2013 MLB Season Preview – AL Central

AL Central 2013 Preview

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Minnesota Twins

2012 Record: 66 – 96 (5th in AL Central)

Burning Questions: Will Justin Morneau ever return to an elite level? Are Joe Mauer’s playing days behind the plate numbered? Could this be the last year of the M&M boys in Minneapolis? Will this be Ron Gardenhire’s last run with the Twins? Are we really going to buy what Trevor Plouffe is selling? Can Josh Willingham repeat his 2012 career season? Is Aaron Hicks ready to take the reins in CF?

Offseason Additions: SP Vance Worley, SP Kevin Correia, SP Mike Pelfrey, P Rich Harden, IF Jeff Clement, OF Brandon Boggs, SP Alex Meyer (P), SP Trevor May (P)

Offseason Subtractions: CF Denard Span, RF Ben Revere, SP Carl Pavano, SP Scott Baker, RP Matt Capps, IF Alexi Casilla, IF Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Prospect Outlook: Top prospects Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer and Trevor May are 2+ years away at best. That leaves two former first round picks to make an impact on the big club. With the Twins SERIOUSLY considering starting Darin Mastroianni (I mean REALLY!?) everyday in CF, it’s kind of hard not to wonder about Aaron Hicks. Hicks, a 2008 1st rounder out of H.S, has always had considerable raw tools but never parlayed them into success while in the minors. That could change in 2013 seeing as how the Twins don’t have a proven everyday CF and with no real competition (well besides Mastoianni) this could be Hicks job to lose. Hicks has plus speed which translates into stolen bases and good range in the OF, a plus throwing arm from years as a H.S pitcher, and he is an on base machine (.379 career OBP in the minors).Another top prospect looking to take advantage of a thin Twins roster is Kyle Gibson. Like Hicks, Gibson is a former 1st round pick (2009) and was on the fast track to the majors before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011. After missing the entire 2012 season following surgery and recovery, Gibson could easily earn both a ticket to Minneapolis and a spot in the starting rotation with a good showing in spring training.

Best Fantasy Option: For years this was a lock. You either went with Mauer or Morneau. Even after concussions reduced Morneau to a shell of his former prowess, you could still count on Mauer to help lead you to Fantasy glory. Now Mauer is still a solid fantasy option. He may no longer be considered a top 50 fantasy player but he can still hit for average and drive in runs at a higher clip than most catchers in the game today. His playing days behind the plate may be numbered as well. A better fantasy bet may be the former catcher, Josh Willingham. Willingham made quite an impression in his debut with the Twins in 2012. He set career highs in Home Runs (35) and RBI’s (110) and games played (145). It’s hard to say if the Hammer will match these exact numbers, but given what he’s done in his past 2 seasons; I’d be willing to bet that a 28 homer 90 RBI season is definitely in play.

Worst Case Scenario: It’s hard to come up with a worst case scenario for a team slotted to finish dead last in their division and miss the playoffs. If there is one, it’s definitely going to centre on injuries. The Twins cannot afford long term injuries to players like Mauer, Morneau, and Willingham, especially with no one who can step in and put up their kind of numbers.

Best Case Scenario: Let’s be honest here… saying that the Twins even have a chance at a Wild Card spot or the division is rather laughable. In order for that to have a remote possibility a few things would have to take place:

1. BOTH Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau not only have to stay healthy for the season, but they also have to put up MVP calibre seasons and numbers.
2. BOTH Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe would have to replicate their 2012 stats or better them.
3. Newly acquired Vance Worley and the revamped starting rotation would have to figure out how to shut down the loaded lineups of the American League.
4. Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibson use dark magic to summon the talents of the late (great) Kirby Puckett and perennial HOF snub Jack Morris in order to help lead the Twins back into October baseball.

Now you can see why it is HIGHLY unlikely for there to be a whole lot of positives this year in the Twin Cities.

2013 AL West Final Standing: 5th

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Cleveland Indians

2012 Record: 68 – 94 (4th in the AL Central)

Burning Questions: Can Terry Francona replicate his Bo’Sox magic with the Tribe? Will Ubaldo Jiminez ever find what he lost? How many bases will Michael Bourn swipe this season? How many times will Mark Reynolds whiff this season? Will Carlos Santana take the next step to become an “elite” level catcher? Will Chris Perez put up enough saves to back up his mouth?

Offseason Additions: RF Nick Swisher, CF Michael Bourn, SP Brett Myers, SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1B Mark Reynolds, CF Drew Stubbs, RP Matt Capps, RP Rich Hill, DH Chris McGuiness, RP Matt Albers, RP Bryan Shaw, 1B Jason Giambi, IF Mike Aviles, IF Ryan Raburn, 1B Yan Gomes, SP Scott Kazmir, SP Trevor Bauer (P)

Offseason Subtractions: RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Casey Kotchman, CF Grady Sizemore, DH Travis Hafner, IF Jack Hannahan, IF Jason Donald, SP Jeanmar Gomez, RP Tony Sipp, RP Roberto Hernandez, RP Dan Wheeler, RP Esmil Rogers, RP Rafael Perez, 1B Lars Anderson (P)

Prospect Outlook: The Indians were one of the busier teams during the offseason. They added a new coach (Francona) and two all-star calibre outfielders (Swisher and Bourn.) They were also involved in a three team trade that saw them give up Shin Soo Choo, but acquire Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer. If you’re a fan of the Tribe, then Bauer is a HUGE reason to be excited for years to come. Bauer was drafted 3rd overall out of UCLA by the Diamondbacks; the first pick that year was Bauer’s UCLA team mate; Gerrit Cole. Although some thought Bauer to be the more polished pitcher of the two, it would be Cole’s 100mph heater that led to his name being called two spots ahead of Bauer. In his first full season in the professional baseball, Trevor Bauer proved to be an absolute stud. He TORE UP the minors going 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA through three minor league levels, eventually culminating in a call up to Chase Field on June 28th, 2012. After a cup of tea with the D-Backs, Bauer was returned to the minors for more polish and was poised to make an impact with Arizona in 2013. However, that was not to be as Arizona flipped the highly touted Bauer to the Indians back in December. The move had a lot of baseball people scratching their heads. How could the D-Backs “give up” on someone who was as young and talented as Bauer, especially with not getting a proverbial ransom back in exchange? Whispers were being heard that Bauer had “make-up” issues and was not willing to step away from his “unorthodox” training regimen, which resulted in Bauer falling out of favour with the Diamondbacks organization. Bauer has been a staunch supporter of the long toss method of baseball training; citing that a weight lifting program would have no benefit on his diminutive frame, and in fact could lead to him harming himself. Bauer’s “stubbornness” and refusal to alter his training is what ultimately led to him being handed to the Indians. It’s hard to say what kind of impact Bauer will make in Cleveland in 2013; if any at all. Right now he is definitely in the mix for the 5th rotation spot but has to prove that he has better command of his pitches, and that he is capable of learning from his errors. Either way the future looks good in Cleveland as the Indians have a potential ace waiting in the wings.

Best Fantasy Option: Could this finally be the year that Carlos Santana puts it all together and becomes the complete package that the Indians and fantasy owners have been waiting for? His rookie campaign was cut short by a devastating broken leg in 2010. Santana was able to recover and played in 155 games in 2011 spread out between C, 1B, and DH where he put up a career high 27 HR’s and 79 RBI’s. In 2012, he played 12 less games, but still managed to knock out 18 HR’s and 76 RBI. Power number haven’t been the issue with Santana, the main issue has been his paltry batting average and high strikeout numbers. If the Indians are going to have ANY kind of chance of competing in the Central they will need a big year from the man behind the plate. Santana is a VERY attractive option for fantasy owners as he plays almost every day, has availability at 1B/DH, and puts up impressive power numbers for a catcher. Out of all the catchers in the MLB he’s definitely a Top 5 choice, perhaps even a Top 3.

Worst Case Scenario: Francona allows beer and fried chicken back in the clubhouse resulting in the 2011 Boston Red Sox 2.0… Just kidding. What I’d be more concerned about is the potential for big free agent signings Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to disappoint in their Cleveland debuts. Since 2009 Swisher has had the luxury of batting in one of the best offensive lineups in baseball, AND playing half of his games in that sin-bin known as new Yankee Stadium. Progressive Field is NOT Yankee Stadium, it can be DEATH on right-handed power hitters (26% drop in power numbers). Luckily Swish is a switch hitter and therefore may be able to compensate for any diminished power from the left side. The other marquee free agent signing was CF Michael Bourn. Bourn has played his entire career in the National League and making the transition to the AL may not be a complete walk in the park. Of Swisher and Bourn, I’d be willing to bet that Bourn is the one that disappoints this season in Cleveland. If the Tribe has any plans of October baseball this season, they will need BOTH Swisher and Bourn to make a HUGE impact on the diamond.

Best Case Scenario: The PLAYOFFS?!!? I don’t think so. The Indians would HAVE to be better than the Royals, White Sox AND the Tigers. In order for any chance of postseason ball we would have to see a number of things happen. Ubaldo Jiminez regains the magic he had in 2010 and becomes the ace that the Tribe was hoping he would be when they traded for him in 2011. He teams up with 2011 surprise Justin Masterson and new comer Trevor Bauer to create a 3-headed monster that stifles and dominates AL Central hitters. Carlos Santana puts up career high numbers and 2008 1st rounder Lonnie Chisenhall FINALLY breaks out. Francona is able to ensure that Asdrubal Cabrera doesn’t disappear after the all-star break, and that Chris Perez puts his talent where his mouth is. Throw in huge offensive seasons from free agents Swisher and Bourn and a surprise season from either Brett Myers or Scott Kazmir (remember him?) and we could have the Indians poised for a run at the Wild Card. Not completely out of the question… Just very unrealistic. The Tribe is VERY close to competing and contending for the AL Central crown, it just may still be a year or 2 away.

2013 AL West Final Standing: 4th

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Chicago White Sox

2012 Record: 85 – 77 (2nd in the AL Central)

Burning Questions: Can the Pale Hose put last season’s late collapse behind them? Will Chris Sale prove that 2012 wasn’t a fluke? How much longer can 37yr old Paul Konerko keep fighting the sands of time? Could it be Konerko’s last year in the Windy City? How much will the Sox miss A.J Pierzynski? Will Adam Dunn hit above .230 in a White Sox jersey? Will Tyler Flowers be the starting catcher all season long? Is Jake Peavy worth a 2yr/$29mil extension? Will Jeff Keppinger solve the revolving door issue at 3B?

Offseason Additions: 3B Jeff Keppinger, RP Matt Lindstrom, IF Angel Sanchez

Offseason Subtractions: C A.J. Pierzynski, 3B Kevin Youkilis, SP Brett Myers, SP Francisco Liriano, SP Phil Humber

Prospect Outlook: With their ’08 and 2010 1st round picks, Gordon Beckham and Chris Sale respectively, already contributing to the Major League roster; don’t expect any impact rookies this season. Their current top prospect is 2012 1st rounder Courtney Hawkins. Hawkins, who was picked 13th overall, doesn’t look to factor into the White Sox plans for at least 2 more years, but when he does; he’ll be a force to reckon with. That being said, if he can manage to stay healthy and cut down on his strikeouts; it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that ’09 1st rounder Jared Mitchell may make an appearance this year. Mitchell has only played two full seasons after a serious ankle injury cost him an entire season, but in those two seasons he has advanced all the way to AAA; where he’ll start this year. As stated above, Mitchell MUST cut down on his strike outs in order to make the transition to the big leagues. In just over 1000 at bats, Mitchell has struck out an alarming 402 times. With Adam Dunn already a black hole for strike outs, the White Sox can’t afford to have Mitchell doing his best Mark Reynolds impression at the plate.

Best Fantasy Option: The White Sox drafted a 6’6 180lb LHP out of Florida Gulf Coast University with the 13th pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft; Chris Sale. Sale signed his Major League contract on June 20th, 2010 and made his Major League debut that same year on August 6th. Used strictly as a reliever for his rookie and sophomore seasons, Sale showed absolutely no rookie nerves when facing the majors best. Sale’s stat line through two seasons looks like this:

2010: 2-1 • 1.93 ERA • 23.1 IP • 32 K’s • 4 SV

2011: 2-2 • 2.79 ERA • 71 IP • 79 K’s • 8 SV

Those are pretty impressive numbers to say the least for a 21 year old that jumped directly from college to the majors. Going into the 2012 season the White Sox announced that Sale would be making the transition from reliever to starter. Many pundits questioned if the Sox were making the right decision in allowing Sale to move from bullpen to the rotation. They worried about potential injuries due to an increased workload. They worried about Sale’s confidence taking a hit if AL hitters rocked him as a starter. In 2012 Chris Sale proved that they didn’t have much to worry about. Sale put up a borderline Cy Young calibre season in his first full season as an MLB starting pitcher. His numbers for the 2012 season:

17 – 8 • 3.05 ERA • 192 IP • 1.14 WHIP • 192 K’s • 1 CG

In contrast, the Boston Red Sox attempted to do the same thing with their own dominant young reliever; Daniel Bard. Where the Sox and Sale succeeded; the Bo’Sox and Bard failed spectacularly. Bard started only 10 games for the Bo’Sox before being moved back into the ‘pen before eventually being sent down to AAA. Bard’s stats for the 2012 season:

5 – 6 • 6.22 ERA • 59.1 IP • 1.73 WHIP

Bard also managed to average a 6.5 BB/9 compared to a 5.8 K/9. His struggles continued even after his demotion and the Bo’Sox are hoping former pitching coach turned manager John Farrell can return Bard to his once lights out status.

Will Sale repeat his 2012 campaign? It’s definitely possible. Although I think a 13-15 win season is more realistic.

Worst Case Scenario: In order to compete with the Tigers, Royals, and even the Indians, The Sox must have superb pitching and timely hitting. An injury to the oft-injured Jake Peavy and regression by Chris Sale would be the epitome of a worst case scenario. The chances of the Sox making a playoff run with the trio of John Danks, Gavin Floyd, and Jose Quintana is pretty slim to say the least. On the offensive front Paul Konerko is not getting any younger and struggled after the all star break last season. With a continued decline in offensive numbers from the aging Konerko and a trick or treat offensive season season from Tyler Flowers and Gordon Beckham the outlook looks rather bleak. Factor in the low average, strikeout prone Adam Dunn and the never ending enigma that is Alex Rios, and it could be a long season in Chi town.

Best Case Scenario: Konerko proves that age is only a number and leads the White Sox into Wild Card contention with a vintage Paulie K season (.283 • 32 •101). The big donkey Adam Dunn puts up another all or nothing season (40HR • 200+ SO) while Alex Rios shows that he can manage to string together two quality seasons in a row with another impressive offensive output (.290 • 20 • 85). Throw in a breakout season by former 1st round draft pick Gordon Beckham and continued improvement from Alejandro de Aza and the White Sox could win a lot of games with their bats alone. Luckily for them Jake Peavy manages to stay healthy for consecutive seasons and pairs up with Chris Sale to form one of the best 1-2 punches in the AL. It wouldn`t be completely out of the question to see John Danks return to his 13 win form and help solidify the front end of the White Sox rotation.

2013 AL West Final Standing: 3rd

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Kansas City Royals

2012 Record: (72 – 90) 3rd in the AL Central

Burning Questions: Could this REALLY be the year that the Royals finally take the next step?! Will James Shields make Royals fans forget about Wil Myers? Does Eric Hosmer return to his offensive output from his rookie season? Can Mike Moustakas have a breakout season? Will Salvador Perez live up to all the hype? Will a change in scenery help Ervin Santana put last season’s woes behind him? Is Billy Butler going to continue to be the best DH in baseball? How much will the Royals miss Joakim Soria in the backend of the bullpen?

Offseason Additions: SP James Shields, SP Wade Davis, SP Ervin Santana, C George Kottaras, OF Endy Chavez, 1B/OF Xavier Nady, RP Dan Wheeler, RP George Sherill, IF Miguel Tejada, IF Brandon Wood, OF Willy Taveras

Offseason Subtractions: P Joakim Soria, SP Vin Mazzaro, RF Wil Myers (P), SP Jake Odorizzi (P), SP Mike Montgomery (P), 3B/OF Patrick Leonard (P), 1B Clint Robinson (P)

Prospect Outlook: Many expected 2013 to be the year that top prospect Wil Myers landed in Kaufmann Stadium. Although the time for his arrival is still the same, it looks as if Myers will be landing in St. Petersburg at Tropicana Field. Myers proved to be the centerpiece in the trade that brought James Shields to town. For years the Royals had one of, if not the best farm system in all of baseball. The Royals have seen the fruits of their minor league system reach the majors at some point in the past 3 seasons. Prospects like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Aaron Crow, and Danny Duffy have all graduated from the Royals minor league system and are now making significant impacts on the Major League roster. Last season it looked as if Wil Myers would be a shoo-in for a late season call up as he was by far the best player in minor league baseball. In a season that saw the AL and NL impacted by two high level rookie CF’s; Myers went on to hit for a .314 AVG with 37 homeruns and 109 RBI’s through AA and AAA. Last offseason the Royals management realized that they had the offensive depth in order to contend, but were missing impact starters in their rotation. Having lost their 2 best pitchers to Tommy John surgery (Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy) the Royals turned to the trade market in order to solidify their rotation. After picking up Ervin Santana for a song, GM Dayton Moore made the move that trade that will define his tenure in KC. The Royals flipped Wil Myers and two top pitching prospects (Jake Odrizzi and Mike Montgomery) to Tampa Bay for James Shields and Wade Davis. The move does makes sense for the Royals as Shields gives them the legitimate ace that the Royals have been missing for years, and Wade Davis could factor in as a backend of the rotation starter or a power arm out of the bullpen. The question will be was it worth it? It’s hard to say what Myers will do in a Rays uniform but it’s no denying that he does have the tools to make him an impact player for years to come. With current top prospect Bubba Starling at least 2-3 years away from reaching Kaufmann, and Christian Colon road blocked by Alcides Escobar at SS; don’t be expecting any impact rookies to make a headlines in KC this year.

Best Fantasy Option: It really depends on what your team needs, but the Royals do have some very attractive fantasy options to meet most needs. Eric Hosmer looks to rebound from an abysmal sophomore campaign that saw him hit just .230 and saw a drop in his power numbers. Leftfielder Alex Gordon is always good to hit for a high average and loads of doubles (AL leading 51 in 2012), but has only topped 20 homers once in his career and an output of 15-17 is more likely. Even Salvador Perez is an attractive option as a starting catcher. Perez looked to take off last year, but a torn knee ligament in spring training kept him out for half the season. His numbers through that half season (.301 • 11 • 39), plus his impressive rookie sample size in 2011, are what have fantasy owners salivating at Salvy’s potential. Newly acquired James Shields, with his usual 14 wins and 200+ innings, is as good as any option as a 2nd or 3rd in a fantasy rotation.

That being said, the Royals best fantasy option comes down to one player: Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler. Butler has been as sure of a thing in KC as Andy Reid at an all you can eat barbecue joint. His 162 game average goes like this – .300 • 20 • 91 – and seeing as he is a fulltime DH; you can bank on him playing 158+ games. Butler had a breakout year in 2009 at the age of 23 (.301 • 21 • 93) and had an All Star campaign in 2012 at the age of 26 (.313 • 29 • 107) – mind you the game was in KC. Players historically enter their prime when they hit 27, some peak early, some peak late, but usually it’s 27. Seeing as Butler has had his numbers improve with each season for the past 3 years, and that he is entering his 27th year, we could see another All Star campaign from the man they call Country Breakfast.

Worst Case Scenario: Offseason acquisitions Ervin Santana and James Shields have mediocre campaigns in their KC debut. Santana proves that his 2012 campaign wasn’t just an off year (9-12 • 5.16 ERA) and sees his loss total go up for the 3rd straight season. Shields, who had been a workhorse for the Rays, struggles through wear and tear entering his 31st year and fails to hit 200 innings for only the 2nd time in his career. With Joakim Soria leaving for Arlington, Greg Holland proves ineffective as the everyday closer and the Royals are forced into a closer by committee which leads to many a blown lead. On the offensive front, franchise cornerstones Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas put up another ho-hum season and Salvador Perez can’t match the hype and struggles in his first full season. With the Royals out of playoff contention by the deadline, GM Dayton Moore starts receiving serious trade offers for KC mainstays Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. It doesn’t help KC fans to see Wil Myers become the Rays everyday CF by late April and go on to have an eventual Rookie of the Year season. It’s okay though KC, at least you have the Chiefs to look forward to errrrr…. ummm nevermind

Best Case Scenario: The Royals haven’t been to the playoff since 1985. Think about that for a second. That was before DVD’s and Blue Rays. Before the Marlins, Rockies, Rays, and DBacks were founded. I t was even before TWO wars in Iraq… TWO terrorist attacks on the WTC… and TWO DIFFERENT George Bush’s were President. Wait a sec… is there a patten there? Quickly back to topic… I think it’s safe to say that with the moves the Royals made in the offseason and the pieces that they already have in place, that anything short of a playoff appearance will be considered a failure.

2013 AL West Final Standing: 2nd

Detroit-Tigers-2012-ALCS-Facebook

Detroit Tigers

2012 Record: 88 – 74 (1st in the AL Central)

Burning Questions: Will the Tigers actually win more than 90 games this season? Do the Tigers have the best rotation in baseball? What does Miguel Cabrera do for a follow up? Did anybody else forget that the Tigers had Victor Martinez? Will Austin Jackson build off his 2012 success? How much gas does Torii Hunter have left in the tank? How soon until we see rookies Avasail Garcia or Nick Castellanos in the Motor City? Who clears the clubhouse spread out quicker; Miggy or Prince? Does Justin Verlander become the first $200 million pitcher? Who will be the everyday closer?

Offseason Additions: RF Torii Hunter, C Brayan Pena, SP Shawn Hill, C Ramon Cabrera (P)

Offseason Subtractions: RP Jose Valverde, IF Ryan Raburn, RP Daniel Schlereth, RF Delmon Young, C Gerald Laird, SP Andrew Oliver (P)

Prospect Outlook: For the first time since 2010 somebody other than Jose Valverde will be closing games this year in Detroit. Valverde, who had 35 saves in 2012, was shown the door after a subpar year which saw him lose the closer role late in the season and throughout the playoffs. With the Tigers choosing not to replace Valverde via free agency or the trade market; look for an in-house promotion or call-up to get the closers position. The early favourite for the role is 22 year old rookie Bruce Rondon. Rondon, who walks around at 6’3 275lbs, and possesses a 100mph fastball, was 3rd in saves in the minors last season, and he certainly looks the part of a Major League closer. The question is will he be able to translate his tools and minor league dominance into success at the Major League level? With no real competition for the closer role other than Joaquin Benoit or the ageless wonder Octavio Dotel, and a good showing in spring training; expect Rondon to receive the bulk of the save opportunities in 2013. With the signing of Torii Hunter in the offseason it’s hard to see how much of a role prospect Avisail Garcia will play in 2013. Garcia impressed in a sample size showing in the regular season and played big time minutes for Jim Leyland in the playoffs. However with Hunter, Austin Jackson, and Andy Dirks looking as the everyday outfielders, and Quintin Berry expected to be the 4th OF; it’s hard to see where Garcia fits in. With Garcia already struggling to get playing time, I wouldn’t expect top prospect Nick Castellanos to make an appearance until late in the season, or as an injury replacement. Castellanos was Detroit’s top pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur draft and his bat has him sitting at AAA knocking on the big league door. Detroit had Castellanos switch to the OF from 3B as he was road blocked by Miguel Cabrera.

Best Fantasy Option: Want to talk about an embarrassment of riches… where would you like to start with the Tigers? Let’s be honest… is there any one player you would rather have than the reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera? Miggy is THE best player in the game today. He hasn’t hit for less than .300 since 2008. Hasn’t failed to hit 30+ home runs since 2006, and the last time he drove in less than 100 RBI’s was his rookie season in 2003, and even then he had 62 RBI’s in 87 games. Sadly, the only way that you’ll end up with Miggy is:

a) You have the 1st overall pick and want to go with a more proven player. Sorry Mike Trout.
b) You have the 2nd overall pick and the team ahead of you drafted Mike Trout.
c) You’re in a keeper league and you drafted Miguel Cabrera in a previous draft.

Luckily for you, the Tigers possess another feared slugger and fantasy monster in Prince Fielder. The Tigers shocked the baseball world in the 2011 offseason when they landed Prince Fielder for the handsome price of $214 million over 9 years. In Fielder, the Tigers got one of the ELITE power hitters in the game today, and a sure fire candidate to become the teams DH by year 3 of his contract. Say what you will about the deal, what you can’t say is that Fielder was a disappointment. Prince would play in all 162 games and produced a line of .313 • 30 HR • 108 RBI in his Motown debut. With a plethora of quality first basemen in the MLB, I’d definitely put Prince in the top 3 with Joey Votto and Albert Pujols.

On the mound the Tigers have (arguably) the best pitcher in baseball in Justin Verlander and a strikeout artist in Max Scherzer. Last year Verlander and Scherzer were arguably the best 1-2 pitching duo in the majors. Their 2012 stats:

Verlander: 17 – 8 • 2.64 ERA • 238.1 IP • 239 K’s • 1.06 WHIP

Scherzer: 16 -7 • 3.74 ERA • 187.2 IP • 231 K’s • 1.27 WHIP

Verlander’s the epitome of a fantasy stud. He’ll do it all for you: wins, K’s, innings. He’ll also be gone by the 2nd round in most pools. Scherzer might be the more attractive option as you’ll be able to pick up a few other pieces for your team before having to worry about picking him up.

Honourable Mention: Austin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, Alex Avila, Victor Martinez

Worst Case Scenario: Last season the Tigers won the Central and made it to the World Series with an 87 win season. I’m not so sure that a playoff berth or World Series appearance will be good enough this year around. The Tigers possess the type of roster that one would create in GM mode in MLB the Show. Although they have a stacked roster, any kind of injury or regression to Cabrera, Fielder, or Verlander would be devastating. Players of their calibre cannot be replaced by a simple call-up or waiver claim. With teams like the Royals and Indians making big offseason moves, and the always dangerous White Sox not being a team to sleep on; the Tigers will need every man healthy and firing on all cylinders in order to hold back the competition and claim another AL Central crown.

Best Case Scenario: Your team has the best position player and pitcher in the game today? Check. Those players are surrounded by a strong supporting cast? Check. The team has a quality coaching staff and a front office with a win now attitude? Check. The team is poised to contend for multiple titles? Check. World Series or bust? Check!

2013 AL West Final Standing: 1st

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