2011 Rewind: The Tigers cruised to an AL Central title by winning 95 games a year ago, 15 more victories the division’s next best team. Only three teams in baseball scored more runs than the Tigers’ high-powered offense and the club’s starting rotation was loaded at the top, but overall the team 4.04 ERA left the ranked in the middle of the pack in the American League. Detroit got eliminated in the ALCS by the Rangers.
The Good: Ace Justin Verlander was the AL’s pitching Triple Crown winner and became the first starting pitcher since 1986 to win MVP as he went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA adding a no-hitter to boot. First basemen Miguel Cabrera laid claim to AL Batting Title by hitting a career-high .344 to go along with 30 HR and 105 RBI while appearing in 161 games for the Tigers. He remains as one of baseball’s elite hitters heading into 2012. Catcher Alex Avila enjoyed a career season as he hit .295 with 19 HR and 82 RBI. Expecting similar numbers from this season may prove overly optimistic, but in this stout lineup he will get opportunities to succeed.
The Bad: Centerfielder Austin Jackson took a step back offensively in 2011, finishing with a .249 BA in his sophomore campaign. He needs to cut down on the 181 strikeouts he had a year ago and not hit as many fly balls if he’s going to turn things around. Brandon Inge lost his starting spot this offseason after the worst season of his career. The veteran hit just .197 and managed just a career low 3 HR and 23 RBI in 262 plate appearances. The team defense is terrible and did nothing to improve over the offseason. That could translate into Tigers’ starters needing to get extra outs on a regular basis.
Biggest Loss: The biggest blow to the team this winter was the news of a season-ending knee injury to Victor Martinez. The DH/catcher hit .330 a year ago while driving in 103 runs batting in the heart of the order. Veterans Maggilo Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Brad Penny were not retained.
Best Addition: The team made a big splash when they broke the bank to sign free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, easing the blow to the lineup left by the departure of Martinez. Fielder returns to his old stomping grounds in Motown after signing a $214 million, nine-year contract. Over the past six years the slugger has averaged 37 long balls per season while boasting a career 282/.390/.540 hitting line. To make room for Fielder at first base
Fantasy Slant: Left fielder Brennan Boesch is a trendy breakout pick for many fantasy websites this preseason and rightfully so. With a full-time job and good health on his side look for him to get 100+ more at bats this season. The 26-year old hit .283 with 16 HR and 54 RBI in just 428 at bats during a breakout sophomore campaign. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta enjoyed one of his best seasons of his career with a .299 BA, 21 HR, and 86-RBI performance. Normally a good value option with multiple position capability, Peralta won’t come as cheap as he used to. Closer Jose Valverde has top 10 potential. Starters Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello all possess upside and provide good mid-to-late round value.
Final Take: Just like last season, the Tigers will be the class of the AL Central. They will be hard-pressed to match last year’s 95-game win total, but winning the division by double-digit games could be within reach if they live up to their full potential. If their pitching holds up the Tigers will be legitimate pennant contenders…2012 PREDICTION: 93-69 – 1st Place AL Central
Fantasy Baseball, MLB