Torii Hunter will be making his return to the AL Central, only this time he’ll be in a Tigers’ uniform. His own Twitter page confirmed the move earlier today when this became his profile message: “Found a job! Headed to Motown to win that ring!”
From a fantasy angle, there are a few different ways to look at this. Let’s start with the new Tiger.
I was actually talking about the Hot Stove season with a friend of mine when the subject of Hunter came up. He said that he didn’t exactly trust Hunter’s 2012 season and felt that the inflated numbers came from hitting between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in Anaheim. That’s an interesting point, but the situation is Detroit is pretty sweet as well.
Obviously, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are the 3-4 hitters for the Tigers. I am assuming that Hunter and a returning Victor Martinez will sandwich them and in my eyes, Hunter is a better two-hole hitter. If that’s the case, he would then be hitting between a very solid Austin Jackson, and Cabrera, the Triple Crown winner. Not exactly a huge downgrade in protection for Hunter.
Hitting in front of Cabrera will be a big fastball spot. So, the 16 homers and .313 average are repeatable. Scoring 81 runs again is absolutely doable, as if he does indeed bat second, he’ll have Cabrera and Fielder immediately protecting him, and they’re both likely to be well over 100 RBI again next year. If they’re driving in those runs, someone’s going to score them, which is where Hunter comes in.
Where I do see him downgrading a little bit is in the RBI production. The Anaheim lineup of 2012 was better than the Tigers lineup will be, at least when you go 1-9. When we’re dealing with a likely number two hitter, the last few hitters in the lineup are important when trying to handicap his RBI production, especially in the American League.
Also, Hunter drove in 92 runs in 2012, but he also would bat in the cleanup spot sometimes. Barring an injury, that won’t happen in Detroit. So, if he moves down the order to the five spot, he’ll not only lose at-bats, but it will become more likely that Cabrera or Fielder would have made the third out of the inning ,or cleared the bases in front of him. All of that would hurt his RBI production.
But on balance, I see Hunter improving in three of the five standard categories. His steals will be about the same, while the RBI will go down. Signing with the Tigers will help Hunter’s value.
But what about the guys left on the Angels, notably their outfielders?
With Hunter’s vacancy, look for the Angels outfield to be Mike Trout in center with Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo on the corners. Mims already covered Trout (and I’m sure we’ll have plenty more to say on him), so I want to take a second to look at the other two.
The second half of 2012 wasn’t pretty for Trumbo, I know, but I still like him quite a bit. Take a look at Trumbo’s numbers through his first two full seasons in the majors.
Not only are those numbers pretty good, but the changes from 2011 to 2012 were generally a little better (despite fewer games played) and overall, pretty consistent. The average leaves a little to be desired, as Trumbo is a free swinger, but he’s still a pretty young guy (he’ll be 27 at the beginning of the year), so that will likely improve. When you’re looking at a guy who can hit between 25-30 homers with about 90 RBI, you’ve got a good start. We’ll have to see how the Angels lineup changes with Hunter gone, but I like Trout to continue at a pace pretty similar to the one that he had in 2011 and 2012.
Bourjos is an interesting one. At the beginning of the year, Nash predicted Bourjos to be a fantasy replacement for the more highly-touted Trout. Later on, he had to admit defeat but I’ll be honest with you. When Nash made those predictions, I didn’t think the comparison was all the out there and while I doubt that Bourjos will ever have anything close to Trout’s fantasy value, I see a lot of value there.
First of all, the guy can absolutely fly. At the very least, I can see him getting fantasy value in the same way that guys like Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, and Brett Gardner. They may not fill out many fantasy categories, but they are about as good as anyone with stolen bases. If Bourjos is given a full season as a starter, I can see him swiping 40 bags. That total actually may be closer to 50 if he bats towards the bottom of the order and the team isn’t worried about stolen bases taking pitches away from their big slugger, Pujols. At the bottom of the order, that’s not a concern.
Second of all, the guy can hit. I know that he struggled in the majors in 2012, hitting .220, but that came only a year after hitting a pretty decent .271 in 147 games in 2011. Plus, look at what he’s done in the minors in recent years.
|2008 (A+)||.295 in 121 games|
|2009 (AA)||.281 in 110 games|
|2010 (AAA)||.314 in 102 games|
|2012 (AAA)||.310 in 7 games|
So, the guy can hit. I know that the Major League pitching is tougher than what he’s seen in the minors and I’m not expecting him to be at .300 again, but I can see him at least in the .270 range again, if not closer to .280. Now, I don’t see much more than about 15 homers for Bourjos (even that’s really optimistic), so he’s not an ideal all-purpose outfielder, but there aren’t many of those really around. You need to put pieces together to have an all-purpose good fantasy team. Given a full season of playing time, I fully believe that Boujos can be a part of one of those teams.
So, Hunter signing in Detroit will not only help his fantasy value out, but also his younger, former teammates.