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Fantasy Preview: Detroit Tigers

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John Halpin

John Halpin has been a fantasy contributor for FOXSports.com since 2007. He has written and co-hosted webcasts about fantasy football for FOXNews.com, and managed websites for the NHL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Network. Listen to his "Fantasy 15 Podcast" on FOXSportsRadio.com and follow him on Twitter.

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With the 3-4 hitters and ace on this team, how good do the other 22 guys really have to be? In this case, they’re actually pretty good.

Offseason moves:

Signed OF Torii Hunter

Big year, but can he do it again at his age? Hmm …

Re-signed SP Anibal Sanchez

For a guy that used to have the rep of being injury-prone, Sanchez has been pretty consistent over the past three years. His innings totals have been 195, 196.1 and 195.2, while his ERAs have been 3.55, 3.67 and 3.86 (for a 3.70 combined ERA), and his WHIPs have been 1.34, 1.28 and 1.27 (1.30 combined). Even accounting for the league change last summer, you pretty much know what you’re getting with Sanchez, and that’s probably an SP4.

Lost OF Delmon Young via free agency

Young has taken his hacktastic ways to Philly, where he’ll hit 15 homers and make boatloads of outs once his injured ankle gets better.

Projected Lineup/Rotation

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

The humble analyst writing this preview likes Jackson more than most – he’s a top-20 fantasy outfielder. Cabrera is one of fantasy’s top three picks, and it’s great to be able to draft him at third base this season. Fielder is a beast, and a first-round pick in any format. Dirks is a decent hitter who hit 14 homers and stole 17 bases between Triple A and the majors in 2011; assuming he beats out Avisail Garcia for the starting job, he should be a productive AL-only option. Peralta should bat .250-.260 with 15 homers, and that’s not terrible for a shortstop. Avila figures to bounce back a bit, but don’t expect him to bat .295 again like he did in 2011. Infante is rosterable in mixed leagues, but his gaudy 2012 stats will be tough to replicate, since they stick out like a sore thumb on his career stat sheet.

Rotation

1. Justin Verlander
2. Doug Fister
3. Max Scherzer
4. Anibal Sanchez
5. Rick Porcello
CL: Bruce Rondon

Verlander is either first or second on most starting pitcher ranking lists – he’s the definition of an ace. Fister has emerged an extremely trusty sidekick to Verlander, and is a solid SP3 in standard mixed leagues. Scherzer’s strikeout rate exploded in 2012 (231 K in 187 2/3 IP), and he projects to have a huge season if he can avoid another slow start. Porcello doesn’t seem to be improving, and should be avoided in mixed leagues.

Everyone seems to think that the fireballing Rondon will win the closer job, but he’s spent only half a season above A ball. Manager Jim Leyland said at the start of spring training that he might not name a closer before leaving Florida, and that opens up a host of possibilities (Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, Al Albuququerque, Bryan Villareal, even Octavio Dotel). Just keep in mind that when Jose Valverde imploded last October, Coke took over. If Rondon falters, that’s the best hint we have at the Tigers’ fallback plan.

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BIG QUESTIONS:


Torii Hunter had a nice season in 2012. Can he do it again?

Hunter hit .313 last year, but his crazy-high BABIP (.389, career best by .053) suggests that lots and lots of luck came into play. Hunter will be 38 in July, his 16 home runs last season were his lowest since 2005, and he also started beating more balls into the ground than ever before. You can give Hunter a try as an OF5 in mixed leagues if you want to. If you invest a higher pick than that, you’re asking for disappointment.

What should we expect from Victor Martinez after he missed all of 2012?

Martinez qualifies at catcher in most (but not all) fantasy leagues, and while there’s always uncertainty about a guy who missed an entire season, he’s a borderline starter in standard mixed leagues. Most projections seem to have V-Mart hitting his usual .300 with about 15 homers, but it’s difficult to expect that kind of production.

Who is the second-best fantasy starter on this team?

Scherzer, but the gap between he and Fister is smaller than you think. Sleeper: Dirks can be a 15-15 guy if he plays every day. You don’t want to draft him in a standard mixed league, but he should be on your free-agent radar.

Top prospects

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF – Castellanos reached Double A at age 20 last season, which is pretty impressive. He’s a longer-term impact keeper rather than a 2013 guy, but the wait for him to reach Detroit might not be too long.

Avisail Garcia, OF – Garcia is a good prospect, but don’t get too fooled by him reaching the majors last season at age 21. He swings at everything, and will probably struggle if he gets an extended look this year.

Casey Crosby, SP – Crosby wasn’t bad at Triple A last season, but he’s 24 and needs to start throwing more strikes. Also, the Tigers don’t really have a rotation slot available for him.

Tyler Collins, OF – Collins batted .290 with seven homers and 20 stolen bases in A ball last season. He’s 22, so if he has a good season, he could push his way to the big club in 2014. AL-only owners can keep an eye on him.

Tagged: Tigers, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Phil Coke

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