The Detroit Tigers fell short of repeating as American League Champions when they lost to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS in 2013. If you are not improving in the American League you will quickly fall behind. Rumors had been swirling around Detroit about possible trade scenarios involving marquee names.
The Detroit Tigers made a blockbuster deal in November, trading American League All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas in exchange for Ian Kinsler. Rumors of 2013 Cy Young winner Max Scherzer being moved this offseason have proven to be nothing more than a rumor, though fellow starter Doug Fister is now on the Washington Nationals.
Before Prince Fielder was dealt, manager Jim Leyland announced his retirement. This decision was not entirely unexpected but when you lose the winningest mangers in baseball history it will send a shockwave through your organization.
Jim Leyland is one of those rare managers that you can’t really replace and not miss something on a day-to-day basis. He will stay with the Tigers in a front office capacity but his presence will be sorely missed. New manager Brad Ausmus has very large shoes to fill.
Projected 2014 Tigers Offense
|1. Ian Kinsler||2B||32||R||620||99||19||75||18||.273|
|2. Torii Hunter||RF||38||R||569||79||17||82||4||.281|
|3. Miguel Cabrera||1B||31||R||557||98||38||117||2||.335|
|4. Victor Martinez||DH||35||S||586||72||15||86||1||.300|
|5. Austin Jackson||CF||27||R||581||99||13||59||13||.271|
|6. Andy Dirks||LF||28||L||361||55||8||39||5||.262|
|7. Alex Avila||C||27||L||386||48||12||56||1||.237|
|8. Nick Castellanos||3B||22||R||453||60||13||60||3||.271|
|9. Jose Iglesias||SS||24||R||553||59||6||39||8||.269|
- Crackerjack Fantasy Options: Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez
– Cabrera: Cabrera will move back to first base with the trade of Prince Fielder. This will alleviate some of the wear and tear on his body that he experienced at the end of last season.
The only thing stopping Miguel Cabrera from posting a third straight American League Most Valuable Player Award is an injury. He is far and away the best hitter in baseball and right now is in the middle of his prime hitting years.
Prince not protecting him in the lineup should not decrease his production in 2014. Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan could protect him in the lineup and he still would be the best hitter in baseball.
– Kinsler: Newly acquired Ian Kinsler is what the Detroit Tigers have been missing at the top of their lineup. He gives Detroit a power and speed combination at the top of their batting order.
The major concern with Kinsler is the fact that his FB% was a career low 39.4% last season. This accounted for a career low in homeruns. The Detroit Tigers expect a rebound in his power, hitting in front of Torii Hunter. I would be very careful drafting him if you are expecting him to hit 25+homeruns this season. However, he will provide an excellent amount of RBI production with the amount of contact hitters that will get on base in front of him.
He will turn 32 years old in June and I don’t see him running as often as he has in the past either. He swiped 15 bags last season, which equaled a career low. The last time he stole 15 bases was in 2010 and that was in an injury-shortened season where he only played 103 games.
Kinsler will be a popular name on draft day because of this new team and high profile trade in the offseason. You should temper your expectations for him in 2014. Don’t get caught up in drafting him at second base expecting him to put up numbers that would put him at the top of second base rankings in 2014.
I believe he will have a good year but nothing close to a great one. Don’t pay too high a price for him if you want to draft him.
– Hunter: Hunter is vastly underrated because of his age. He turns 39 this season and he put up a top thirty-five season among outfielders in 2013.
He does not hit for as much power nor walk as much as in past seasons, but makes up for it with more contact. His contact rates from last season were among the highest of his career. This is one of the main reasons he maintained a .304 average last season.
Hunter put up 90 RBI’s last year. I don’t think that number is sustainable with the fact that Ian Kinsler is not going to score 100+ runs out of the leadoff spot. The Detroit Tigers leadoff hitters scored well over the century mark last year. I don’t think we see a repeat of that this season.
Torii Hunter can be had for a very cheap price on draft day. If you don’t want him as a fifth outfielder, then he should by all means he should be on your bench. He will produce once again in 2014.
– Martinez: His FB% needs to increase above 40% for him to regain his power stroke. The last time he did that was in 2010 when David Ortiz hit behind him in the Boston Red Sox lineup. I don’t have a lot of confidence in a resurgence hitting in front of Austin Jackson.
It makes you wonder if the 20+ power that Victor Martinez once possessed will ever return.
I would be very weary of drafting him in 2014. If you are trying to fill a bench position then by all means take a flyer on him. If you are filling out a starting position in your lineup with him, your offense will suffer because of it. Remember, he won’t have catcher eligibility this year.
Stay away from V-Mart in 2014.
Projected 2014 Tigers Pitching
- Crackerjack Fantasy Options: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Joe Nathan
We’ll get to Joe Nathan in a little bit. For now, let’s talk about the starters.
– Verlander: Why did Justin Verlander win only 13 games last season? That’s an easy question to answer. His walk rate was the highest its been in five years at 3.09. The hard question to answer is what he will do in 2014.
I expect an improvement over his 13 wins this season. His walk rate should stabilize back to his career average of 2.77 or below. With a walk rate close to that number you can expect him to win between 16 and 18 games.
Outside of the walks, his numbers remained consistent with what he has shown in the past. He will continue to be near the top of baseball with his stellar strikeout numbers. His WHIP was at 1.31 last season and should see an improvement as his walk rate decreases.
Owners drafting Verlander will face a conundrum. Some leagues will draft him early expecting a bounce back like the one I stated above. In other leagues you will see Verlander drop one round or maybe even two rounds as owners focus on hot pitchers from last season.
I am in the camp of drafting him over the majority of the pitchers who had great years last season like Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez and Adam Wainwright. You won’t be disappointed and you will hopefully get good value on draft day.
– Scherzer: A lot of people will make the mistake of drafting Max with expectations that he will come close to repeating his 2013 Cy Young season.
Max Scherzer ranked 3rd in all of baseball in team run support at 5.49 runs per game last season. His ERA was more than a half a run better at 2.90 than his career ERA of 3.67. His WHIP was 0.97 — a far cry from his career average of 1.23. In the real world none of these numbers are sustainable.
You could give twenty pitchers the run support he received last season and half of them would compete for a Cy Young. He had a tremendous year but repeating those same numbers will be extremely difficult.
A lot of owners will overpay for his services this season. Those owners will get more than 200 strikeouts and a decent amount of wins supported by a very good Detroit Tiger offense. What they will not get is a pitcher contending for his second Cy Young award.
If he drops in your draft, of course you should think about grabbing him. I just would not overpay, nor would I even grab him at his average draft position. There are many more pitchers you would rather have at his asking price.
– Sanchez: During the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Anibal Sanchez was averaging a little over 7 strikeouts per nine innings. A tweak in his mechanics saw his velocity on his fastball jump by more than two miles per hour. Suddenly, he became an elite strikeout pitcher during the 2011 season averaging more than 9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Old habits die-hard and he regressed back to his prior statistics in the early part of 2012 with the Miami Marlins. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in July of 2012 and he met the man who would turn his career around.
Detroit Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones worked with Anibal’s mechanics after arriving in Detroit for the second half of the 2012 season. By the time the 2013 season rolled around the Detroit Tigers had a pitcher who would dominate the American League.
He averaged nearly 10 strikeouts per outing in 2013. His ERA was the lowest of his career by more than a run at 2.56. He allowed the lowest batting average of his career at .226 and he cut his HR/FB% in half to an elite level of 5.6%. His fastball velocity averaged better then 93 mph, also a career best.
Going into 2014 he could be the best pitching value in the entire draft. As long as his mechanics are stable he will be able to repeat his 2013 success. Unlike Scherzer, he has a good chance of contending for this seasons Cy Young award. He finished 4th in 2013.
I would draft him at any cost. If you have to grab him two, or even three rounds early, you will be getting one of the steals of this year’s draft.
- Fantasy Star: Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera is not only the top guy on the team but in my opinion, the whole league.
If you are drafting at the top of your league’s draft and have the luxury of choosing between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout take Cabrera. You will sacrifice some stolen bases but gain in RBI’s and batting average.
I don’t have to break down his numbers to convince you what kind of hitter he is. All you need to know is if he is available do not hesitate on drafting him.
- Fantasy Bust: Austin Jackson
Anytime a lead-off hitter gets demoted to 5th in the order, you need to pay attention. Austin Jackson was a big disappointment in 2013 and I don’t see that trend changing going into this year.
The only category he contributes to is runs, and falling out of the top spot. He has very little value outside of scoring runs.
His first two seasons he averaged better than 20 stolen bases a year. Last season he gave up on running and finished with 8 stolen bases. He will not generate runs and he is a well below average contact hitter to generate an above average rate of RBI’s. His power is mediocre at best.
Stay far away from Austin Jackson even as a player on your bench. Draft a young player with upside instead.
- Fantasy Sleeper: Joe Nathan
Nathan has been one of the most consistent closers in baseball for anyone who has owned him in the past nine seasons. Adding him to a shaky Detroit Tigers bullpen is the very best offseason move they could have made.
He has averaged 38 saves a season over the past nine seasons as a closer. The Detroit Tigers offense is similar to the Texas Rangers offense he came from. Last season he had 43 saves with an ERA under 1.50. He averaged more than a strikeout an inning. His performance going forward should be very similar to what he showed last season.
Joe Nathan has a chance to lead the American League in saves this season. At the very least, he will finish as one of the top five closers in the American League if not all of baseball.
- Final Thoughts:
While they aren’t loaded with depth, the Tigers head into another season with as much talent at the top of the fantasy baseball world as any team in the league.