Since reaching the World Series in 2006, the Tigers have been little more than paper contenders in the AL Central. The 2011 season could be different, though, after Detroit shed the long-term, high-priced contracts of Jeremy Bonderman, Magglio Ordonez (before re-signing him), Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis this past offseason. In their place, the Tigers opted to bring in a proven middle-of-the-order hitter (Victor Martinez), bullpen help (Joaquin Benoit) and a cheap reclamation project (Brad Penny). The Twins and White Sox are still in the Tigers’ way, but with promising additions to the lineup, bullpen, and starting rotation, the Tigers should once again challenge for a playoff spot.
Signed infielder Jhonny Peralta to a two-year, $11.25-million contract.
The Tigers were impressed enough by Peralta’s .253/.314/.396 line after acquiring him in late July to offer the infielder a two-year deal. He will be the Tigers’ full-time shortstop in 2011.
Signed C/DH Victor Martinez to a four-year, $50-million deal.
Martinez, 32, proved he still has plenty left in the tank last season, hitting .302/.351/.493 in 493 at-bats with the Red Sox. He’ll be the Tigers’ primary designated hitter while also spelling Alex Avila behind the plate.
Designated P Zach Miner for assignment.
Miner, who was sidelined for the entire 2010 season with an elbow injury, elected free agency over an assignment to Triple-A Toledo and eventually signed a minor-league deal with the Royals.
Released Alfredo Figaro.
The Tigers sold Figaro’s contract to Orix of the Japanese Baseball League. Figaro was 2-4 with a 6.54 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in 13 career appearances with the Tigers.
Signed OF Magglio Ordonez to a one-year, $10-million contract.
Instead of going with a younger, long-term option in the outfield, Detroit opted to bring Ordonez back for one more season. He bounced back in 2010, hitting .303 with 12 homers and 59 RBI in 323 at-bats before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Ordonez will man right field and hit third for the Tigers this season.
Signed Brad Penny to one-year, incentive-laden contract.
Penny had trouble staying healthy last season, appearing in just nine games for the Cardinals while battling a strained lat muscle. The Tigers thought enough of his upside to hand him the No. 5 spot in the rotation heading into spring training.
Traded Armando Galarraga to Arizona in exchange for minor league pitchers Kevin Eichorn and Ryan Robowski.
After signing Brad Penny to assume the fifth spot in the rotation, Detroit opted to trade Galarraga somewhere he would have a chance to start. Eichorn and Robowski both have to prove themselves in the higher levels of the minors before being considered serious threats to crack the Tigers’ roster.
Lost Jeremy Bonderman, Johnny Damon and Gerald Laird via free agency.
With Phil Coke moving from the bullpen to the starting five and Penny being signed to fill out the rotation, Detroit didn’t have room left for Bonderman. Laird lost playing time to Avila last year and would have been pushed even further down the depth chart following the signing of Martinez. Damon opted to sign with Tampa Bay after failing to establish himself as an integral part of the Tigers’ lineup last season.
Lineup (vs. RH/LH)
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Will Rhymes/Scott Sizemore, 2B
3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Victor Martinez, DH
6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
7. Ryan Raburn, LF
8. Brandon Inge, 3B
9. Alex Avila, C
Most of the Tigers’ lineup is set in stone, as Jackson, Ordonez, Cabrera, Martinez, Peralta, Inge and Avila will all be locked into their respective slots for the majority of the season. Raburn figures to see the majority of starts in left field, but he could end up in a platoon with Brennan Boesch or Casper Wells if he gets off to a slow start. The real uncertainty comes at second base, where the Tigers will have an open competition in spring training. Carlos Guillen and Danny Worth could also factor into the mix alongside Rhymes and Sizemore.
1. Justin Verlander
2. Max Scherzer
3. Rick Porcello
4. Phil Coke
5. Brad Penny
For the first time in years, Detroit isn’t expected to have an open competition for rotation spots in spring training. Coke will be interesting to watch as he transitions from the bullpen to the starting five, but he’ll need to have a monumental collapse paired with a breakout spring from a young arm for his status to change. As is the norm with Penny, he just has to prove he can stay healthy to nail down a job.
Closer: Jose Valverde
Key Bullpen Members: Joaquin Benoit, Ryan Perry, Joel Zumaya, Brad Thomas, Dan Schlereth, and Robbie Weinhardt
Notes of Import, Fantasy and Otherwise:
The major issues facing the Tigers this spring are:
Who will play second base?
The Tigers started six players at second base last season. Rhymes (46) and Guillen (45) saw the most starts, but Sizemore, Raburn, Worth and Ramon Sanitago also saw their turn at the keystone. Rhymes and Sizemore are the frontrunners to nab the starting gig out of spring training, but Guillen figures to have a say in the position battle once he returns to action in late March. Santiago and Worth are better known for their glove work and seemed destined for bench roles as utility players.
Of that group, Sizmore presents the most upside. The 26-year-old has shown a decent combination of power and speed in the minors, but that has yet to translate to success at the top level. He has logged just 143 career at-bats, so he shouldn’t be written off yet. Rhymes proved to be a sparkplug for the Tigers late last season, but for fantasy purposes he doesn’t offer much outside of a quality average and the ability to swipe some bags. Guillen is the wild card. If he can return from his knee injury and stay healthy, Guillen could be a solid source of run production for the Tigers.
Can Ryan Raburn avoid an early-season slump and grab hold of the everyday left field gig?
Raburn received ample buzz heading into last season after a strong finish to the 2009 campaign, but his annual early-season slump quickly cut into his playing time. However, after another strong finish, Detroit is hoping Raburn can get off to a quick start and grab the team’s starting left field job. Boesch and Wells wait in the wings if Raburn goes into another early-season swoon, but he’ll have an extended chance to solidify his role on the team this season. If Raburn can come anywhere close to his post All-Star break line of .315/.366/.534, he’ll be one of the bigger breakouts in all of fantasy.
Does Rick Porcello bounce back from his sophomore slump?
Porcello was a breakout candidate in his sophomore campaign. He was expected to build on an impressive rookie campaign by relying on his quality pitch arsenal to improve on his low strikeout total and solidify himself as the Tigers’ No. 2 pitcher. Instead, he slumped early in the season and required a short mid-season stint in the minors to rediscover his rookie form. The trip to the minors did the trick, as Porcello bounced back to post a 6-5 record with a 4.00 ERA and 1.16 WHIP after the All-Star break. With Scherzer now the team’s clear-cut No. 2, Porcello should be able to find a comfort zone with less pressure on him.
With Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer sitting atop the rotation, Detroit has one of the best one-two punches in the American League. The addition of V-Mart to the middle of the Tigers’ order should improve what was already a decent offense.
Defense once again remains this team’s biggest flaw. Question marks at the backend of the rotation and a lack of a proven shutdown lefty in the bullpen could also cause this train to derail.
Rising: Max Scherzer’s debut season with the Tigers got off to a rocky start. The 25-year-old righty saw a dip in fastball velocity and had difficulty commanding his breaking ball during the first two months of the season. As a result, Detroit sent Scherzer on a short stint to Triple-A Toledo to right the ship. After rediscovering both his velocity and slider during his trip to Toledo, Scherzer came back to the big leagues and pitched better than he had at any point in his big league career. Over the course of his final 23 starts, Scherzer went 11-7 with a 2.46 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 153.2 innings. With a solid strikeout rate (8.5 K/9 IP) and continued improvement in control (3.2 BB/9 IP), the former first-round pick remains a strong middle-of-the rotation option; but it's his potential to develop into an ace that should make him an attractive target on draft day.
Declining: Brandon Inge put together another campaign of solid defensive play, mediocre power (13 homers, 70 RBI) and a low average (.247) in 2010. Outside of power surges in 2006 (27 homers, 83 RBI) and 2009 (27 homers, 84 RBI), Inge has been one of the worst hitting third basemen in the majors over the past six seasons. Even when he has been able to post increased power numbers, his low batting average still limited his fantasy value to deeper formats. The Tigers committed to another two years of Inge at the hot corner this offseason, but fantasy owners would be better off looking elsewhere for production at third base.
Sleeper: Ryan Raburn was tabbed as a breakout candidate heading into last season thanks to a strong finish to his 2009 campaign. Unfortunately, Raburn didn't live up to the hype in the early season, hitting just .208/.287/.350 before the All-Star break. But like the previous year, Raburn went on a torrid stretch the final two months, hitting .315 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI over the final 70 games. The Tigers’ brass has committed to making Raburn a bigger part of the team over the course of a full season; and he is expected to open the 2011 season as the starting left fielder. If Raburn avoids an early-season slump and accumulates more than 500 at-bats for the first time in his career, he'll hold value in any format.
Supersleeper: Andrew Oliver made his major league debut in 2010, finishing 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA and 18:13 K:BB ratio in 22 innings. Despite the bumpy start to his major league career, Oliver remains one of the Tigers' top pitching prospects. The 2009 second-round pick out of Oklahoma State University was solid in his stops at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo last season, compiling a 9-8 record with a 3.45 ERA, 1.281 WHIP and 119 strikeouts in 130.1 innings. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has been adamant this offseason about Oliver’s chances to nab a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’ll need Coke to tank or Penny to get hurt to really make an impact. Still, if either of those things happen, Oliver could surprise.
Here's a rundown on the rest of the team not mentioned above.
Alex Avila, C -- After a solid 29-game stint with the Tigers in 2009, Avila came into the 2010 season with high expectations. Unfortunately he struggled in his first full season, finishing with a .228/.316/.340 line in 294 at-bats while splitting time with Gerald Laird behind the plate. The Tigers brought in Victor Martinez this offseason, but the plan is to ride Avila as the team's No. 1 backstop, giving him the majority of starts against right-handed pitching. With that gig, Avila could eclipse 400-plus at-bats in his sophomore season. His struggles at the plate in 2010 will push away some suitors, but Avila has the skills to put up a decent average with some pop. He's worth a look in deep leagues and formats that start two catchers.
Joaquin Benoit, RP -- Benoit was a great speculative gamble by the Rays, who signed him to a minor-league contract after the pitcher passed a physical showing no ill effects from rotator cuff surgery in 2009. After a brief stint with Triple-A Durham to start the season, Benoit went on to be arguably the best setup man in the league. His 1.34 ERA and 0.680 WHIP ranked first among relievers in the American League with at least 60 innings. With the Rays in cost-cutting mode, Benoit parlayed his spectacular season into a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Tigers. He'll likely set up for Jose Valverde and should deliver excellent peripheral numbers in that role.
Brennan Boesch, OF -- Boesch's 2010 season was a tale of two halves. Prior to the All-Star break, the 26-year-old made a push to be included in the Mid-Summer Classic, hitting .342 with 12 homers and 49 RBI in 243 at-bats. After the break, Boesch struggled to the tune of .163/.237/.222 in 221 at-bats. Boesch also had problems with his glove, finishing with the lowest fielding percentage (.957) of any outfielder in the majors with at least 100 starts. His second-half swoon at the dish and struggles in the field have left Boesch's role for 2011 in question. With the re-signing of Magglio Ordonez, Boesch will be relegated to fourth outfielder, at best. The young left-handed slugger showed enough potential in the first half of the 2010 season to warrant a look in deep formats and keeper leagues, but the reduced playing time entering the 2011 season should be enough to hold off on selecting him in shallower formats.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B -- Cabrera put together another banner campaign in 2010. He compiled Triple Crown caliber numbers, leading the American League in RBI (126) while finishing second in batting average (.328) and third in homers (38). The Tigers slugger has been the model of consistency throughout his career, compiling seven consecutive seasons of 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI. At 28, he's just now in the prime of his career, so it's entirely possible we haven't even seen the best from him yet. Outside of Albert Pujols there might not be a better or safer fantasy first baseman.
Phil Coke, SP/RP -- Coke was a valuable piece of the Tigers' bullpen in 2010 after being acquired in a three-team swap last winter. He compiled a 7-5 record with a 3.76 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 64.2 innings. The lefty will be transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation for the 2011 season, which would normally give a pitcher's fantasy value a significant boost, but Coke's transition from a reliever to a starter may be bumpy. While he was originally a starter when he came up through the Yankees' farm system, he has been primarily a relief pitcher since the second half of the 2008 season. The Tigers aren't worried about Coke's transition to starter as far as stamina and endurance go, but we have our concerns that he'll be able to retain his 7.4 K/9IP as he switches from a "max-effort" reliever to part of the rotation. Deep leagues and Al-only formats might want to take a look at Coke as an option for the end of their rotations, but he'll be a risky selection in shallower formats.
Carlos Guillen, 2B/DH -- Like each of the two previous seasons, Guillen's 2010 campaign was derailed by injuries. The 35-year-old veteran only managed to appear in 68 games thanks to multiple lower-body injuries, including a season-ending knee injury, which resulted in microfracture surgery. Despite the barrage of injuries, Guillen actually put up decent numbers in his 253 at-bats, finishing at .273/.327/.419 with six home runs and 34 RBI. The Tigers owe Guillen $13 million for the 2011 season, so the team will try to find a place for him if he's healthy, but where he plays is still uncertain at this point. He'll likely end up splitting time between second base, the position he finished at last season, and designated hitter. He's too much of an injury risk in shallower formats, but Guillen could still provide some value in deeper leagues thanks to his eligibility at second base.
Austin Jackson, OF -- Jackson had a stellar first season with the Tigers, hitting .293 while leading all American League rookies in hits (181), runs (103) and steals (27). The 24-year-old outfielder also provided the Tigers with Gold-Glove caliber defense in spacious Comerica Park. His two biggest shortcomings are at the plate with his lack of power (four home runs and questionable plate discipline -- 170:47 K:BB). The power is expected to develop over time, but Jackson's high strikeout total and unsustainable .399 BABIP hint at a drop in batting average. Despite those worries, Jackson showed enough overall value in his rookie campaign to be considered a solid outfield option in mixed leagues looking for a cheap source of steals with potential for moderate power down the line.
Donald Kelly -- Kelly was a jack-of-all-trades off the Tigers' bench in 2010, spending time at every position but catcher, second base and shortstop. The Tigers' utility man finished the season hitting .244/.272/.374 with nine home runs and 27 RBI in 238 at-bats. The 31-year-old is expected to have a similar role with the team in 2011, but his playing time could see a dip if the Tigers stay relatively healthy.
Victor Martinez, C/DH -- Martinez appeared to be a nice fit in Boston. He liked the city, he was a big-time bat for the middle of lineup, and he filled a screaming need at catcher. Additionally, he showed versatility at first base and could have become the designated hitter once the Red Sox part ways with David Ortiz. Alas, the Red Sox had concerns about the final years of a long-term contract for a 32-year-old catcher. The Tigers, however, didn't. In Detroit, Martinez is expected to be the team's primary DH with Alex Avila working as the team's No. 1 backstop. Martinez will likely catch on days when Detroit faces a left-hander -- Avila is a lefty swinger and Martinez absolutely mashes southpaws. He's a nice fit in Detroit and if not asked to catch every day, may still be a good fit in 2014 when the contract expires.
Magglio Ordonez, OF -- Ordonez was well on his way to being one of the better bounce-back stories of 2010 before suffering a season-ending broken ankle in late July. Prior to sustaining his injury, Ordonez hit .303/.378/.474 with 12 home runs and 59 RBI in 323 at-bats. Mags' recovery from his broken ankle has gone smoothly and the 37-year-old outfielder is expected to be at full strength for the start of the season. Detroit declined to pick up Ordonez's $15-million option for the 2011 season but re-signed him to a one-year deal in December. While Ordonez isn't quite the power hitter we saw during his prime years, he still has plenty of pop in his bat and is a sure bet to post a .300 batting average while driving in runs from the middle of the Tigers lineup. Don't forget about him in the mid-to-late rounds.
Brad Penny, SP -- A strained lat suffered in May lingered ... and lingered ... and lingered. Penny was unable to return after the injury and was limited to just nine starts for the Cardinals last season. On the plus side, his 1.5 BB/9IP was the best mark of his career. He'll compete with Armando Galarraga for the No. 5 spot in the Detroit rotation after signing with the Tigers. Moving to the AL won't help his fantasy value, but his outlook is more dependent on his health.
Jhonny Peralta, 3B -- Peralta started the 2010 season slowly in Cleveland, but he had a mild resurgence after being traded to Detroit in late July. In 57 games with Detroit, Peralta hit .253 with eight homers and 38 RBI. At that pace, Peralta would have finished with about 20-25 homers and 100 RBI in a full 162-game season with Detroit. The Tigers liked what they saw out of Peralta enough to ink him to a two-year deal this offseason and hand him the full-time gig at shortstop. Peralta will likely slot in behind stars like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Magglio Ordonez in the Tigers' lineup, so he'll have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. Given the comfort level he showed with his new squad last season and the expected cushy spot in the batting order, Peralta could be in line to return to the type of power production we saw from him during his best years with the Indians.
Ryan Perry, RP -- Perry had some ups and downs during his sophomore season, but by year's end, he was able to show improvements from his rookie campaign. After a rough May and June, Perry was demoted to Triple-A Toledo to work on his control issues. His stint in the minors did the trick, as the 24-year-old reliever returned to the Tigers to post a 2.37 ERA and 25:9 K:BB ratio in 32 appearances after the All-Star break. Tigers manager Jim Leyland is banking on Perry establishing himself as a legit late-inning option this season, but the presence of Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit will limit Perry's ability to vulture too many saves. He's still considered the Tigers' closer of the future, but keeper leaguers likely will have to wait until the 2012 season at the earliest to reap any significant benefits in the saves category.
Rick Porcello, SP -- After a stellar rookie campaign, Porcello took a step back in 2010, finishing the season 10-12 with a 4.92 ERA and 1.389 WHIP in 27 starts. While Porcello started the 2010 season slowly, he was able to turn things around after a brief stint in the minors, posting a 6-5 record and 4.00 ERA after the break. The 22-year-old sports a mid-90s fastball and solid secondary pitches, which includes an improving slider that induces loads of groundballs. Unfortunately, his solid arsenal hasn't translated into high strikeout totals, as Porcello has managed just 4.7 K/9IP through two seasons. Despite his struggles last season and lack of strikeouts, the former first-round pick remains an intriguing talent with plenty of upside. That upside alone makes him worth looking at late in drafts as you fill out your rotation.
Will Rhymes, 2B -- After a rash of injuries hit the Tigers' middle infield last season, Rhymes was a surprise spark to the team late in the year. The diminutive (5-foot-9, 155-pound) second baseman hit .304 with 19 RBI and 30 runs in 191 at-bats with Detroit. Rhymes doesn't pack much power, but he has shown the ability to swipe his fair share of bags with 125 steals in 655 minor league games. Despite his late-season success, Rhymes could be forced to battle for an Opening Day roster spot in spring training. With Carlos Guillen and Scott Sizemore also in the mix at second base, Rhymes will have his hands full trying to carve out a big enough role to contribute in most formats. AL-only and deep leagues should consider Rhymes a decent batting average play and a sleeper for steals, but his playing time will likely be too limited to be a steady contributor in shallower formats.
Ramon Santiago, SS -- Santiago started the 2010 season as the Tigers' primary backup at both middle infield positions, but he was pushed into a larger role after Adam Everett was released by Detroit. The 31-year-old utility infielder finished the 2010 season hitting .263 with three homers and two steals in 320 at-bats. Last season marked the third consecutive year Santiago has seen a bump in playing time, but with Jhonny Peralta now locked in at shortstop and a handful of options at second base expected to make the Tigers' Opening Day roster, Santiago will have a hard time seeing the field more than a couple of times per week in 2011.
Dan Schlereth, RP -- Schlereth was considered a candidate to be on the Tigers' Opening Day roster last season, but the team opted to send him to Triple-A Toledo to work on his command before giving a shot in the big leagues. Schlereth responded by compiling a 2.37 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 49.1 innings for the Mud Hens. The 24-year-old lefty's solid showing in Toledo led to 18 appearances out of the Tigers' bullpen late in the season. He finished 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and 19:10 K:BB ratio in 18.2 innings for the Tigers. With Phil Coke moving to the starting rotation, Detroit will be looking for a left-hander out of the bullpen to step up in 2011. Schlereth's mid-90s fastball and big curve should have a chance to nab that gig in spring training and vault him into a late-inning setup role.
Scott Sizemore, 2B -- Sizemore was a popular sleeper heading into the 2010 season, but after hitting just .206 and struggling with his glove, Detroit opted to send the 26-year-old back to Triple-A Toledo for more seasoning in late May. He responded to the demotion by hitting .298 with nine home runs and 37 RBI in 76 games with the Mud Hens. The Tigers later recalled Sizemore after rosters expanded, and he showed improvements at the plate with a .261 average and two homers over his final 46 at-bats of the season. Most of the buzz surrounding Sizemore has faded, but he still remains a quality prospect who showed fantasy potential with his combination of power and speed in the minors. He'll compete for the second base job in spring training, making him worthy of monitoring in case he nabs the starting gig.
Brad Thomas, RP -- Thomas, who pitched in Korea during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, was a surprisingly reliable part of the Tigers' bullpen in 2010. The 33-year-old lefty compiled a 6-2 record and 3.89 ERA in 49 appearances for Detroit. With Phil Coke moving to the rotation, Thomas will have a chance to earn an even more important role with the Tigers next season. Even with an increased role, however, Thomas is unlikely to make much of a fantasy impact.
Jose Valverde, RP -- Other than a late-season elbow injury that sidelined him for most of September, Valverde's transition from the NL to the AL couldn't have gone smoother. The flamboyant closer picked up 26 saves in 29 chances while posting a 3.00 ERA and a 63:32 K:BB ratio in 63 innings. He'll continue to toe the rubber in the ninth inning for Detroit, and with his mid-90s fastball and groundball-inducing splitter, Valverde will again be a solid option among the mid-level closers in the AL.
Justin Verlander, SP -- Verlander solidified his status as the Tigers' ace and a perennial Cy Young candidate with another outstanding season in 2010. The 27-year-old flamethrower finished sixth in the AL in wins (18), fourth in strikeouts (219) and 11th in ERA (3.37). The only concern for fantasy owners with Verlander is his continued heavy workload -- he has tossed more than 200-plus innings in four consecutive seasons. That said, Verlander actually got stronger toward the end of the season in 2010, so those worries might be much ado about nothing. Continue to target Verlander as one of the aces of your fantasy staff.
Robbie Weinhardt, RP -- Weinhardt's overall stat line (0-2, 6.75 ERA) isn't impressive, but the 25-year-old reliever was able to pitch well out of the Tigers' bullpen after a rough couple outings in August. In his final 10 appearances, Weinhardt allowed just two earned runs and sported a 10:2 K:BB ratio in 11.2 innings. Weinhardt is currently slotted in the seventh spot of the Tigers' bullpen and should be able to hold on to that gig if Detroit doesn't bring in outside help before the end of spring training.
Casper Wells, OF -- Wells was a late-season surprise for the Tigers, hitting .323 with four homers and 17 RBI in 93 at-bats. His power is legit, but given his career minor league batting average of .250, we don't expect Wells to hit anywhere near .323 when he gets a longer look. With the return of Magglio Ordonez in December, Wells' chances of having a platoon role have fallen considerably. AL-only leagues will want to keep an eye on Wells' role during spring training, but the odds are he gets shipped to Triple-A Toledo or starts the season as a depth outfielder for Detroit.
Danny Worth, 2B/SS -- Worth, 25, received a prolonged look with Detroit mid-season after a rash of injuries hit the squad. He hit .255 with two home runs and eight RBI in 106 at-bats while seeing action at second base, third base and shortstop. The Tigers have those three spots filled by other options heading into spring training, but Worth could earn a roster spot as a utility infielder. He has a solid enough glove to earn a living at the major league level, but Worth's light-hitting ways will limit his fantasy value.
Joel Zumaya, RP -- Stop us if you've heard this one before: After a promising start, Zumaya's season was cut short by injuries last year. That's four consecutive years Zumaya's season has been derailed by an injury. This time it was a fractured elbow that he suffered in late June. Prior to the injury, Zumaya was 2-1 with a 2.58 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 38.1 innings. The 26-year-old flamethrower is expected to be ready for the start of spring training, but the Tigers won't rely on Zumaya in a significant late-inning role due to his injury history. With a fastball that routinely touches triple digits, Zumaya will always be able to garner some excitement, but he's no longer considered the Tigers' closer of the future.
Jacob Turner, SP – The Tigers' 2009 first-round pick proved worth the hype in his first season of minor league ball, finishing with a 3.28 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 115.1 innings split between Low-A West Michigan and High-A Lakeland last season. Turner hovers in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, but he can reach back and touch 96-98 mph at times. His curveball is already considered a plus pitch by most scouts, and his changeup could be at that level by the time he's done maturing in the minors. Turner, who turns 20 in May, is one of the more promising starting pitching prospects in baseball, but he isn't expected to make an impact for the Tigers until 2012 or 2013. Make sure he's on your radar in keeper leagues.
Nick Castellanos, 3B – The Tigers selected Castellanos with the 44th pick of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. The highly-touted third baseman was widely considered one of the best positional prospects in the draft, but a scholarship to the University of Miami scared away many suitors. Detroit took the risk and ended up paying the 19-year-old well above slot to have him skip college. Castellanos has good power potential and should be able to hit for decent average. He’ll have to proof himself in the minors, but he’s definitely a prospect to watch at the hot corner.
Casey Crosby, SP – Crosby's 2010 season was derailed by injuries. The 22-year-old managed just three starts with High-A Lakeland before being shut down with recurring swelling in his left elbow - the same elbow he had Tommy John surgery in November 2007. Luckily, the injury did not require surgery and he should be at full strength this spring. While his constant elbow troubles rightfully draw concerns about his durability, Crosby still remains one of the Tigers' best pitching prospects. With a mid-90s fastball and improving secondary pitches, the big lefty (6-5, 200) will warrant plenty of attention in keeper leagues if he can prove his elbow problems are a thing of the past and succeed at the higher levels of the minors.
Daniel Fields, SS – Fields passed up a scholarship at the University of Michigan to sign with the Tigers after being selected in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. He was a high school shortstop, but Detroit has opted to convert Fields to center field. He hit .240/.343/.371 with High-A Lakeland in his first season in the minors. While those numbers don't jump off the page, keep in mind that Fields is just 20. He's still at least a couple of years away from getting a shot with the Tigers, but he’s legitimate five-tool talent who deserves to be monitored in deep keeper leagues that value minor league players.
Ryan Strieby, 1B – Strieby emerged as a prospect to watch after back-to-back solid seasons in 2008 and 2009, but he failed to impress while plodding through an injury-filled campaign with Triple-A Toledo last year. He dealt with a troublesome wrist nearly all season, finishing with a disappointing .245/.323/.400 line in 325 at-bats. The big (6-foot-5, 235-pound) slugger remains one of the better hitting prospects in the Tigers' farm system, but he'll spend another season in the minors getting healthy and adjusting to his new position in left field before receiving a legit shot in Motown.