Fantasy Articles
Fantasy Preview 2013: Detroit Tigers
By Jon Leshanski

Sometimes you get the Tigers, and sometimes the Tigers get you.  The AL Central better be expecting more of the latter than the former in the 2013 season.  The Tigers are loaded with talent, including a pitching staff that, believe it or not, is actually underrated, and one of the best offenses in the game. 

Last year’s World Series runner ups are poised for another run.  I’m not going to focus on top players like Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander but instead will look at the guys with questions, upside, downside or who are just a little more interesting.

Here are 10 to watch in 2013.

Joaquin Benoit (CL):  With just three days until the season starts the Tigers main closer is probably Benoit though he inherits that role by default.  That said, the Tigers will probably go with a closer by committee approach early on with Benoit getting the bulk of those chances.  But the big truth is that the Tigers would prefer not to use Benoit in the ninth, so they’ll be looking for someone else.  But for the moment Benoit he’s the favorite.  Ride with that.

Torii Hunter (OF):  If you are looking for a player who screams “risk” Hunter is your man.  The 37 year old has deteriorating skills with falling flyball rates, increased groundball rates, and declining power.  Moving to Comerica Park from LA won’t really be much of a factor.  Age and ability to bounce back will be.  The cliff is looming.
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the Prince swings
Photo by Steve Paluch, used under creative commons license.

Andy Dirks (OF):  Dirks is entering his prime and it’s time for him to either step up or remain a lower tier fantasy outfielder for the rest of his career.  He hits for average, but isn’t much of a contributor in terms of power or RBIs.  That leaves runs and speed, both of which to this point have been mediocre.  He’s got the wheels to do more, and his low fly ball rate last year should rise a bit.  It’s possible he could make a run at 15-15.  Late in the draft that’s nice upside.

Doug Fister (SP):  While not an elite strikeout pitcher, Fister has a lot of value due to his pinpoint control, low walk rates and his extreme ground ball tendencies (51 percent last year).  While Detroit’s porous defense isn’t exactly beneficial to him, he’ll benefit from the offensive support and could make a run at 15 wins.  He made a stride forward in strikeouts last season posting a career high 7.6 per nine, but is there more where that came from?  If so, he could be bargain at a mid round price.

Jhonny Peralta (SS):  Peralta followed up on a career best season in 2011 with dramatic regression, turning in what is arguably the worst season of his career.  He’s only 31 so the odds are that 2012 was just a bump in the road (decreased fly ball rate, decreased home run/fly ball) and that his power and average should bounce back.  He probably won’t hit 20 home runs again, but 15-plus seems very possible to go with a .250-.260 average and decent totals in runs and RBIs make him a very useful player after the first few tiers of shortstops are off the table.

Max Scherzer (SP):  Last season's stats were bloated by a rough April, which helps to disguise that Scherzer really had one of the best years of his career and made tremendous strides forward in terms of skills.  His second half numbers (9-2, 2.59 ERA with 117 strikeouts in just 97 innings) show what he’s really capable of.  If he can maintain those gains we could be discussing him as a Cy Young contender come August.

Anibal Sanchez (SP):  Sanchez isn’t exactly a sexy pick, but he’s a pick with tremendous upside.  His 9-13 record is very deceptive since his ERA was inflated due to poor defense behind him, and a lack of run support (second worst in all of baseball) which led to his losing record.  Playing a whole season with the Tigers offense behind hims should flip last year's W-L record around.  If Detroit’s defense were to improve Sanchez could be headed for a sub 3.50 ERA, but don’t bank on that since Detroit didn’t make any infield improvements.  

Alex Avila (C):  Avila is another player who had a disappointing 2012 following a breakout 2011.  His true skill level probably falls somewhere between the two seasons, but he’s moving into the prime hitting years for offensive players.  That could bode well for Avila being a bounceback candidate.  That said, except in AL only leagues, or deeper leagues, he’s better suited as a second catcher than a primary one considering the depth at the position.

Austin Jackson (OF):  Jackson keeps making strides forward and has continued to improve his approach at the plate since 2011.  He’s walking more, improving his contact rate and hitting more line drives.  That’s what has driven the improvement with average.  However he’s been lucky there too, so a regression in average is possible.  That’s more than made up for by the steady growth in power for a player still on the right side of 27 and with his best still ahead of him; 20-20 is a very real possibility.

Victor Martinez (C/DH):  Martinez missed all of 2012 due to issues with his left knee.  You’d hope that the knee would not be a risk during 2013, but since he opted not to have reconstructive surgery on his ACL we don’t know just how well or how fully the ligament has really healed.  If it holds he’s poised for a great season in the middle of the Tigers order and racking up plenty of counting stats.  If it doesn’t hold, he’ll require surgery and be done for the year.   That makes him a gamble, but probably a good one since Jim Leyland is already saying that he’s healthy enough to play some games at catcher this year.