New York Yankees 2012 Preview

Projected Record: 95-67

Player 2012 Player 2012
C Russell Martin 2.3 SP1 CC Sabathia 6
1B Mark Teixeira 4.5 SP2 Michael Pineda 3.7
2B Robinson Cano 5.7 SP3 Hiroki Kuroda 3
SS Derek Jeter 1.8 SP4 Ivan Nova 2.5
3B Alex Rodriguez 3.5 SP5 Freddy Garcia 1.3
LF Brett Gardner 4.6 CP Mariano Rivera 2
CF Curtis Granderson 4.9 RP David Robertson 1.4
RF Nick Swisher 3.9 RP Rafael Soriano 1.5
DH Raul Ibanez 1.2 RP Boone Logan 0.5
Bench Andruw Jones 1.2 RP Cory Wade 0.4
Bench Francisco Cervelli 0.4 RP Phil Hughes 1
Bench Eduardo Nunez 0.2 RP Joba Chamberlain 0.5
Bench Eric Chavez 0.3 David Aardsma 0
Bench Brandon Laird 0
Austin Romine 0.4
Bill Hall 0
Russell Branyan 0
34.9 23.8

The Yankees are getting older, but they made some improvements over the offseason, enough for me to project them to have the best record in baseball in 2012. They acquired two above average starters to shore up their rotation, and their lineup is still filled with multiple all-stars. The AL East is close, but as of right now the Yankees still have an edge over the Rays and the Red Sox.

Russell Martin returns behind the plate for his second season in New York. He’s not the player that he was the first couple years of his career, but he still hits enough to be average or a bit better. Mark Teixeira is at first, and his numbers have been heading in the wrong direction in the last few seasons. His walk and K rate haven’t really changed, but his BABIP has been steadily declining, which could be a factor of him pulling the ball into the shift. He’s still a good player, but he’s turning 32 right away, so his best years are already behind him. Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter return up the middle, with Alex Rodriguez at third. The latter two are in decline, while Cano should be able to repeat his performance over the last 2 seasons. Jeter was about league average last year, which was better than I thought he would do, but I still project him to be below average this year. Rodriguez’s bat obviously isn’t what it used to be, but he’s still productive when healthy. The problem is just that though, in that he’s had trouble staying on the field over the last few seasons.

Even though Brett Gardner is a superior fielder, he will continue to play in left, while the Yankees start Granderson in center. Gardner is one of the best fielding outfielders in baseball, and combined with his average offense it makes him a pretty valuable player. Granderson meanwhile, won’t repeat his career year but could still hit 30-35 homers. Nick Swisher will start in right, and he’s been streaky, but productive over the last couple years. His walk rate rebounded in 2011 to above 15% from 2010 when it fell to 9%; well below his career norm. This, combined with his slightly above average defense makes him valuable, and he’s also hit 21 or more homers in 7 straight seasons. The Yankees traded their likely starting DH in Jesus Montero in order to acquire Michael Pineda, and instead they’ll have a platoon of Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones. Ibanez hit .256/.307/.440 against righties last year, while Jones hit .286/.384/.540 against lefties. The combination should be half-decent, although it wouldn’t be completely out of the question for Ibanez to drop below replacement level. Francisco Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez and Eric Chavez will be on the bench, with Bill Hall and Russell Branyan competing for spots as well.

The biggest area of improvement for the Yankees in the offseason was their rotation, when they turned it from a question mark into a strength in the span of 24 hours when they acquired Michael Pineda from the Mariners and then signed Hiroki Kuroda. CC Sabathia is the ace, and has been worth at least 5 fWAR in each of the last 6 seasons. Ivan Nova had a solid rookie year in 2011, and even if he wasn’t as good as his record indicated, he should still be pretty decent in 2012. Pineda has a lot of upside, and I think he’ll improve on last season’s numbers, even with moving to the AL East. Kuroda will be moving to less pitcher friendly confines as well, but I think he has a good chance of still being a 3 win pitcher. Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes will compete for the last spot. Hughes obviously has more upside, but Garcia was surprisingly decent last year, so either could end up in the spot.

Mariano Rivera is back for likely his last season as the Yankees closer, even though his performance has shown virtually no signs of decline. David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Boone Logan combine with Rivera to form a very strong back end of the bullpen, and when you throw in Cory Wade and Garcia or Hughes, it’s a big strength for the team.

The Yankees upgraded their rotation in the offseason which solidified a team that was already in competition for the division. That upgrade sets them atop the AL East, although they’re only a couple games ahead of the Rays and Red Sox.

Offseason Acquisitions: Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda

Offseason Losses: Jesus Montero, Jorge Posada, Bartolo Colon, AJ Burnett, Hector Noesi, Luis Ayala, Sergio Mitre, Raul Valdes, Scott Proctor


Reds Re-sign Sean Marshall

I’m going to take a brief break from my 2012 team previews to take a quick look at the 3 year contract extension that Sean Marshall signed today with the Reds for $16.5 million. Over the last two seasons Sean Marshall has been worth 5 fWAR, (4.4 rWAR)which is first among all relief pitchers. The relief pitcher with the second most WAR over those two years is Jonathon Papelbon, who the Phillies signed to a 4 year deal this offseason worth $50 million. Marshall’s FIP ranks 3rd of all relievers with at least 80 IP over the last two seasons, behind only Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen. For all intents and purposes, Sean Marshall is probably one of the 5 best relief pitchers in baseball right now, and likely the top left hander. The Reds acquired him this offseason from the Cubs for Travis Wood, who took a bit of a step backwards last year after a solid rookie season. Even with that step back, I still think Travis Wood could turn out to be a pretty solid #3 starter in the majors, so I wasn’t a huge fan of the deal from the Reds’ point of view as Sean Marshall was going to be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. This extension changes my mind on that deal.

Marshall is now signed for 4 more years at a total of $19.6 million, which is an average annual value of $4.9 million. If you play into the “$5 million/WAR cost-of-signing-free-agents thinking,” Marshall will have to provide just under 1 WAR/ season over the next 4 years to be worth the total value of the deal (or just over 1 WAR/season if you only include the 3 years of the extension). He was worth 5 fWAR over the last two seasons alone, so that’s not a huge stretch. Sure, relief pitchers can have wild swings in effectiveness from season to season, but Marshall’s peripherals back up his performance. He has struck out more than a batter/inning while walking about 2.5/9 since becoming a full-time reliever, and while his miniscule HR/9 rate over the last 2 seasons may increase a bit, he should still be very effective over the next few seasons. And with Ryan Madson only signed to a one year deal, the opportunity may arise for Marshall to step into the closer role starting in 2012. Since Marshall’s a lefty, some may have reservations about making him the closer, but his career splits show that he’s not just a lefty specialist. Over the last two seasons, Marshall has been dominant against left handed hitters, with 11.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 1.75 FIP over 54 1/3 innings. He hasn’t been much worse against right handers however, with 9.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 2.24 FIP over 95 1/3 innings. If Marshall is moved to the closer role, and is able to keep up his high level of performance, he could turn out to be quite the bargain for the Reds, judging by the premium that is placed on “proven” closers in the free-agent market. Besides Papelbon, Heath Bell also got substantially more guaranteed money this offseason, with worse stats than Marshall, except for his save totals.

Say what you will about guaranteed money for relief pitchers, but Sean Marshall has shown that he is one of the better relief pitchers in baseball over the last two seasons, and the Reds were able to lock him up to a 3 year extension on quite favorable terms. There’s a very good chance of Marshall providing surplus value for the Reds over the life of his contract extension, and he could be turned into the team’s closer starting in 2013, which would up his value significantly in the free agent market. A very good signing for the Reds.

Minnesota Twins 2012 Preview

Projected Record: 72-90

Player 2012 Player 2012
C Joe Mauer 4.5 SP1 Carl Pavano 2.5
1B Justin Morneau 3.4 SP2 Scott Baker 3
2B Alexi Casilla 1.4 SP3 Francisco Liriano 1.7
SS Jamey Carroll 1.9 SP4 Jason Marquis 0.9
3B Danny Valencia 1.4 SP5 Nick Blackburn 0.7
LF Ben Revere 1.8 CP Matt Capps 0.6
CF Denard Span 3.3 RP Glen Perkins 1
RF Josh Willingham 2.7 RP Lester Oliveros 0.2
DH Ryan Doumit 2 RP Alex Burnett 0
Bench Trevor Plouffe 0.5 RP Anthony Swarzak 0.6
Bench Tsuyoshi Nishioka 0 RP Brian Duensing 0.5
Bench Drew Butera -0.4 RP Scott Diamond 0
Bench Luke Hughes 0.2
Bench Chris Parmelee 1
23.7 11.7

The Twins suffered through injuries to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau last year on their way to the clubs’ worst record since 1999. Things aren’t looking too much better in 2012 for the Twins, as even with good performances from Mauer and Morneau, which isn’t a sure thing, they don’t really have enough other talent to compete. They don’t have a lot of prospects that are close to major league ready either, so it could be a couple more down years in Minnesota after being competitive nearly every year for the last decade.

A healthy Joe Mauer will be the biggest factor in the Twins improving on their 2011 performance. His variety of injuries/ailments last season contributed to him putting in by far the worst season of his career. He’s apparently healthy now, so his hitting is likely to come back strong, but it’s hard to say how many games he’ll end up playing this year, especially at catcher. Morneau’s outlook is a lot less certain, as he’s still suffering effects from his concussion back in June 2010. It sounds like he’s at least starting to come around, but I don’t think anywhere near a full season of play from Morneau can be counted on. Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll and Danny Valencia will start at 2nd, SS, and third respectively, although none of the three has a ton of upside. Casilla and Caroll figure to combine for about 2 homers this year, and both are no better than average defensively. Valencia was pretty good in 2010, and has a bit of pop, but really declined last year.

Ben Revere, Denard Span, and offseason signing Josh Willingham will play the outfield, and there are some questions there as well. Revere is very good defensively, but has yet to show that he can hit major league pitching. Span missed most of the last half of 2011 with concussion symptoms, and while he’s said to now be healthy, you can never tell when symptoms will pop up again. Even when healthy over the last two seasons though, Span hasn’t been able to repeat his numbers from 08-09 when he was worth a combined 7.3 fWAR. Willingham managed to hit 29 HR in 2011, even while playing half of his games in Oakland, but his walk rate and K rate both took a step in the wrong direction as well. If he can get his walk rate back up to almost 15%, which it was in 2010, he can be a valuable player, even though his defense is below average. Ryan Doumit will likely get the majority of PAs at DH, or at least share them with Mauer, where he could be above average if not being counted on for his defense. The bench will consist of Trevor Plouffe, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Drew Butera and Luke Hughes. If Plouffe can improve his play he could get a lot of play in the middle infield. Chris Parmelee, who hit well in a late season callup, could also replace Morneau at first if he’s not healthy.

The Twins rotation isn’t anything to write home about either, being lead by Carl Pavano and Scott Baker. Pavano has been a solid innings eater the last two years, but isn’t really good for much more, while Baker has increased his K rate while keeping his BB rate low to become a very underrated starter. Francisco Liriano will be in the rotation as well, but he lost his command last year leading to a very poor performance a year after being a 6 WAR pitcher. Jason Marquis and Nick Blackburn close out the rotation, and I think 1 WAR is about the highest you can expect out of either. The bullpen is shallow as well, with Matt Capps as the closer, and being worse than replacement level last year. Glen Perkins was great last year, but it’s hard to say if he can repeat those numbers in his second season as a reliever. Lester Oliveros, Alex Burnett, Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, and Scott Diamond should be in the bullpen as well, although Swarzak, Duensing, and Diamond could compete for a spot in the rotation as well. None of them project to be all that great.

The Twins outlook is bleak for 2012, and probably a couple years after that. They lost a few guys who played key parts in their last couple playoff seasons, and they don’t really have viable replacements for most of them. I think if the team is in last place by midseason, Willingham and Pavano could be traded in an attempt to get some prospects out of them.

Offseason Acquisitions: Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit, Jason Marquis

Offseason Losses: Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Matt Tolbert, Joe Nathan, Kevin Slowey, Jose Mijares

Updated Projections – February 23

Here’s the latest version of my projections for the 2012 season. The biggest change is with the news that Ryan Braun won’t be suspended for 50 games, so Milwaukee gets a 2 win boost up to 84-78 and into contention for the NL Wild Card. Pittsburgh has also improved by 2 wins following the Burnett trade, but they’re still well behind in the Central. A few other teams moved up or down 1 win, but only Pittsburgh and Chicago switched positions.

AL East W L NL East W L
New York 95 67 Philadelphia 93 69
Tampa Bay 93 69 Atlanta 85 77
Boston 92 70 Miami 84 78
Toronto 85 77 Washington 84 78
Baltimore 70 92 New York 75 87
AL Central W L NL Central W L
Detroit 84 78 Cincinnati 89 73
Cleveland 78 84 St. Louis 85 77
Chicago 76 86 Milwaukee 84 78
Kansas City 75 87 Pittsburgh 72 90
Minnesota 72 90 Chicago 70 92
Houston 63 99
AL West W L NL West W L
Texas 93 69 Arizona 82 80
Los Angeles 93 69 San Francisco 80 82
Oakland 76 86 Colorado 80 82
Seattle 72 90 Los Angeles 76 86
San Diego 74 88

Los Angeles Angels 2012 Preview

Projected Record: 93-69

Player WAR Player WAR
C Chris Iannetta 3 SP1 Jered Weaver 5
1B Albert Pujols 6.6 SP2 Dan Haren 5
2B Howie Kendrick 3.6 SP3 CJ Wilson 4.1
SS Erick Aybar 3.1 SP4 Ervin Santana 2.7
3B Alberto Callaspo 2.9 SP5 Jerome Williams 0.9
LF Vernon Wells 1.1 CP Jordan Walden 1.3
CF Peter Bourjos 3.2 RP Scott Downs 1
RF Torii Hunter 2.3 RP LaTroy Hawkins 0.5
DH Kendrys Morales 2.5 RP Hisanori Takahashi 0.5
Bench Mark Trumbo 1.6 RP Rich Thompson 0.3
Bench Bobby Abreu 0.7 RP Bobby Cassevah 0.3
Bench Bobby Wilson 0.1 RP Trevor Bell 0.2
Bench Maicer Izturis 1.6 Brad Mills 0.3
Bench Mike Trout 1.4 Jason Isringhausen 0
Hank Conger 0.3
Jorge Cantu 0
34 22.1

Signing Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, along with replacing Jeff Mathis with someone who can hit better than a small asian woman improves the Angels chances drastically for 2012. Unluckily for them, I still think Texas will win the AL West, but they do have a good enough team to compete for a Wild Card or win the division if Texas disappoints.

The Pujols deal may become a bit of a burden in 5 years or so, but in 2012 Albert Pujols should rebound from his slightly down year and be once again one of the top first basemen in the league. He replaces Mark Trumbo at first, who is reportedly practicing at third, but I’m doubtful as to how much he’ll play there. He’s more likely to share the DH slot with Kendrys Morales and Bobby Abreu. I think the Angels still may try to move one of them, likely Abreu, before the season in return for a starting pitcher, but they may have to wait until after the season starts to get the type of return they’re looking for. Morales’ production is a question after missing most of the last two seasons to a freak injury. He had turned into a pretty productive hitter prior to that, so if he can return to form he’ll have some value. Abreu’s getting old and has lost most of his power. He still walks at an above average rate, but the Angels have better options. Howie Kendrick, who had a career year last year, will play 2nd, but he’s unlikely to be quite as productive in 2012. A lot of his value came from his great defensive ratings, which could be a bit of an outlier. Erick Aybar at short and Alberto Callaspo at third are both above average with the bat and the glove, and will round out a very solid infield. The Angels brought in Chris Iannetta to be their starting catcher, and he’s been productive when healthy. Hank Conger or Bobby Wilson will be his backup, and could get a fair amount of playing time due to Iannetta’s previous health issues.

The Angels in the outfield (!) will be Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter at least to start the year. Wells can’t be as bad this year as he was last year, and has alternated good and bad seasons over the last several years, so I think he’ll improve marginally. Bourjos impressed last year in his first full season in the majors, with great defense in center and a little bit of pop. He may decline slightly, but should still be well above average. Torii Hunter isn’t what he once was in the field, even in right, but still provides enough with the bat to be productive. The big question with the Angels is how much Mike Trout, ranked by some as the best prospect in baseball, will play in 2012. He’s only 20, so he’s likely to at least start in the minors, but he also doesn’t really have a place to play with the Angels’ glut of outfielders and DHs. Los Angeles also has some decent bench players, besides Trumbo, Morales, and Abreu, they also have Maicer Izturis, who was a two win player last year.

The Angels have a very solid top four in their rotation, perhaps the best in baseball. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana will be joined by free agent acquisition CJ Wilson and probably Jerome Williams. Weaver and Haren were worth 12 wins combined last year, which I think they will have a hard time repeating, but they should still be worth approximately 10 wins together. Santana outperformed his peripherals last year, so he may see a bit of a decline, and Wilson may regress a little bit as well. Williams is the real weak spot, which is why I think the Angels will try to trade for another starter.

Jordan Walden and Scott Downs will pitch the late innings, and both are pretty good relievers. LaTroy Hawkins, Hisanori Takahashi, Rich Thompson and Bobby Cassevah will likely hold down spots in the bullpen as well, and are all potentially average or better. Minor league signing Jason Isringhausen could make the team as well, but he doesn’t project to be that valuable any longer. Combined, the Angels bullpen should continue to be a strength in 2012.

The Angels, while currently a bit behind the Rangers, have some tradeable assets which they could use to upgrade the team. If they can get a good starting pitcher for Abreu, Morales, or Trumbo they could jump ahead of the Rangers and win the division.

Kansas City Royals 2012 Preview

Projected Record: 74-88

Player WAR Player WAR
C Salvador Perez 2.4 SP1 Luke Hochevar 2
1B Eric Hosmer 3.4 SP2 Jonathon Sanchez 1.9
2B Johnny Giovatella 0.9 SP3 Bruce Chen 1.1
SS Alcides Escobar 2.1 SP4 Aaron Crow 1.8
3B Mike Moustakas 2.1 SP5 Felipe Paulino 2
LF Alex Gordon 5 CP Joakim Soria 1.6
CF Lorenzo Cain 2 RP Jonathon Broxton 0.9
RF Jeff Francoeur 1.4 RP Greg Holland 1.3
DH Billy Butler 2.4 RP Blake Wood 0.6
Bench Brayan Pena 0.3 RP Tim Collins 0.4
Bench Yuniesky Betancourt 0.4 RP Louis Coleman 0.3
Bench Chris Getz 0.5 RP Jose Mijares 0.2
Bench Mitch Maier 0.3 Danny Duffy 0.3
Bench Jarrod Dyson 0.4
23.6 14.4

The Royals have a lot of young talent both in the majors and in the minors, but they’re likely still a year or two away from reaping the benefits of that talent and turning it into a competitive team. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas should both make strides in 2012, while Salvador Perez, Johnny Giovatella and Lorenzo Cain will all see their first extended time in the majors. Kansas City’s rotation is their big weakness, and they’ll need to have a few guys to step-up, or make some big changes in order to compete.

Eric Hosmer put up fairly impressive numbers as a 21 year old rookie last season, and should improve on that performance this season. Moustakas’ numbers on the other hand were a bit underwhelming last year, although he did improve as the season went on. I don’t think he’ll put up as good of numbers as Hosmer in 2012, but his offense should get substantially better. The two of them will play a very big role in determining whether the Royals can be competitive in 2013 and beyond. Giovatella figures to get the majority of playing time at second, where they played Chris Getz for more than half of their games in 2011. Giovatella put up really good numbers in the minors the last two years, but he’s highly unlikely to be anything better than average this year. Alcides Escobar returns for his second season as SS with the Royals, and while he’s not good with the bat, his defense is good enough to make him average at the position. Salvador Perez hit for a crazy average late last season, and won’t repeat that performance, but if he can provide average defense, his bat is good enough to make him valuable.

Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur will start in the outfield after the offseason trade of Melky Cabrera. Gordon is perhaps unlikely to repeat his 6 win performance, but as a 28 year old he could very well still be worth 5 WAR. Lorenzo Cain gets the opportunity to start in center this year, and his minor league numbers show that he could be average or better there. Francoeur on the other hand is a bit of a wildcard in right. He was worth 3 wins last year, but that’s the first time he’s been worth more than 0.6 wins since 2007 with the Braves. If I had to guess, I’d say a return to his underwhelming offense with an OBP hovering around .300. Billy Butler, the starting DH, had a decrease in production last year compared to the prior 2 years, and just doesn’t hit for enough power to be much more than average at a position where only offense counts. He’ll still just be 26 this year, but has only topped 20 homers once. The Royals’ have a bit of depth up the middle with Getz and Yuni Betancourt, along with Brayan Pena at catcher as well as Mitch Maier in the outfield.

Luke Hochevar is the de-facto ace of the rotation, despite being about league average in his career. His peripherals suggest a better performance, but he’s posted a higher ERA than his FIP every year of his career, which typically means he’s unlikely to suddenly reverse that trend. Newly acquired Jonathan Sanchez has struck out more than a batter/inning over the last 3 years, but he misses the plate too much to really capitalize on that. He had a down year last year, and I find it hard to imagine him being above average this year, especially when moving from the NL West to the AL. Bruce Chen will hold down the fort in the #3 slot, and what is there to say about him? He’s Bruce Chen. Aaron Crow and Felipe Paulino figure to be the 4 and 5, although Crow may not end up sticking, after impressing in the pen in his rookie year. The Royals may end up keeping him in the bullpen, where he posted a K/9 of 9.44, although he also walked 4.5/9. Paulino pitched pretty well last year after he came to the Royals and moved to the rotation, so he could be decent as the team’s 4/5.

Joakim Soria and Greg Holland anchor the bullpen, with Soria likely to improve a bit this year, and Holland likely to regress. Broxton’s performance is a question, but if he’s able to pitch effectively that could enable the Royals to trade Soria at the deadline. Blake Wood, Tim Collins, and Louis Coleman all pitched not half bad in 2011, and combined, the Royals have a pretty solid pen going into 2012.

Offseason Acquisitions: Yuniesky Betancourt, Jonathan Sanchez, Jonathon Broxton, Jose Mijares

Offseason Losses: Melky Cabrera, Robinson Tejada, Jeff Francis

Detroit Tigers 2012 Preview

Projected Record: 84-78

Player WAR Player WAR
C Alex Avila 3.5 SP1 Justin Verlander 6
1B Prince Fielder 5.4 SP2 Doug Fister 3.1
2B Ramon Santiago 1 SP3 Max Scherzer 2.7
SS Jhonny Peralta 3.1 SP4 Rick Porcello 2
3B Miguel Cabrera 6.4 SP5 Jacob Turner 1.3
LF Ryan Raburn 1.1 CP Jose Valverde 1.1
CF Austin Jackson 2.7 RP Joaquin Benoit 1
RF Brennan Boesch 2 RP Phil Coke 0.8
DH Delmon Young 0.9 RP Octavio Dotel 0.6
Bench Gerald Laird 0.5 RP David Pauley 0.4
Bench Don Kelly 0.5 RP Daniel Schlereth 0.2
Bench Andy Dirks 0.3 RP Duane Below 0.2
Bench Danny Worth 0
Bench Brandon Inge 0.5
27.9 19.4

The Tigers made a huge splash in the offseason by signing Prince Fielder, but even after adding a player of his value I still don’t think Detroit has all that great of a team. First off, he’s replacing Victor Martinez, who is no slouch, and he’s also had a couple of off years in the last 5 seasons. I do project them to win the AL Central, but it’s not as big of a gap as some might think. The combination of several players having career years as well as a late season hot streak allowed the Tigers to out-perform their skill level last year, and that’s unlikely to happen again.

The first player unlikely to repeat his excellent 2011 player is catcher Alex Avila, whose power and average came out of nowhere last year. Avila should be well above average in 2012, but I don’t think he will repeat his nearly 6-win performance. $214-millon-man Prince Fielder slots in at first, at least to start the season. Like many, I don’t think the Tigers will keep Cabrera at third for the whole season, so it’s likely that Fielder and Cabrera split time at first for most of the season. Either way those two slot in, they’ll drive the Tiger’s offense and should both be worth 5 wins or more. I tend to think that Ramon Santiago will get more time at second base than Ryan Raburn, simply because he can field there, but Leyland may not feel the same. Santiago’s bat is poor, but his glove makes him only slightly below average. Peralta’s at short, and like Avila, had a career year last year in many ways. He’s more likely to repeat than Avila, but he’ll probably still regress a bit. Once the Cabrera experiment ends, I foresee Peralta moving to third, Santiago sliding over to short, and Raburn going in at 2nd. Inge could see some time at third as well, but he doesn’t seem to really have too much left.

The Tigers’ outfield is the weakest part of the team, with Ryan Raburn (to start) in left, Austin Jackson in center and Brennan Boesch in right. Delmon Young will probably play quite a bit in left as well, even though he’s absolutely awful in the field, especially once Cabrera and Fielder start platooning at 1st/DH. Austin Jackson took a step back in his sophomore season, but was still good enough defensively to be above average. Boesch is below average defensively on the other hand, but with better offense. An average performance is probably his upper limit though. Delmon Young figures to be just above replacement level, wherever he ends up playing. The bench consists of Gerald Laird, Don Kelly, Andy Dirks and Inge; so there’s a bit of depth there if someone is lost to injury.

The Tigers have a solid rotation, starting out with Verlander, who won’t repeat his great 2011 campaign, but could easily still be a 6 win pitcher. Doug Fister is the #2, and he too had a career year last season. His strikeout rate improved after coming to Detroit, and his walk rate decreased; both better than his career norms, so I project him to regress a bit. Scherzer on the other hand at #3 is likely to get a bit better results in 2012 than he did in 2011. Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner close out the rotation in the four and five slots. Porcello’s ERA has been less than stellar the last 2 years, but he’s still provided some value, and I project Turner to be a bit below average in his rookie season. Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit head up the bullpen again in 2012, and should provide a couple wins there. Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and David Pauley are also in the pen, and are all average or better. Coke could also slot into the #5 slot in the rotation, where he started out in 2011 and pitched quite well up until his last couple of starts.

Detroit should still win the division in 2012 fairly easily, unless one of the other teams makes a big move or gets some unexpected performances. I don’t think they’ll get anywhere near their 95 wins in 2011, but then again, I’ve been wrong before.

Offseason Acquisitions: Prince Fielder, Gerald Laird, Octavio Dotel

Offseason Losses: Magglio Ordonez, Wilson Betemit, Carlos Guillen, Will Rhymes, Brad Thomas, Brad Penny, Joel Zumaya