For the third straight year, the Detroit Tigers advanced to the ALCS — this time losing to the Boston Red Sox. They did this with the strength of their rotation, (156 GS by the top five and an AL record 1,428 strikeouts) and some lineup thump from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
The Tigers made a flurry of off-season moves to shake things up and likely take some pressure off new manager Brad Ausmus. A team with no speed, they traded Fielder for Ian Kinsler and then signed Rajai Davis to split time in left with Andy Dirks.
With Fielder gone, Nick Castellanos takes over third base and the big man, Cabrera, will move back to first base. Austin Jackson will slide down in the batting order giving the 2014 Detroit Tigers a new-look lineup.
In an upsetting move, Doug Fister was traded to the Nationals for a utility infielder, some bullpen help and a prospect. Drew Smyly will take his rotation spot, leaving an already shaken bullpen depleted further. New comers Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Krol look to fill the vacancies left by Joaquin Benoit, Smyly and Jose Veras.
Projected 2014 Detroit Tigers “Go-To” Lineup:
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Andy Dirks, LF
- Alex Avila, C
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Jose Iglesias, SS
- SP1 Justin Verlander
- SP2 Max Scherzer
- SP3 Anibal Sanchez
- SP4 Rick Porcello
- SP5 Drew Smyly
- Setup: Bruce Rondon
- Closer: Joe Nathan
Fantasy Studs: Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander
Miguel Cabrera will still have 3B eligibility in 2014. Even without it, he’s a top-two player in Fantasy Baseball.
Verlander, Sanchez and Scherzer are three elite SP options who should give you wins and Ks, with good ratios. Both Sanchez and Scherzer are young and healthy and — while they may not repeat their ERA crown and Cy Young award — both are top pitching options for 2014.
Justin Verlander had offseason core muscle repair surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. The good news is that this may have affected Verlander’s lackluster 2013 performance. He’s no longer a top-5 (or even 10) starting pitcher, but he’s still a great option.
Breakout Candidate: Drew Smyly
As a starter in 2012, Smyly pitched 95 IP, allowing 26 BB while striking out 88, allowing opponents to hit just .243. Smyly will start again in 2014 and fill the long-time need of the Tigers for a solid LHP in the rotation.
Smyly is everything you want in a young arm: good mechanics while inducing a high amount of ground balls and striking out hitters at a high rate. There is little doubt that the future is very bright for this young southpaw. For 2014, with an innings limit of likely 150, I’m being conservative with a line of 9-6/3.95/1.25/125. The added relief pitcher eligibility will make those numbers a little more valuable than otherwise.
Sleeper Candidate: Bruce Rondon
In Rondon’s last 20 appearances of 2013, he sported a 2.29 ERA with a 27.9 K%. Opponents hit just .222 against him. In 2014, Rondon looks to solidify the eighth-inning duties. With Nathan on board, barring injury, Rondon won’t get many save opportunities, but he should be a holds monster and help with strikeouts, ERA and possibly WHIP.
Bust Candidate: Ian Kinsler
It is difficult for me to put Kinsler as a “bust” because I’m not expecting more than 90/9/60/20/.260 from him anyway. However, he’s being taken at the end of the fourth round, ahead of Wil Myers, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale and the aforementioned Verlander.
Kinsler’s power days are behind him, and while I’m grateful for the infusion of speed into the Tigers’ lineup, he simply is not a top-50 Fantasy player. There are plenty of second base options (Jurickson Profar, Daniel Murphy, Jed Lowrie and Anthony Rendon) that can be had much later.
Top Rookie: Nick Castellanos
Castellanos is an exceptional hitting prospect, coming in at No. 18 in my top 100 prospect list. His contact rates have improved steadily and there was some sign of life to his power potential last year in Triple-A.
It appears that Castellanos will be handed the 3B job to start 2014 and he’s been taking 600 ground balls a day since early December. While he won’t win any Gold Gloves despite Omar Vizquel’s tutelage, his bat should more than make up for any defensive shortcomings.
The power is still a concern, especially for 2014, but Castellanos will join a talented AL rookie class vying for the coveted Rookie of The Year Award. For 2014, look for 65 runs, 12 hommers, 75 RBI and a .280 batting average from the young third baseman.
What Should You Know?
The 2014 Detroit Tigers are going to score a lot of runs and they are going to win a lot of games with their strong rotation. While recent years have been inconsistent as far as scoring runs, I like the added element of speed.
The rotation took a hit with the loss of Fister, but I like Smyly to cover most of that. The bullpen, as always, will be the issue for Detroit. Benoit was outstanding in the ninth last year, as Nathan projects to be in 2014. How Rondon, Al Alburquerque and newcomers Chamberlain and Krol perform will likely determine just how far Detroit gets in the 2014 post-season.
FantasyAssembly.com is a team of six long-time Fantasy Baseball enthusiasts with over 100 years of experience. Check us out for rankings geared toward many different league types and get detailed answers to your burning questions using our Ask the Assembly feature.
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