for the second straight season. Despite entering the playoffs with the seventh-best record in the American League, the Tigers took care of the AL West-champion A’s in five games before sweeping the AL East-champion Yankees in the ALCS. Unfortunately for Tigers fans, the team fell short of its ultimate goal, being swept in the World Series by the Giants. However, the Tigers should clearly be optimistic that another title run is in store in 2013.

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 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C Alex Avila.243.352.384429482609 
1B Prince Fielder.313.412.52883301081690 
2B Omar Infante.274.300.41969125317588w/2T
SS Jhonny Peralta.239.305.3845813631585 
3B Miguel Cabrera.330.393.606109441394697 
LF Andy Dirks.322.370.487568351344 
CF Austin Jackson.300.377.479103166612617 
RF Torii Hunter.313.365.4518116929584 
DH Victor Martinez.330.380.47076121031595in 2011

Unsettled: Left field. Andy Dirks definitely deserves a shot at manning left field full time after hitting .322/.370/.487 in 344 plate appearances last year. However, top prospect Nick Castellanos is knocking on the door after destroying Class A Advanced and doing a solid job in Double-A last year. Should Dirks revert to 2011 form, Castellanos could be given his first shot at the majors quickly.
Target: Victor Martinez. The full-time DH is going to qualify at catcher in most leagues after missing the 2012 season due to a torn ACL that required knee surgery. He looks ready to go at the outset of spring training, and his role as the regular DH will give him the very real possibility of leading all fantasy catchers in plate appearances if he stays healthy. That could mean a .300 average with 20-plus homers and a ton of RBI in this lineup. Don’t be afraid to invest a mid-round pick in his upside.
The Rotation
Justin Verlander (R)17-82.641.0623960238.1 
Doug Fister (R)10-103.451.1913737161.2 
Max Scherzer (R)16-73.741.2723160187.2 
Anibal Sanchez (R)9-133.861.2716748195.2w/2T
Rick Porcello (R)10-124.591.5310744176.1 

Unsettled: The Tigers have been shopping Rick Porcello since re-signing Anibal Sanchez this offseason but have yet to find a deal they like. Fantasy owners will be hoping they can pull something off this spring, as lefty Drew Smyly showed far more upside in his rookie season last year, striking out 8.5 batters per nine innings while posting a 1.27 WHIP in nearly 100 innings. He would also be the only lefty in the rotation were he to win a spot as a starter. I expect to see Smyly every fifth day before too long, and owners in deep leagues should target him at the end of drafts.
Target: Max Scherzer. There’s nothing wrong with spending an early pick on potentially the best pitcher in the game in Justin Verlander, but few teams are going to be in a position to make that move in the late first or early second rounds. Therefore, the guy who should be on your target list is Scherzer, someone who led the league in starter K/9 rate with an insane 11.1 mark. Pitching roughly 50 fewer innings than the staff ace, Scherzer struck out just eight fewer batters. When you throw in a solid 2.9 BB/9 rate, he may have the potential of a fantasy ace. Draft accordingly.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Bruce Rondon (R)291.531.09662653.0in MiLB
Joaquin Benoit (R)23.681.14842271.0 
Octavio Dotel (R)13.571.07621258.0 

Chasing Saves: Here’s really the only uncertainty involved with the Tigers’ key players heading into the season. Former closer Jose Valverde is gone via free agency, and while he hasn’t signed as of yet the chances are low he’ll be returning. That leaves roughly five or six candidates to close for what appears to be a team heading for the playoffs, with Bruce Rondon acting as the most likely to settle in as closer at this early date. Speculators may want to grab experienced closer Octavio Dotel with their final pick as well.
Final Thoughts
In a year where the Yankees are reeling and the Rangers have gotten weaker, the Tigers stand as clear favorites or co-favorites (along with the Angels) to represent the AL in the World Series for the second straight year. While the unexpected has become the expected by and large in recent years, fantasy owners should feel rostering at least seven batters and five starting pitchers depending on league size. In fact, the Tigers may well be the most fantasy relevant team in the league in 2013.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Kansas City Royals.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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