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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
Braves OF Melvin Upton unable to finish workout due to toe injury
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:49 pm ET) Braves outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. was unable to complete Friday's workout with the club because of discomfort near the big toe on his right foot, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports. He will be evaluated at some point Friday afternoon to determine the severity of the injury.

Upton is seeking a bounce-back campaign after seeing his power numbers drop recently. Since joining Atlanta in 2013 on a five-year contract, Upton is batting .198 with a .279 on-base percentage, .314 slugging percentage and .593 OPS in 267 games.


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(12:43 pm ET) Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said catcher Alex Avila didn't participate in workouts Friday due to a sore back. He is being listed as day to day, per MLB.com.

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(12:41 pm ET) Diamondbacks prospect Will Locante was advised by the organization a few years ago to lower his arm angle in hopes of improving his command. As a result, Locante has turned heads with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and slider from a low, slinging arm slot during his most recent live batting practice on Thursday, according to the Arizona Republic.

"He throws really hard, his arm angle, his slider, the sink on his fastball -- all those things make him really hard to hit," manager Chip Hale said. "Those are those impact, lefty arms that are hard to find."


Yankees' Burton: I want to re-emerge as one of the better RPs in majors
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(12:39 pm ET) Yankees reliever Jared Burton is in camp on a minor-league deal trying to earn a spot in the bullpen. Even though spring training just began, Burton likes how he is throwing the baseball, per NJ.com.

"I still think my stuff is as good as it's been," said Burton, who typically uses a fastball-changeup combination. "It's just the beginning of spring training. Everybody feels pretty fresh. But I feel like the ball is really coming out of my hand pretty well right now."

Although Burton didn't have an awful year in 2014, he is hoping he can bounce back in some regards since his ERA (4.36) was well higher than his career ERA (3.44) and his strikeout total also dropped last season.

"There's a little extra motivation as well," he said. "So I want to reestablish myself as one of the better relievers in the game."


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(12:30 pm ET) In an attempt to keep him fresh for the start of the season, the Athletics are expected to keep Coco Crisp out of game action in early on in the Cactus League exhibition season, per the Bay Area News Group. Crisp recently told reporters that he will ease up a bit in 2015 after collisions with outfield walls led to neck pain in 2014.

He was limited to only 126 games last season. He has not played more than 136 games since 2007.


Brewers SP Jimmy Nelson dealing with minor hamstring injury
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(12:27 pm ET) Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson rested again Friday due to a hamstring injury, according to MLB.com. However, manager Ron Roenicke continues to indicate it is not a serious injury.

McClendon not considering Erasmo Ramirez as relief option for M's
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(12:23 pm ET) Mariners starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez is out of minor-league options and faces an uphill battle to make the starting rotation, but manager Lloyd McClendon saod Friday he is not looking at Ramirez as a potential reliever, per MLB.com.

“We’ve got some talented arms in that bullpen,” McClendon said. “The competition may be even stiffer down there.”


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by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:21 pm ET) Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey completed a 20-pitch bullpen session on Friday without any issues, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"I've been looking forward to it, really," Bailey said. "Even in the offseason, playing catch and stuff, you see guys throw bullpens and in your mind, you think you can still do it. Getting out of a brace the first time, you think you can walk on the mound and throw, and that's not necessarily the case. It was kind of really rewarding, it felt really good."

Bailey, who is coming off September elbow surgery, is in danger of starting the season on the disabled list. The right-hander was limited to 23 starts in 2014, posting a 9-5 record with a 3.71 ERA. It was the first time in three seasons he finished with less than 10 wins.


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(12:16 pm ET) While most of Seattle's pitchers are tossing live batting practice, Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma threw his third bullpen session of the spring Friday, per MLB.com. However, manager Lloyd McClendon stressed the veteran pitcher is not behind due to injury.

“This is by design,” McClendon said. “We’re just stretching him out a little more. Kuma is A-OK and everything is fine. He has no issues at all. I don’t think he needs the live BPs. The guy is such a technician, he gets more done in a bullpen session than he would in a live BP.”

Iwakuma was 12-6 with a 2.57 ERA in his first 21 starts last season before going 3-3 with a 7.88 ERA in his final seven outings. 

“I kind of ran out of gas there,” he said through translator Antony Suzuki. “It wasn’t like I was very, very tired. I was just fatigued mentally and physically and that’s something I need to work on in spring training.

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Yankees' Brendan Ryan to miss five days of camp with back strain
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Ryan, who is seeking more playing time this season, hit .167 over 114 at-bats in 2014.


 
 
 
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