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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Detroit Tigers

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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.

Detroit Tigers Fantasy Outlook
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
Bullpen Breakdown
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
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
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.
2 Andrew Oliver 23 SP Majors Triple-A
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.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
David Buchanan will compete for one of two spots in Phillies' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:08 pm ET) Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan said refininig his curveball has been a point of emphasis this offseason, as he prepares to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I had success with (my curveball) in certain games,” he said. “It started coming along there toward the end. But it’s definitely something that has a lot of work still to go. It’s definitely something I’m working on. It’s getting better, which is all I can ask for.”

There is two spots currently open in the rotation behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang. Buchanan, Jerome Williams and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are considered the leading candidates for the openings in the rotation. 

“There’s going to be some competition,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week. “I think that’s the only way that you can get better is by creating competition. I can’t sit here and tell you today that David Buchanan’s going to be one of our guys in the rotation, but he absolutely is going to get an opportunity to pitch in spring training and be ready and compete for one of those spots.”


Santana fine after throwing bullpen session; winter-league status is TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) Free agent starting pitcher Johan Santana threw a bullpen session Sunday and is said to be feeling fine, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is now up to his Venezuelan winter league team to decide if he will pitch for them in the finals.

Santana has been dealing with some shoulder discomfort, which has put his status for the remainder of the winter-league season in doubt. Santana is hoping to latch on with another major-league team after suffering a torn Achilles in June.

The Yankees, Padres and Blue Jays are among the teams showing interest in signing the former two-time AL Cy Young award winner.


Mariners planning on batting Smith, Ruggiano in second spot in lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he is tentatively planning to bat the right-field tandem of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano second in the lineup, per The New Tribune.

The Mariners ranked last in the majors last season in on-base percentage (.260) from their No. 2 hitters. No other team was lower than .279.

Smith had a .367 OBP last season for San Diego, while Ruggiano had a .337 OBP in 81 games for the Cubs.


Rays' Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The Rays announced Monday reliever Jake McGee played catch for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in December. McGee is still expected to miss the start of the season.

Cardinals' Carpenter hoping to build off postseason power surge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter hit just eight home runs with a .375 slugging percentage during the 2014 regular season, but had a much better power swing in the postseason, belting four home runs and slugging .722 in nine games.

“I took a more of an aggressive approach in the postseason,” Carpenter said, per STLBaseballWeekly.com. “Part of that was from the experience that I had gathered the year before. After a long season, going into the playoffs I felt like I wasn’t as prepared as I felt like I could’ve been. It kind of snowballed and my approach and the way I took the regular season at-bat in the postseason it wasn’t playing out well.”

Carpenter said his postseason success could have a positive impact on his power numbers in 2015.

"Certainly, I’m always going to be a guy who’s patient at the plate, but that was a good learning experience for me -- being aggressive," he said. "I don’t remember the exact numbers but out of the four home runs I hit, I think three of them were on the first pitch. That’s something typically I don’t do a lot of, and it was a good learning experience.”


Tigers' Dombrowski expecting 'real big season' for Justin Verlander
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander said last week this is the best he's felt physically approaching the start of spring training in at least three years.

Apparently, the optimism doesn't end with Verlander. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated the Tigers are expecting big things from Verlander in 2015 after he posted a 4.54 ERA in 2014, failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in six seasons.

"Justin Verlander is as prime a pitcher as there is in the game of baseball," Dombrowski said, per the Detroit Free Press. "Last year, he was not the traditional Justin. But when you look at what he came back from with the surgery, I think he's going to go out and have a real big season for us."


Sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox's Mike Napoli to retire
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Dealing with sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli to retire prematurely from baseball, reports the Boston Globe.

"I couldn't do it anymore, feeling the way I was feeling," Napoli said. "I was like, 'I need to have the surgery or I'm not going play anymore.' That's how bad it was."

During the offseason, Napoli underwent facial reconstruction surgery to correct the condition, which was preventing him from getting a proper night of rest.

"It was a brutal process," Napoli said. "It was probably one of the worse things I've ever done."

With the surgery a success and Napoli recovered from losing weight due to a six-week liquid diet, Napoli is now sleeping better than he ever has.

Before the surgery, Napoli turned to medication, mouthpieces and a CPAP mask, but said those problems are now behind him.

"I wake up now and I'm ready to start my day," he said. "It's great."


Angels' Jered Weaver bulks up in effort to pitch deeper into games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver has bulked up to 224 pounds, which is six pounds heavier than he has ever been, in an effort to pitch deeper into games in 2015, per the Los Angeles Times. Weaver dropped to as low as 199 pounds during the 2014 season.

“Numbers-wise, it was all right,” Weaver said of his 2014 season (18-9, 3.59 ERA). “But from a personal standpoint, me being ultra-competitive, I want to get deeper in games.

“The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went on a different weight-lifting program last year, and it’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”

The average velocity of Weaver’s fastball dipped to a career-low 86.3 mph last season. However, he said the added weight gain is more for endurance than velocity on his fastball. He averaged just over six innings per start last season and has just one complete game over the last two seasons after throwing seven complete games in 2011-12.

“I don’t care about velocity -- I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” Weaver said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83 to 93 mph.”


Mariners' Austin Jackson looking to bounce back in 2015
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) After being acquired by the Mariners at the trade deadline last season, outfielder Austin Jackson struggled to produce for the Mariners. In 54 games, Jackson hit .229 and Jackson said the trade affected his playing ability, reports The News Tribune.

"Not making excuses, but I think getting traded and trying to get used to the travel and the sleep - those things affect your play on the field," Jackson said.

By starting the season in Seattle, Jackson said he hopes to avoid the distractions from last season and he's looking to return to his old form.

"Hopefully, getting started here and staying here, those distractions won't be there," Jackson said.


White Sox OF Avisail Garcia dropped weight during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


 
 
 
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