2010 Detroit Tigers Preview

Justin Verlander, RHP
Max Scherzer, RHP
Rick Porcello, RHP
Jeremy Bonderman, RHP
Nate Robertson, LHP

Closers and Setup
Jose Valverde, RHP
Joel Zumaya, RHP

Starting Lineup
Austin Jackson, CF
Carlos Guillen, DH
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Brandon Inge, 3B
Ryan Raburn, LF
Scott Sizemore, 2B
Gerald Laird, C
Adam Everett, SS

Player in Decline

Brandon Inge’s HR/FB rate, 15.4%, was much higher than his career average entering 2009: 9.8%. A decline in home-run rate, and thus homer total, is likely. Inge will turn 33 in the 2010 season and played a big part of his career at catcher — a physically demanding position — so getting 637 PAs again is not a given.

Player on the Rise

The organization has a slew of potential breakout players and predicting exactly who will be bust out is impossible. But Scott Sizemore is definitely someone to keep an eye on. He has the opportunity – the starting second-base job – and had a solid 2009 in Triple-A.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Miguel Cabrera: Elite
Justin Verlander: Elite
Jose Valverde: Average
Max Scherzer: Average
Rick Porcello: Deep League

Top 10 Prospects
1. Casey Crosby, LHP
2. Jacob Turner, RHP
3. Ryan Strieby, 1B
4. Alex Avila, C
5. Scott Sizemore, 2B
6. Daniel Fields, SS
7. Wilkin Ramirez, OF
8. Andy Oliver, LHP
9. Robbie Weinhardt, RHP
10. Cody Satterwhite, RHP

Overall team outlook: The Tigers club made a big trade to get younger and cheaper, but in so doing, it lost two keys players from its near-playoff team in ‘09. Still, the organization should have the talent to be competitive, though it may not be the favorite in a weak AL Central.

The Starting Rotation: Justin Verlander broke out in a big way in 2009, leading baseball with 269 strikeouts and tying with three other pitchers for the lead with 19 wins. He will be a top-10 fantasy pitcher in 2010. The Tigers traded No. 2 starter Edwin Jackson for a new, cheaper No. 2 in Max Scherzer. He has the potential to be even better than Jackson. Health is a concern with Scherzer, but when he is on the mound, he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter and strike out more than a batter an inning.

Rick Porcello was the beneficiary of some BABIP luck in 2009 and will probably not repeat his sub-4.00 ERA. Also, his low strikeout rate limits his fantasy value. Jeremy Bonderman is slotted into the rotation as this point, and he is probably worth a late-round flyer on the off chance he is healthy and regains his 2006 magic. Still, don’t count on it. Nate Robertson has the inside track for the fifth starter job (while Armando Galarraga, Dontrelle Willis and Phil Coke remain as other possibilities), but is an option only in deep AL-only leagues.

Bullpen: Newly acquired Jose Valverde will be handed the closing duties heading into 2010. He is a talented pitcher, and his history of saving games for Arizona and Houston gives him a longer leash if he struggles a bit. But if he goes down with an injury or experiences a sustained period of ineffectiveness, Joel Zumaya is probably first in line for his job, although Ryan Perry or Daniel Schlereth could be in the running if Zumaya cannot re-find the strike zone.

Starting Lineup: Miguel Cabrera qualifies at only first base now, but he hits more than enough to make up for it; he shouldn’t make it out of the first round in most drafts. After Cabrera, though, the rest of the Tigers’ lineup should probably be avoided in most 12-team mixed leagues. Magglio Ordonez, who should start in right, saw his power evaporate in 2009. He should see some improvement in 2010 but probably not enough (although he still hits for a good average). Ryan Raburn should get the job in left and, given a full year, has the power to hit 25 or more homers. Carlos Guillen will be the starting DH, though he qualifies in the outfield. Over the past two years he has had a hard time staying healthy and, when he has played, his numbers have been down.

Brandon Inge, Gerald Laird, and Adam Everett return to their positions in 2010, but none hits enough to justify consideration outside of AL-only leagues. Finally, the Tigers club will hand starting jobs to two guys who have no Major League at-bats: Austin Jackson will take over in center and Scott Sizemore will man the keystone. There is a good possibility of a rough initial adjustment period for both, but they offer some upside with the speed to steal some bases and at least some power.

Bench: Another rookie, Alex Avila, could get some time at catcher. For a catcher he has good power, so keep an eye on his playing time. Clete Thomas and Wilkin Ramirez could see time in the outfield, and if they do should get a fair number of steals. If Guillen is injured or ineffective then Jeff Larish could get some time at DH and has big-time power, but his average will not be pretty.

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

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