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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
Giants' Sabean: No plans to talk to Max Scherzer
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Giants general manager Brian Sabean said that the Giants have not talked to free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer and have no plans to do so, the Mercury News reports.

Scherzer is the biggest name on the pitching market and could be seeking a deal north of the $155-million pact signed by Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. His price tag may not be feasible for the Giants' budget. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 252:63 K:BB ratio in 220 1/3 innings with the Tigers in 2014.


Report: Nick Hundley has two-year offer, unlikely to rejoin Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Free-agent catcher Nick Hundley has a two-year offer on the table from an unidentified team, making him unlikely to return to the Orioles, masnsports.com reports.

The Orioles declined a $5-million option on Hundley for the 2015 season but had interest in bringing him back into the fold at a lesser salary. He hit .243/.273/.358 with six home runs and 22 RBI in 218 at-bats between Baltimore and San Diego in 2014.


Report: Phillies could join Asdrubal Cabrera market
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Phillies could become involved in the market for free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, ESPN.com reports.

The Phillies traded their longtime starter at shortstop to the Dodgers this offseason and will be looking to fill that hole in the infield. However, the team will have to shed some additional payroll in order to make a run at the infielder, according to the report. Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 553 at-bats between Cleveland and Washington in 2014.


Rangers release Ben Rowen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Rangers have released relief pitcher Ben Rowen . Rowen, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, posted a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2014 as well as a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

Nationals sign Mark Minicozzi to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Nationals have signed infielder Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal.

Minicozzi, 31, hit .298/.400/.470 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI in 315 at-bats with Triple-A San Jose in 2014. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game in the majors.


Indians sign pitcher Scott Downs to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Indians announced they signed pitcher Scott Downs to a minor-league contract Saturday.

Downs also received a non-roster invite to MLB camp.


Red Sox, Padres complete Hanigan-for-Middlebrooks trade
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Red Sox and Padres completed a trade Friday, with catcher Ryan Hanigan heading to Boston in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox announced.

Hanigan, 34, is signed for two more seasons with a team option for 2017. He hit .218/.318/.324 with five home runs and 34 RBI in 225 at-bats in 2014.

Middlebrooks, 26, is eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2015 season. He hit .191/.256/.265 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 215 at-bats in 2014.


Giants get Class A hurlers for Marlins 3B McGehee
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Giants are trading minor league right-handers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo for Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee.

Both pitched at a Class A level last season and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.


Dodgers dump RHP Brian Wilson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Three days after designating reliever Brian Wilson for assignment, the Dodgers have released him.

Wilson struggled in 2014 after a strong stint upon his arrival with Los Angeles in 2013. He finished the year with a 4.66 ERA and 29 walks in 48 1/3 innings.


Report: LHP Craig Breslow staying with Red Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Left-hander reliever Craig Breslow is set to sign a one-year deal with the Red Sox for $2 million, per WEEI.com.

Breslow pitched for Boston the last two years, but collapsed in 2014 after compiling a 1.81 ERA the previous year. He finished with a 5.93 ERA and 73 hits in 54 1/3 innings.


 
 
 
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