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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Detroit Tigers

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The Tigers rode spectacular seasons from American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and first baseman Miguel Cabrera to surge their way into the American League Championship Series. While the Rangers proved to be too much for an injury-riddled Tigers squad, Detroit held its own in the postseason and appeared poised to contend for a World Series berth in 2012.

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Then it happened. Unexpectedly, DH Victor Martinez tore the ACL in his left knee during his offseason workouts, and he underwent surgery that will put him out of commission for the entire 2012 season. Whatever panic was felt in Motown didn't last for long, as the Tigers moved quickly to sign free agent Prince Fielder to fill the hole left by Martinez in their lineup. The Tigers helped their own cause by getting a power bat for the middle of their batting order, but they also provided Fantasy owners with a nice bonus. Not only does the acquisition of Fielder give Cabrera some protection, but it moved him off first base and back to his old position of third base. Now at the hot corner, Cabrera becomes not only the most productive player at a weaker position, but he is now arguably the most valuable player in Fantasy worthy of the top overall pick.

Other than the loss of Martinez and the addition of Fielder, not much has changed on the Tigers' roster this offseason. Verlander will be followed in the rotation once again by Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, though the team will have to replace Brad Penny as the fifth starter, as the veteran will play in Japan this year. Top prospect Jacob Turner will vie with Duane Below, Andrew Oliver and Adam Wilk for the rotation's final spot. Jose Valverde will try to follow up his season of perfection (he was 49 of 49 in save attempts) as the team's closer, and Joaquin Benoit and free agent pick-up Octavio Dotel will set him up.

Alex Avila will return as the regular catcher and Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Raburn will get the bulk of the starts in the middle infield, flanked by Cabrera and Fielder on the corners. While Austin Jackson will begin his third season as Detroit's everyday center fielder, there is likely to be a left field rotation consisting of Delmon Young (who will also get starts as the designated hitter), Andy Dirks, Don Kelly and Raburn. Magglio Ordonez is gone, ending his long run in right field, which finally gives Brennan Boesch the opportunity to settle into a stable role as his replacement.

The Tigers probably didn't need to spring for a nine-year, $214 million contract on Fielder to win the American League Central this year, but it will certainly help their chances in the postseason. They clearly have the offense to compete deep into the postseason, but they will need Verlander, Fister and Valverde to maintain their 2011 form if they are to win their first World Series since 1984.

Sleeper...Delmon Young, OF

Young slumbered for much of the 2011 season, but an August trade from the Twins to the Tigers provided a much-needed boost. After slugging just .357 in Minnesota, Young compiled a .458 slugging percentage after arriving in Detroit. The improvement doesn't appear to be coincidental. Young, like most hitters, struggled to hit for power at Target Field, blasting just seven long balls there since it opened in 2010. Comerica Park, on the other hand, is a decent home run park for right-handed hitters, and seven of his eight homers for the Tigers last year came at home. Owners should look for improved power numbers from Young this year, and with him hitting behind Cabrera and Fielder, his RBI total should get a jolt as well.

Bust...Doug Fister, SP

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Fister pitched like a second ace for the Tigers after arriving via trade from Seattle in late July, going 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Fister has always had the reputation of being a control artist, but he took his strike zone mastery up a notch, walking a grand total of five batters in 70 1/3 innings with Detroit. Few Fantasy owners would expect Fister to repeat that extreme performance, but there is another reason to diminish expectations even further. Part of Fister's 2011 success was based upon holding batters to a .188 batting average on ground balls. The Tigers' infield defense overall should leave something to be desired, so Fister's WHIP will rise upward, even without a significant increase in walks. Owners may look to Fister as a No. 4 starter in mixed leagues, but in reality he may perform more like a low-end No. 5 SP or waiver wire option.

2012 impact prospect...Jacob Turner, SP

Turner made his major league debut last July when he was recalled to make a spot start, and he made two addtional starts in September. He didn't look ready for the majors in his initial appearances, but the work he did at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo suggests that he's not far off. The Tigers go into spring training without a fifth starter, and Turner is the leading contender. Even if he doesn't break camp with the team, it is almost a lock that Turner will join the Tigers at some point in 2012. While he could experience more growing pains, his high ceiling will make him worth a gamble in AL-only drafts this spring. Better yet, if he has some inital success, Turner could become popular very quickly in mixed league formats.

2012 Detroit Tigers Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Austin Jackson CF 1 Justin Verlander RH
2 Brennan Boesch RF 2 Doug Fister RH
3 Miguel Cabrera 3B 3 Max Scherzer RH
4 Prince Fielder 1B 4 Rick Porcello RH
5 Delmon Young DH 5 Jacob Turner RH
6 Alex Avila C Alt Duane Below LH
7 Jhonny Peralta SS
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Andy Dirks LF CL Jose Valverde RH
9 Ryan Raburn 2B SU Joaquin Benoit RH
Top bench options RP Octavio Dotel RH
R Ramon Santiago IF RP Phil Coke LH
R Don Kelly 3B/OF RP Collin Balester RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Jacob Turner 20 SP Majors Majors
Whether on opening day or later in the year, Turner should find a place in Detroit's rotation. The control artist is a worthy target in AL-only leagues.
2 Casey Crosby 23 SP Double-A Triple-A
Could join the Tigers sometime in 2012, though it would most likely be as a reliever. Could rack up Ks in a bullpen role.
3 Nick Castellanos 20 3B Class A Class A
Showed doubles power in his first full season in the minors. Now we have to see if he can maintain a high average while growing his home run power.
4 Drew Smyly 22 SP Double-A Triple-A
The southpaw doesn't throw especially hard, but he dominated hitters at Double-A. Barring a serious downturn, Smyly should reach the majors in 2012.
5 Duane Below 26 SP Majors Majors
Below fared respectably in his first exposure to the majors last year. Has a legitimate shot at the fifth starter's job this spring.
Best of the rest: Andrew Oliver, SP; Brenny Paulino, SP; Rob Brantly, C; Alex Burgos, SP; James McCann, C; Avisail Garcia, OF; Ryan Strieby, 1B; Adam Wilk, RP; Jay Voss, SP; Tyler Collins, OF; Brian Flynn, SP; Aaron Westlake, 1B; Eugenio Suarez, SS; Tyler Gibson, OF; Daniel Fields, OF; Kyle Ryan, SP; Bruce Rondon, RP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Dee Gordon, Martin Prado manage three-hit Wednesdays
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:38 pm ET) Denard Span and Ian Desmond had big games as the top two hitters in Washington's lineup helped their team win Wednesday. But their counterparts fron the Marlins performed even better in defeat.

Dee Gordon and Martin Prado both smacked three singles and scored a run. Gordon raised his average to a ridiculous .430 on the year, which leads both leagues. He has 49 hits in 27 games, putting him on pace for 294 this season.


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Samardzija pitched well on Tuesday after struggling for much of the season. He also had an X-ray done on his arm after he was hit by a line-drive. While the team is not concerned with his health, the right-hander can use this time to make sure he's fully recovered for his next start.


Giancarlo Stanton homers, then fans in Marlins loss
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:29 pm ET) Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton made things interesting Wednesday in Washington. His team appeared doomed to a blowout defeat, but he slammed a three-run homer in the eighth inning to cut the deficit to 7-5.

Alas, that was the final score and it was Stanton who blew a chance to play hero again. He came up with two on and one out in the ninth against closer Drew Storen and struck out on three swings-and-misses.

The homer was Stanton's seventh of the year - all in the last 19 games.


Astros OF Colby Rasmus returns to starting lineup Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(4:25 pm ET) After a two-game absence, Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Rangers. Rasmus was playing left field and hit fifth in the batting order for manager A.J. Hinch. 

Rasmus is hoping to get back to his hot-hitting ways that saw him hit safely in six of seven games in a couple of weeks ago. 


Denard Span, Ian Desmond do top of Nationals lineup proud
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) Bryce Harper was the undisputed hero for the Nationals in their Wednesday win over Miami. After all, he slammed three home runs.

But table setters Denard Span and Ian Desmond also played a role. Both slammed two hits and scored twice. Span singled twice while Desmond doubled and singled.

Span's hits pushed him over the .300 mark for the season.


Nationals closer Drew Storen gets in and out of trouble for save
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) Nationals closer Drew Storen allowed the potential go-ahead run to reach the plate Wednesday against Miami. But he walked off the mound with his eighth save.

Storen hit pinch-hitter Donovan Solano with a pitch upon entering and Dee Gordon followed with a single. But Storen retired Martin Prado and fanned Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna to leave them stranded.

The Gordon hit was the first Storen had yielded in his last five appearances.


Rangers CF Leonys Martin out of the lineup again Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:16 pm ET) Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin is out of the starting lineup again Wednesday, the team announced.

Martin is dealing with a wrist injury he suffered in Monday's game while trying to make a diving catch. Delino DeShields will take his place in center. 


Astros RF George Springer (head) not in lineup Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(4:14 pm ET) As expected, Astros right fielder George Springer was not in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game against the Rangers. Springer was removed from Tuesday's contest after crashing into the right-field wall making a catch. 

He has been evaluated for a concussion, but no official diagonsis has been announced as of yet. Robbie Grossman started in right field for manager A.J. Hinch on Wednesday. 


Cardinals sit Jon Jay, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong vs. lefty
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4:11 pm ET) Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay, first baseman Matt Adams and second baseman Kolten Wong are out of the lineup for Wednesday's matchup with the Cubs and lefty Jon Lester.

Jay has made six straight starts in the leadoff spot but will cede the top of the order to Peter Bourjos Wednesday. Adams was also on the bench in the team's recent two games against lefty starters Saturday and Monday, and he'll sit for a third time in the last five games in favor of Mark Reynolds. Wong has started 24 of the team's 26 games at second base but will sit for the second time in a four-game span.

The Cardinals are favorites (-119) at home against the Cubs Wednesday, per VegasInsider.com.


Marlins RHP Tom Koehler clobbered by Bryce Harper in defeat
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:10 pm ET) Marlins starter Tom Koehler had spent enough time this season watching his pitches soar over fences. But things got a little ridiculous on Wednesday.

Nationals slugger Bryce Harper blasted off three times against Koehler, driving in four of the five runs he allowed. Harper slammed solo jobs in the second and fifth innings sandwiched around a two-run shot in the third.

The right-hander, who has surrendered seven home runs in 33 innings pitched this year, finished having given up seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts while his ERA jumped to 5.18. He will try to lower it Monday against the host Dodgers.


 
 
 
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