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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
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara likely to begin year on disabled list
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(8:20 pm ET) Red Sox closer Koji Uehara is likely to begin the season on the disabled list, reports ESPN. After throwing 30 pitches in a bullpen session on Monday, Uehara is still having issues with his left hamstring. He hasn't taken the mound since March 14th.

Manager John Farrell said, “I don’t think there’s anything to suggest that come next Monday, he’s in our bullpen.”

“I think I’m going to start on the DL just because I haven’t had the games in,” Uehara said through interpreter C.J. Matsumoto. “If that is the case, if I start on the DL, it will certainly be a disappointment.”

Uehara knows that this is a process, and he is unsure of when he'll return to the mound.

“I don’t know when I’ll be back,” he said. “It’s a day-to-day process. I have to do what I have to do to get ready.”

Farrell was asked about how the bullpen will shape up heading into the beginning of the season.

“I don’t have seven names to give you right now,” he said. “We’ve still got some things to determine. How we’re going to determine the rotation, whether we go with an additional left-hander or right-hander, what the ramifications of Koji coming out of the mix for the short run. Does that likely move Edward [Mujica] back into the closing role?

“I do know this: We’re at a point in camp when guys are throwing the ball as expected, and that includes Robbie Ross. That’s Matt Barnes. Brandon Workman’s last time out was encouraging, so as we get to the final week of camp here, the guys we felt would be in contention for spots are moving in the right direction.”

Uehara, 40, has pitched in three games this spring, posting an ERA of 6.00, six hits given up with three strikeouts.


Cardinals' Dean Anna to work at three infield positions in minors
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:19 pm ET) Cardinals infielder Dean Anna , sent to the minor leagues on Sunday, will work at second base, third base and shortstop at Triple-A Memphis, manager Mike Matheny said, per MLB.com.

Anna hit .200 in 20 spring at bats with the Cards. 


Tigers pitcher Joba Chamberlain not worried about spring struggles
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Joba Chamberlain hasn't exactly lit it up in spring training. In eight appearances, Chamberlain has posted an 8.22 ERA with just two strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings pitched. He and his manager Brad Ausmus aren't worried, reports MLB.com.

"I've said all along that spring training, with veteran players especially, I don't put a lot of stock in it," Ausmus said. "I would go more on Joba's performance last year as an indicator than on what happens in Spring Training. I think Joba's also a guy that pitches on the adrenaline of the situation. And there's not a lot of adrenaline in spring training games, even moreso if you've been in the big leagues for a few years."

Chamberlain is throwing a bit harder this spring than previous years.

"This isn't my first rodeo. I've been in this position," Chamberlain said. "You've got to know what you have to work on. It's a neverending battle. I don't know if I've ever seen anybody with a zero-zero ERA, so there's always something to work on."


Cardinals' Tommy Pham's quad still not right after minor league test
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:14 pm ET) Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham had three plate appearances in a minor league game on Monday. It was his first game since March 12, when strained his left quadricep. 

Pham didn't play the field, and after batting, he reported that the quad was "still tight" and "not right", per MLB.com.


Rockies P LaTroy Hawkins rocked for 5 hits in one-third inning
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:13 pm ET) Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins had a rough outing in Monday's 11-2 loss to the Athletics. 

Hawkins gave up five hits in only one-third inning, which included a three-run home run from Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie. 

“Hawk just left some balls high and up over the plate,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said, via The Denver Post.


Tigers pitcher Joe Nathan pitches fine after hangnail issue
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:09 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Joe Nathan felt just fine in his one scoreless inning of work Monday after dealing with a hang nail on his thumb a few days ago, reports MLB.com.

"He threw some good two-seam fastballs," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Really, the single was a swinging bunt. He did a good job."

Nathan has now tossed eight scoreless innings in 11 appearances this spring.


Cardinals' Kolten Wong not concerned about spring slump
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:09 pm ET) Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong is having a slow spring, but he's focusing on the work, instead of the results. 

"I kind of take the positives out of everything. I see that I have been hitting balls hard. I'm doing the little things right and getting myself ready. That's the most important thing -- making sure I get my swing ready for Opening Day," Wong said, per MLB.com.

Wong was hitless in his first nine at bats of the spring and is hitting .147 with one RBI in 34 at bats.


A's P Drew Pomeranz tosses six scoreless innings in win
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:08 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Drew Pomeranz pitched six scoreless innings during Monday's 11-2 blowout win over the Rockies. 

Pomeranz gave up only two hits and one walk while striking out six batters. 

"He pitched well. He pitched really good," Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said of Pomeranz, via MLB.com. "He was hitting spots. His curveball was effective today, too. He has that big curveball. I've never faced him before. I saw the ball really well coming out of his hands."


A's 3B Brett Lawrie homers twice in win over Rockies
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:04 pm ET) Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie hit two home runs in Monday's 11-2 blowout win over the Rockies. 

Lawrie's first home run was of the solo variety hit off of Ryan Arrowood. His second was a three-run shot off of LaTroy Hawkins in the sixth inning. This gives Lawrie four home runs in his last eight games. 


Astros want one more look at pitcher Brett Oberholtzer before committing
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:00 pm ET) Astros manager A.J. Hinch is still not certain about pitcher Brett Oberholtzer for the starting rotation when the season begins, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Hinch believes Collin McHugh will be the starter for Houston's fourth game of the season, but wants to see Oberholtzer's "readiness" before making his official decision.

"We'll play our guys" Hinch said. "We're going to take some backups, both to Corpus and to Houston with the idea Friday night I feel good about our guys that are on our team are going to play.

"Saturday it'll be a blend of some of the bench, some guys that want maybe an at-bat or two to finish that spring. Then the back half of that game will be some guys that won’t be on our team."


 
 
 
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