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Baseball preview: Detroit Tigers

After losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 World Series, the Detroit Tigers were not satisfied with finishing in second place in the AL Central last season. Despite going 88-74, the Tigers finished eight games behind the Cleveland Indians and failed to make the playoffs. The New York Yankees took the AL Wild Card by going 94-68.

In order to compete in 2008, the Tigers decided they needed to trade their young prospects for proven superstars. First, they acquired shortstop Edgar Renteria from the Atlanta Braves for two prospects in October. Then, they shipped pitcher Andrew Miller, outfielder Cameron Maybin and four other minor leaguers to the Florida Marlins for left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis and third baseman Miguel Cabrera in December.

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It's clear that the Tigers think that they can win it all in 2008. With their lineup, I think it's hard to disagree with that logic. The Boston Red Sox can ever be counted out, especially since they are defending champions, but I think Detroit is the favorite in the American League heading into the season.

Still, they still have to play 162 games like everyone else. Anything can happen between now and October, but the Tigers definitely have a lot of players who will turn many fantasy teams around the country into championship contenders. It'll be interesting to see if those players will be able to work together to bring a World Series title to Detroit.

Detroit Tigers

2007 record: 88-74 (2nd in AL Central)

Key additions: 3B Miguel Cabrera, LHP Dontrelle Willis, SS Edgar Renteria, OF Jacque Jones

Key losses: 1B Sean Casey, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Chad Durbin, UTIL Omar Infante

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. Miguel Cabrera, 3B – It will be exciting to see how Cabrera adapts to the American League, but I don't think he'll have a problem. Cabrera has a .313 career batting average and he's averaged 31 home runs and 115 RBIs over the past four seasons. This year, I'd expect similar numbers, and Cabrera should also score close to 100 runs. If you're going to draft him, do it early because he'll be gone after the first round.

2. Justin Verlander, RHP – I'm going to make a bold prediction. Verlander is going to win the AL Cy Young Award this season. It might be a bit of a stretch, but he has won 35 games in his first two full seasons. With the addition of Cabrera and Renteria to the offense, Verlander could easily win 20 games in 2008. He'll keep the ERA below 3.75 and pick up around 180 strikeouts. I'd have no problems selecting him as my top pitcher. Just remember my prediction when it comes true.

3. Magglio Ordonez, RF – Ordonez finished second to Alex Rodriguez for American League MVP in 2007. He established career highs in batting average (.363), runs (117), hits (216), doubles (54) and RBIs (139). With the addition of Cabrera and Renteria to the lineup, Ordonez could set another career high in RBIs this season. I don't think his numbers will be quite as high, but he's still very valuable.

4. Carlos Guillen, 1B – After playing sporadically at first base over the past two seasons, Guillen makes the permanent switch there in 2008. He hit .296 and set career highs in home runs (21) and RBIs (102) in 2007. Guillen will likely hit around .300 with 15-20 home runs and 85-95 RBIs. There are better options at first base, but it won't be a bad thing if you're stuck with Guillen in that spot.

5. Curtis Granderson, CF – Last season, Granderson hit .302 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs. He finished third in the American League with 122 runs scored and he led the league with 23 triples. Granderson also showed his speed by picking up 26 stolen bases. His only negative attribute is that he strikes out a lot. Granderson led the league with 174 strikeouts in 2006 and finished seventh with 141 last season. If your league counts strikeouts against you, then his value may decrease some. He should be drafted in the early to middle rounds if he is available.

6. Gary Sheffield, DH – It's been a fine career for Sheffield and he only needs 20 home runs to reach 500. Last season, he hit .265 with 25 home runs and 75 RBIs. He stole 22 bases in 2007, but I wouldn't count on that again this year. He'll hit around .270 with 15-20 home runs and 70-80 RBIs. The good news is the Tigers don't need him to be that productive because they have other weapons. The bad news is your fantasy team won't need him if he's not that productive.

7. Edgar Renteria, SS – Renteria established a career high by hitting .332 in 2007. It's more likely that he'll be around his .291 career average this season, but he'll likely score close to 100 runs and have at least 30 doubles. Renteria will also reach double digits in home runs and stolen bases, so he's a solid option at shortstop. He should be drafted in the middle rounds of your draft.

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Hidden gems:

1. Jeremy Bonderman, RHP – To be honest, there really isn't a hidden player in Detroit who could be headed for a breakout season. Bonderman is the closest person to fit the description. He's only 25 and already has five years experience. After a horrendous rookie season with a 6-19 record and 5.56 ERA, Bonderman has reached double digits in wins in the past four years. If he can get his ERA below 4.25 (4.78 career ERA), then he could be a valuable pitcher for you to have on your team.

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