Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/20/12

It’s time for your fantasy baseball draft. Or, you are so excited that you’ve already done one and have two more teed up. Regardless, I can’t reveal all of my secrets but I will shed light on what I expect from our beloved Detroit Tigers, as individuals that is.

Part 1 of this segment will expose the early and mid rounders that you should be targeting, part 2 examines the late rounders and sleepers.

The projected value will be based on the standard roto 5×5 league. For pitchers, this tracks wins, saves, ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. For hitters, we scour the box score for runs, RBI’s, homers, steals, and batting average.

Thankfully for anyone planning to draft a member of the Detroit Tigers, defense doesn’t count.

Miguel Cabrera

The Early Rounders:

Miguel Cabrera – If Cabrera isn’t the 1st overall pick, it’s because you love Matt Kemp or value Albert Pujols slightly higher. Any which way you slice it, he’s a top 3 pick. The thought for me (I have the #1 pick in our 10-team league) of him hitting in front of Prince Fielder is too tantalizing to pass up. His upside could reach a .360 batting average, nearly 40 homers, and 120 RBI’s. Having Austin Jackson 2 spots ahead of him in the lineup could suppress his RBI total however.

Prince Fielder – I value hitters over pitchers all day long, which puts Prince in as the #2 Tiger. I’ve seen him go in the 1st round in some mock drafts and as late as the high teens. His batting average is the most unknown factor given him switching leagues. Count on a baseline of .280, 32 homers, and 115 RBI’s. He could perform substantially better than all of those numbers.

Justin Verlander – True, I like hitters in the early rounds but JV is a monster who deserves to anchor your fantasy rotation. Strikeouts are king and there are few surer bets to fan 240 hitters than Verlander. Toss in 20 wins, an ERA at or below 3.00 and you now have your ace.

Mid-Rounders:

The Tigers, as we all know, are a bit top-heavy. After drafting 3 of them in the first 2-3 rounds, another Tiger likely won’t come off the board until after pick #100. Who should go next?

Jhonny Peralta – People seem to be a bit down on Jhonny after a stellar 2011 that saw him hit .299 with 21 homers, and 86 RBI’s. Why the hate? The only true outlier last year was the batting average, which was a career high, but hitting behind Cabrera and Victor Martinez tends to do that to a hitter. 2011 was the 4th consecutive time that he eclipsed 80 RBI’s and he has also swatted 20+ homers 4 times throughout his career. Slide the initials ss into his position column and you have yourself a reliable middle infielder in whom you must trust. Still firmly entrenched in his prime years, the time remains now for Peralta.

Alex Avila – Right around the same slotting of Peralta (picks 110-130) you find Avila, entering his 2nd season as the everyday catcher. He’s only 25 years old and went .295, 19, 82 a year ago. Some also fear a regression from Avila. To that, I point you to his superior on-base skills (.389 on-base % in ’11), which is sort of a recession-proof statistic. His short, powerful swing, patient approach, and added rest now that the Tigers finally have a backup catcher will lead to another strong season. Draft with confidence and bank on .275, 15, and 70 out of your catcher with plenty of upside.

Jose Valverde – So, how long do you wait to draft a closer? I bet I’ll wait longer! But if you’re going to take one earlier than you should make sure it’s a guy with no job competition and a proven track record. The Big Potato is your man. I’d take him over Brian Wilson, Rafael Betancourt, and Joel Hanrahan, all 3 currently rated higher than Valverde.

Max Scherzer – ESPN has Max rated the 40th best starting pitcher in the skeptical world of fantasy baseball. Perhaps no pitcher rated this low has greater upside. Command is the only thing separating him from top 20 status or higher. Scherzer has 180-200K ability and will rack up the wins on a loaded Tigers team. Due to his bloated ERA from a season ago, he’ll likely be drafted in the 12th or 13th round. Taking him higher makes you a believer. Do you believe?

Doug Fister – Checking in as the #43 rated starting pitcher, Fister gets little credit for what he pulled off in 2011. He finished ‘11 as the 16th best starter to have on your fantasy team. Why the expected 27-slot slide on ESPN’s list? He’s gotten better each year, improved his strikeout total dramatically after joining Detroit, and will pile on the wins just like Scherzer. One fear is the notion that he is a groundball specialist. He actually ranked 46th out of 94 qualifying starters in groundballs induced in ’11. The Cabrera factor at 3rd shouldn’t hurt as much as people think. A mid 3’s ERA is well within reason, as is a career-high in strikeouts, say north of 150. If you get Fister in the 14th or 15th round, you just got a ton of value.

Click here for Part 2 of this segment where I focus on the late rounders and deep sleepers.

Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe

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