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The Tigers looked like a playoff team during the first half of 2010, but a 33-43 record after the All-Star break leveled them off at the .500 mark for the year.
Individual performances were both hit and miss as well. Miguel Cabrera challenged Josh Hamilton for the American League MVP, and Austin Jackson's surprisingly sound rookie campaign took away the sting of Curtis Granderson's departure to the Yankees. Justin Verlander pitched like an ace and Max Scherzer turned on the jets after a turbulent start. Balancing out these successes were injury-shortened seasons from Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, a power-deprived performance from Johnny Damon, scant production from catcher and the middle infield, and subpar sophomore production from pitching phenom Rick Porcello.
The Tigers started to shore up their deficiencies late last season by moving Guillen to second base and acquiring Jhonny Peralta from Cleveland to be the team's new shortstop. This offseason, Victor Martinez was signed primarily to take over the designated hitter duties from the departed Damon, and he will also take some at-bats from regular catcher Alex Avila. Joaquin Benoit adds depth to a bullpen that still features Jose Valverde at closer as well as hard-throwing Joel Zumaya. Long-time reserve Ryan Raburn will likely get the lion's share of at-bats in left field, now that manager Jim Leyland has seen that Brennan Boesch was not quite ready for an everyday role.
Finally, the back of the rotation is getting an overhaul, as converted reliever Phil Coke and free agent acquisition Brad Penny take over the spots previously held by Jeremy Bonderman and Armando Galarraga.
While the signing of Martinez is the clearest indication that the Tigers are looking to contend in 2011, many of the club's lower-profile moves could pay dividends as well. Aside from Cabrera, Verlander and V-Mart, the Tigers don't have many stars, but with Ordonez, Guillen and Porcello lurking as comeback candidates, and Jackson and Avila both being young enough to improve, the Tigers -- both as a team and as individuals -- could provide many surprises this year.
Sleeper ... Max Scherzer, SP
Scherzer looked like a bust for the first two months of last season, but he turned things around with a 14-strikeout performance against the A's in late May and never looked back. From that point on, Scherzer missed more bats and induced more grounders on the pitches that did get hit. Owners who look at his 12-11 record and 3.50 ERA from a year ago will see a pitcher who took a step forward, not someone who had a dramatic breakthrough. At worst, Scherzer will repeat his performance from last year, but he could just as easily do even better, potentially performing up to the standards of a No. 2 starting pitcher. Based on his track record, though, he can probably be drafted as a No. 3 starter in mixed leagues.
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Bounce-back player ... Rick Porcello, SP
By outward appearances, Porcello had a disappointing sophomore season, seeing his ERA shoot up from 3.96 to 4.92 and his win total sag from 14 to 10. When you scratch the surface of his Fantasy stats, though, you see a pitcher who actually built upon an impressive rookie year. He improved his walk and home run rates while holding firm on strikeouts. The end result didn't look better, as only Bonderman and Milwaukee's Chris Narveson stranded runners at a lower rate than Porcello. The young righty already showed in 2009 that he is capable of registering a high strand rate, so expect better results from Porcello this year, even if he hits a bump in the road in his development.
Late-round flier ... Ryan Raburn
Raburn will finally get his chance to be an everyday player this year, but even so, owners might be tempted to think that the 30-year-old won't produce enough for mixed leagues. Raburn looks primed to be this year's Andres Torres. While he is old to be getting his first shot as a starter, he is not past his peak, and he has an intriguing skill set. Not only is he a fairly safe bet to hit at least 20 homers, but his .280-plus batting average from the last two years are not flukes. He has shown a consistent ability to find the gaps, helping him to a solid batting average despite mediocre contact rates. As long as he stays in the lineup, he should produce enough to help mixed league owners, especially in deeper formats.
|Projected Lineup||Pos.||Projected Rotation|
|1||Austin Jackson||CF||1||Justin Verlander||RH|
|2||Carlos Guillen||2B||2||Max Scherzer||RH|
|3||Magglio Ordonez||RF||3||Rick Porcello||RH|
|4||Miguel Cabrera||1B||4||Phil Coke||LH|
|5||Victor Martinez||DH||5||Brad Penny||RH|
|6||Ryan Raburn||LF||Alt||Brad Thomas||LH|
|7||Jhonny Peralta||SS|| |
|8||Brandon Inge||3B||CL||Jose Valverde||RH|
|9||Alex Avila||C||SU||Joaquin Benoit||RH|
|Top bench options||RP||Joel Zumaya||RH|
|R||Brennan Boesch||OF||RP||Ryan Perry||RH|
|R||Ramon Santiago||2B/SS||RP||Daniel Schlereth||LH|
|1||Jacob Turner||19||SP||Class A||Class A|
|First-rounder from 2009 showed superb command at two levels last year. Could join the Detroit rotation sometime next year.|
|Control was absent in a five-game stint with the Tigers in '10, but lefty could still make an splash, possibly this year.|
|3||Nick Castellanos||19||3B||Rookie||Class A|
|Still very green, but probably has the highest ceiling of any position player in the organization.|
|4||Daniel Fields||20||OF||Class A||Class A|
|Showed good power and patience in the Florida State League, but needs to work on making contact.|
|5||Casey Crosby||22||SP||Rookie||Class A|
|Has had Tommy John surgery and is still battling elbow woes. Has dominated hitters when healthy.|
|Best of the rest: Francisco Martinez, 3B; Chance Ruffin, RP; Drew Smyly, SP; Avisail Garcia, OF; Jose Ortega, RP; Brayan Villareal, SP; Casper Wells, OF; Lester Oliveros, RP; Bruce Rondon, RP; Adam Wilk, SP; Charlie Furbush, SP; Danry Vazquez, OF; Ryan Strieby, 1B; and Brooks Brown, SP.|
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