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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Detroit Tigers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Detroit Tigers, losers of the 2012 World Series, didn't have to do a lot of tinkering this offseason with their roster, as the team had most of its key players returning. Detroit's biggest move was bringing in Torii Hunter on a two-year deal to shore up right field, which was a rotating area of weakness for Detroit last year. Hunter finished 2012 with a career-high .313 average, scoring 81 runs and driving in 92 (with most of the production coming in the season's final month). It was, however, Hunter's first season not hitting at least 20 home runs (he had 16 in 140 games) since 2005.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Detroit's other major offseason move was re-signing Anibal Sanchez. The 2012 trade deadline acquisition went 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 12 games for the Tigers last season and gives the rotation a nice boost, while knocking either Rick Porcello or Drew Smyly to the bullpen (or another team). With top-of-the-rotation skill, Sanchez may slot as low as fourth in the Tigers' rotation. That gives him a chance to rack up more wins, as Detroit's offense will face pitchers of a lesser caliber throughout the season on days when Sanchez takes the mound, allowing them to light up the scoreboard.

The Tigers let closer Jose Valverde walk and general manager Dave Dombrowski spent the winter singing the praises of Bruce Rondon, a 22-year-old flamethrowing righty who has dominated the minor leagues, but has yet to throw a pitch in the majors. Rondon has a career 2.53 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in the minors and is, by all accounts, looking like the closer for the Tigers in 2013. Even manager Jim Leyland has said Rondon is the favorite to start the season as closer, and he'll give him a somewhat long leash. If Rondon falters, the team has solid backup options in playoff hero Phil Coke and the always-dependable Joaquin Benoit.

And while it wasn't technically a move at all, Victor Martinez returns to the Tigers in 2013 after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee early in 2012 and missing the entire season. Martinez, who has a career .303 average and .840 OPS, will serve as the designated hitter. The Tigers have said Martinez won't catch, but with interleague games the norm in 2013, Martinez may see some time behind the plate, just to keep his bat in the lineup. It's important to note that Martinez, who hasn't been a regular catcher since 2010, will be eligible only at DH this season in CBSSports.com Fantasy games. This is based on him playing the majority of games in his last season -- which was 2011 -- at DH, and not in anticipation of him being only a DH in 2013).

With Hunter and Martinez being added to the lineup, and no major bats leaving (Delmon Young was the biggest departure), Detroit looks primed to score plenty of runs in 2013. That should benefit pretty much everyone, as they will see more at-bats, have more opportunity to drive in runs and should be in better position to get knocked in, as well.

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Austin Jackson CF
2. Torii Hunter RF
3. Miguel Cabrera 3B
4. Prince Fielder 1B
5. Victor Martinez DH
6. Andy Dirks LF
7. Jhonny Peralta SS
8. Alex Avila C
9. Omar Infante 2B
Bench Quintin Berry OF
Bench Brennan Boesch OF

Bounceback ... Alex Avila, catcher

Avila followed up his 2011 breakout season (.295, 19 home runs) with a major fall in nearly every offensive category, hitting just .243 with nine home runs in 367 at-bats. Granted, Avila dealt with a litany of injuries in 2012, including a hamstring strain, patellar tendinitis, a concussion and a wrist injury. But Avila started off cold, with a .220 average at the end of April, so we can't blame it all on injuries. It's tough to consider Avila's 2011 a fluke, especially given the success he had in the minor leagues with power and average. And with Martinez and Hunter in the mix, Avila will see better pitches and have more opportunities to drive in runs and score. He's worth a late shot in deeper mixed leagues.

Impact Prospect ... Bruce Rondon, relief pitcher

We've seen plenty of young and/or unheralded pitchers claim the closer role on several teams recently -- Ernesto Frieri, Tom Wilhelmsen, Jordan Walden, Addison Reed, Glen Perkins and Ryan Cook are just a few examples. And with the team's general manager telling anyone who will listen that Rondon is "special" and is all but penciled in as the 2013 closer, it's tough to not like him. Rondon was Detroit's minor league pitcher of the year in 2012 and can hit 100 mph with his fastball on the radar (you may remember him as the young prospect who hit 102 on the radar gun in the Futures Game last year). He may encounter some control issues along the way, but it should all be mitigated by a low ERA/WHIP, lots of strikeouts and around 35 saves, if things break right for him.

Sleeper ... Omar Infante, second baseman

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Justin Verlander RHP
2. Doug Fister RHP
3. Max Scherzer RHP
4. Anibal Sanchez RHP
5. Drew Smyly LHP
ALT Rick Porcello RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Bruce Rondon RHP
2. Phil Coke LHP
3. Joaquin Benoit RHP
4. Octavio Dotel RHP
5. Al Alburquerque RHP

On a stacked team like the Tigers, it's somewhat difficult to peg a player as a sleeper, just because essentially every player is a known commodity. But Omar Infante, he of the super-hot 2012 start with the Marlins, could slip through a lot of cracks. He plays a shallow position (second base) and managed double-digits in both home runs (12) and steals (17) last year. While he probably won't reach those heights again -- it was just the second time in his career he had more than 10 steals or home runs -- Infante has only seen 500 at-bats three times in his career, so he should be able to at least get close. Additionally, Infante has a .291 batting average over the past five seasons -- his dependability in that category is woefully underrated. A second baseman who plays every day, all but guarantees a .280 average and could put up a 15/15 season should have more value than Infante currently does, giving him legitimate sleeper status for 2013.

Prospects Report

Outside of Rondon, the prospect most likely to make an impact in 2013 is outfielder Avisail Garcia, a 21-year-old who appeared in 23 games for Detroit last year, hitting .319 in 47 at-bats. At 6-foot-4 and (listed at) 240 pounds, Garcia has been compared to fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera, who has taken the young Garcia under his wing. And just like a young Cabrera, Garcia has not only shown an ability to hit for power in the minors, but he also has some speed, with three straight seasons of 14 or more steals. Garcia made the jump from Double-A to the majors last year and landed on the postseason roster, proving he could play at both the major league level and in high-pressure situations (Garcia hit .261 in 23 postseason at-bats). Garcia's best bet for playing time would be wresting away the left field job from Andy Dirks, something that is unlikley, but still possible. ... Pitcher Casey Crosby had a tough debut for Detroit, with a 9.49 ERA in three starts. A top prospect in the system, Crosby has the potential to be solid, but won't be pitching much this year outside of injury callups or doubleheaders. ... The big name in Detroit's system is Nick Castellanos, whose name you may recognize as the prospect Detroit has refused to trade in would-be high-profile deals. He has performed at every level so far and should start turning those 68 doubles he's hit over the last two seasons into home run power this year. He's still at least a year off from the majors, but makes for a solid keeper pick.

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Player News
Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts reaches base three times Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:57 am ET) Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts had the goods and bads in Thursday's loss to the Rangers. Bogaerts reached base safely in all three plate appearances, going 2 for 2 with a walk. He has a hit four straight games and has reached base in eight of his last nine. Since May 10, he has seen his season average rise more than 20 points from .250 to its current .271 clip.

But, Bogaerts did commit his third error of the season, and also ran into some back luck on the basepaths, literally. 

With teammate Daniel Nava at the plate in the bottom of the fifth, Bogaerts was on first base with one out. He took off trying to steal second, but Nava swung and tapped the ball to the right side, which clipped Bogaerts on the foot as he was running. Bogaerts was ruled out, and a strikeout by the next batter ended the rally for Boston.

"Probably the play there when I tried to steal and the ball hit me, that was probably the game-changer," said Bogaerts, per MLB.com. "I never knew, I was never aware the ball touched me until I came back down and I saw the video, it might've just scratched the bottom of my heel or something like that, but I never know it hit me at all."


Brewers' Counsell: It's 'probably likely' Will Smith will be suspended
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:46 am ET) Brewers reliever Will Smith is likely facing a suspension for being ejected Thursday night for having a foreign substance discovered on his forearm, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel.

"That's pretty real," said manager Craig Counsell, when asked if he is expecting a suspension. "We know that's probably likely."

Smith was tossed by crew chief Jim Joyce in the seventh inning of Thursday's 10-1 loss to the Braves after Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez asked officials to examine the glistening substance on his forearm.

After the game, Smith revealed that he had a mixture of sunscreen and rosin on his arm while warming up in the bullpen, and acknowledged he forgot to wipe it off after he was summoned to replace Matt Garza in the seventh inning because he was in a hurry.

Counsell noted that players everywhere in the league, including some on the Braves do the same thing to improve their grip on the ball.

"It happens everywhere in the league, and it happens on (Gonzalez's) team, too," Counsell said.

In 2012, Joel Peralta, who was with the Rays at the time, was slapped with an eight-game suspension for using pine tar to improve his grip. Last season, Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was suspended 10 games by Major League Baseball after he was caught using pine tar in an April game against Boston. Because Pineda's incident was more recent, Smith could be facing a suspension close to 10 games.

"Who knows? That's MLB's decision. It's not my call," Smith said.


Mets LF Michael Cuddyer could be finding his way at the plate
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:39 am ET) Mets left fielder Michael Cuddyer had his first three-hit game of the season in Thursday's win over the Cardinals. Cuddyer reached safely in all four of his plate appearances, going 3 for 3 (all singles) with a walk. 

The veteran outfielder has gotten off to a rather slow start at the plate for his new team, but he may be starting to turn things around. He's reached base safely via a hit or a walk in each of his last seven games, batting .346 during that span. 

“I feel a little better,’’ Cuddyer said after the game, per the New York Post. “I don’t really tinker with mechanics too much. There’s a few things you I can do in the cage that will free you up a little bit, and we’re getting you that point. But ultimately, you look at the box score, and that’s how you say if a guy is hot or not.’’

Cuddyer hasn't homered since May 1, so the power hasn't quite been there for him yet. But the team is happy to see Cuddyer improving.

“Cuddy’s hitting the ball well. He hit the ball well [Wednesday] night, but right at them," Mets first baseman Lucas Duda said. "I think we’re getting rolling here offensively, and that will just help us. It should be fun.’’


Astros' Jon Singleton has 27 RBI in last 10 games at Triple-A
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:30 am ET) Astros first baseman Jon Singleton homered again Thursday for Triple-A Fresno, giving him six in his last 10 games and a minor-league leading 13 on the season. Singleton also has 44 RBI in 39 games, with 27 coming in his last 10 games.

"He's locked in right now. He's been having great at-bats, swinging at good pitches," Fresno teammate Carlos Correa said, per MiLB.com. "He's doing the work he needs to do to be successful on the field, and he can be proud of what he's bringing to the table. He's going to bring a lot to the Houston Astros eventually."

Singleton is batting .295 with a .406 on-base percentage, .651 slugging percentage and 1.056 OPS this season.


Astros prospect Carlos Correa thriving after Triple-A promotion
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) Astros shortstop prospect Carlos Correa has had a pretty smooth transition from Double-A to Triple-A. 

He homered for a second straight game Thursday and has hit safely in eight of nine games since his promotion. He has multihit games in five of his last six appearances.

The highly touted prospect is batting .326 with a .558 slugging percentage, .920 OPS, two home runs, four doubles and seven RBI in nine games since joining Fresno.

"I think I've gotten stronger these last two games -- I'm just kidding,"Correa said after Thursday's game, per MiLB.com. "I've just been trying to drive the ball, and I've seen some fastballs up in the zone."

Correa's home run Thursday came off former AL Cy Young award winner Barry Zito.

"It was really fun [facing Zito]," Correa said. "I've seen that guy pitch a lot at the big league level, and I've even played [as] him in video games, because I'm a video game guy. I have a lot of respect for him, and it was fun to play against him as a competitor."


Yankees SS Didi Gregorius looking to improve offense in 2015
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:15 am ET) Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has had a rough go of it in 2015, his first season in New York. Through 35 games, Gregorius is batting just .214 with just four doubles on the year. He has been getting the bulk of the playing time at shortstop, sharing time with Stephen Drew. But Gregorius just hasn't been able to figure things out at the plate.

"I don't feel it, but who knows?" Gregorius said, according the New York Post. "You never know. Maybe I start hitting all of a sudden. I just keep working hard in the cage. That's how it all starts."

And his defense hasn't exactly lived up either. He four errors so far this year, after committing just six all of last year. 

“I didn’t come here to fail. “You always want to succeed.”


Rays OF Steven Souza racks up four strikeouts on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:55 am ET) Rays outfielder Steven Souza had a rough day at the office on Thursday. In the 3-0 win over the A's, Souza went 0 for 4 and struck out four times. It's the third time this month that Souza has worn the "Golden Sombrero".

With the poor performance on Thursday, Souza's season average was dropped to .225 as he has had a tough start to the year offensively. His 62 strikeouts this season are currently the most among American League hitters.


Tigers LF Yoenis Cespedes lacking power, but not hits in 2015
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:48 am ET) Tigers left fielder Yoenis Cespedes reached base in all five plate-appearances in Thursday's win over the Astros. He went 3 for 3 with a double, walked twice and scored twice in the victory. That makes back-to-back three-hit games for the first-year Tiger, and four such performances in his last seven games. 

In fact, Cespedes has hit safely in nine of his last 12 games, and all nine games have been multi-hit performances. 

He also stole a bag for the second consecutive game, giving him threesteals on the season, all coming in the past week. 

Cespedes has had a rather interesting start to his tenure in Detroit. He hasn't hit for much power, with just five home runs on the year. But his 15 doubles are tops in the American League and he has an even .300 batting average entering play on Friday, despite his career .266 mark.


Red Sox P Matt Barnes adjusting to life in the bullpen
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:33 am ET) Despite the fact that Red Sox rookie pitcher Matt Barnes was drafted as a starter, he has made 11 relief appearances in his brief Major League career, which started in 2014. Barnes has yet to start a big league game, and he may wind up being a reliever long-term for the Red Sox. But Barnes would be just fine with that.

“Right now, I’m not sure about (starting) because I’ve been doing one thing and I’m satisfied with what I’m doing right now,” said Barnes, per the Boston Herald. “I’m available to do anything and I’ll do anything the team needs me to do.”

Barnes, who was drafted 19th overall in 2011, is 2-0 and has allowed just one earned run in six appearances this year. And though he is currently blocked by Koji Uehara as a potential closer, manager John Farrell hasn't shied away from using Barnes as a late-inning option out of the bullpen.

“We brought him into high-leverage situations and there’s a reason we brought him into those situations," Farrell said. "Late in the game, you are looking at guy who can ideally control the running game and he’s got the ability to get a strikeout.”


Rays' Matt Moore to pitch in extended spring training Saturday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Rays pitcher Matt Moore is scheduled to throw 35 to 40 pitches in two innings of work during an extended spring training game on Saturday, the Tampa Tribune reports.

Moore had no issues after Wednesday's bullpen session, putting him line to take the next step on Saturday. He was limited to just two starts last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery.


 
 
 
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