The Detroit Tigers finished 2013 second in runs and RBIs, and first overall in batting average. They also finished seventh in home runs. To state the obvious, this team was one of the most fantasy relevant teams and that will not be changing much for 2014. The Tigers only have one offensive superstar in Miguel Cabrera, and losing Prince Fielder hurts, but they still have several players worth drafting.
2014 Detroit Tigers - Hitters Preview
1B/3B Miguel Cabrera - .348/44/137/103/3
Miguel Cabrera had another fantastic season in 2013. Even though he did not get another triple crown, the season was every bit as good as 2012. This is the best pure hitter in the league and he is in his prime. He will be moving across the diamond to first base this year, but he should be eligible at third base in any standard league, making him the best player at the position by far. He turns 31 in April of 2014, so its possible his numbers could slide a little bit. Even then he will still put up huge numbers and he should be one of the first two players off the board along with Mike Trout.
Draft Projection - 1st Round (Top 2 overall) 2014 Projection - .327/38/129/105/2
DH Victor Martinez - .301/14/83/68/0
Martinez started off terrible last year. This was likely a result of him coming off a major injury forcing him to miss all of 2012. If you stuck with him after the first two months, you were rewarded with a fantastic 2nd half where Martinez hit .361 after the all-star break. Martinez is a tough player to project in 2014 because he will now be 35 years old and its hard to see how much his skills are declining because of the fact he missed all of 2012 and then improved over the course of 2013. He did play 3 games at catcher last year so if that makes him eligible in your league it definitely increases his value. After much deliberation, I've decided to be fairly optimistic for Martinez. He has hit .300 or better in each of his past 4 full seasons and I think any decline this year will be countered by the fact that he isn't coming off major injury which should lead to similar numbers.
Draft Projection - 11th to 13th rounds 2014 Projection - .294/15/86/71/0
OF Austin Jackson - .272/12/49/99/8
In 4 full seasons, Austin Jackson's batting average has been all over the place. Is he a contact hitter or not? Most likely 2013 was a realistic middle ground for Jackson. The other disappointing stat for Jackson was his decrease in steals. The Tigers were actually last in stolen bases and stolen base attempts last year. This is one category where new manager Brad Ausmus should have a clear impact. While I don't know what his philosophy is, it's likely that the Tigers can't be more conservative on the basepaths than last year. This bodes well for Jackson, who has also seen an uptick in power the last two seasons. At best he is an average starting fantasy outfielder with positive contributions in runs and SBs. Still at his draft position, he could definitely be worth the gamble as your 4th outfielder.
Draft Projection - 14th to 15th rounds 2014 Projection - .275/14/60/105/16
2B Ian Kinsler - .277/13/72/85/15
The biggest addition to the Tigers this year, Kinsler has been fairly consistent the post few years though he is trending downward. There is one major red flag with Kinsler this year: Over the course of his career he has been significantly better in Texas. Beyond that, Comerica Park has been one of Kinsler's worst stadiums, hitting just .200 with a .627 OPS in 140 ABs there. Its a small sample size so you have to hope he can reverse that trend, but the bigger trend of playing much worse away from the Ballpark in Arlington is definitely a concern. I remain somewhat optimistic that he will be able to put up similar numbers to his previous 3 years. At 2nd base that keeps him as a middle-tier starting player.
Draft Projection - 5th to 6th round 2014 Projection - .273/17/78/88/12
OF Torii Hunter - .304/17/84/90/3
As you can see by their stats, Hunter was quite a bit better than Jackson last year. Unfortunately for Torii, he is also 38 and the sabermetric statistics indicate he is due for some regression. Before hitting .300+ in each of the last two seasons, Hunter had never done that before in his career. It is very likely he is going to see a big decrease in batting average, and with it will go a lot of the other numbers. Probably worth adding as an end of the bench guy, but I would not recommend relying on Hunter or expecting numbers similar to the last two seasons.
Draft Projection - 19th to 21st rounds 2014 Projection - .274/11/73/78/4
OF Rajai Davis - .260/6/24/49/45
You're one stop shop for steals, Rajai Davis! A true one category player, Davis moves to the Tigers this year. The fact that the Tigers added Davis is a sign they are serious about improving their steal numbers under Brad Ausmus. He is 33 but he is coming off his most successful baserunning season yet with 45 steals in 51 attempts. He was third in the league last year despite everyone else in the top 5 having significantly more at bats. If you find yourself lacking speed at the end of the draft he is absolutely worth a pickup. With mediocre Andy Dirks and Don Kelly the other two players vying for time as the left fielder/primary backup, Davis should see plenty of time to nab 30 bases at least with a decent chance for more.
Draft Projection - 22nd to 24th rounds (end of draft) 2014 Projection - .267/3/31/48/36
That wraps up the list of projected 2014 Tigers hitters that I see as draftable. To touch on the rest of the crew quickly, Nick Castellanos did have 18 HRs in the minors last year, but he also hit .276. at the major league level, and that will not translate into fantasy relevance for this year. Do not draft Jose Iglesias expecting anything near his .330 batting average with the Red Sox last year. He is a career .257 hitter who is starting for his defensive abilities only, so don't buy this fools gold in 2o14. Alex Avila had a great season in 2011, but the rest of his career indicates that is a fluke and there should be better options available later in the draft. That covers the hitters of the Tigers, be sure to look for my piece on the pitchers soon!