Thursday, March 10, 2016


By Michael Wong

Lakeland, Fla.--The Detroit Tigers wasted no time rebuilding on the fly as the Hot Stove Season got underway as they undertook a dizzying series of moves that once again has them as one of the better teams in Major League Baseball.  While the 2015 season was a major downer that resulted in a mini-house cleaning at the trade deadline, the Tigers retooled by trading for closer Francisco Rodriguez and signing Justin Upton in free agency among other moves.  With that said, let's dig in and take a look at some of the themes facing the team in 2016 fantasy baseball.

1.  Is Miguel Cabrera still a first round superstar?  How that question be asked coming off another batting title campaign from Cabrera in 2016 when he batted a scorching .338?  As tremendous a hitter as Cabrera remains, the issue here is the drop in power we have seen from him the last two seasons to go along with some ill health.  Cabrera is now turning 33 in April which is getting a bit long in the tooth and health could continue to be a problem going forward.  Also there is no denying that the power has slipped here as Cabrera hit just 25 and 18 home runs the last two years after going for 40 or more in 2012 and 2013.  We are not saying Cabrera can't go back to the 30 home run mark but 40 seems like it is finished and more health woes could be in the offing.  The swing is still tremendous though and that means Cabrera is still very worth as a late first round pick.  His days of being a top 2-3 guy though look finished.

2.  Speaking of power, how about J.D. Martinez in 2015?  Boy do the Houston Astros wish they had a do-over with Martinez.  After mixing some promising numbers with some ugly campaigns, the Astros gave up on Martinez a bit prematurely.  The Tigers benefitted greatly as they saw Martinez slam 23 and then a crazy 38 the last two years with the team.  Now in his prime at 28, we can buy the power explosion from Martinez but perhaps more in the 30 range since the 38 is in outlier territory for now.  Be that as it may, Martinez makes up for a high K rate with a solid walk rate and he seems primed for another high-end outfielder 2 campaign. 

3.  Will Justin Upton ever find consistency?  By now we have to stop waiting for that monster blockbuster campaign from Upton as he is now 28 and into his prime.  Upton runs as hot and cold as anyone in fantasy baseball and his K rate has only gotten worse as he has gotten more experience.  That means Upton is a headache in weekly head-to-head leagues and his average is not pretty.  On the plus side, Upton has tremendous power that has him consistently in the 25-30 home run range to go with a handful of steals.  Still he has dropped into high-end outfielder 2 range after being an outfielder 1 initially as a professional hitter. 

4.  Should we be a bit leery of Jordan Zimmerman now that he is in the American League?  We have written many glowing posts about Zimmerman over the years during his stay with the Washington Nationals and rightfully so as he quietly has been one of the best and most affordable low-end fantasy baseball ace starters in the game.  While Zimmerman always came up short in the strikeout department compared to some other aces, his ERA and WHIP were almost always stellar and he won a bunch of games with the Nats.  Now though he comes off a 2015 campaign that was a bit of a dud both in terms of rising ratios and due to some bad health.  There are a lot of innings piled onto Zimmerman's arm over the last few years and he does have a Tommy John surgery in his past.  Also Zimmerman now has lost a bit of velocity as well which is concerning.  Finally, Zimmerman makes his way to the much tougher American League which means his ERA and WHIP will rise a bit again as it does for almost any other pitcher making such a move.  We would downgrade Zimmerman to clear SP 2 status and be leery overall in investing too much in him this season due to some shaky red flags. 

5.  Do you still dislike Justin Verlander as much as you have the last couple of seasons?  Absolutely.  Verlander is just the latest example of a high-mileage arm that has seen more than a few ticks fall away which resulted in sharply rising ERA's and WHIP's.  That is the clear case with Verlander who has leaked velocity for awhile and is a shell of his former ace self.  Injuries, an increased walk rate, and increased home run rate are also issues he continues to deal with as he ages.  While Verlander did have a decent second half of 2015, there is no reason to bother here anymore due to the clear trends going in the wrong direction.  Put Verlander on your DO NOT DRAFT LIST this season. 


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