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Baseball Instinct: 3 Up, 3 Down – Detroit Tigers

3 Up, 3 Down – Detroit Tigers

Welcome to the next installment of  Baseball Instinct’s series: Chin Music. We’re taking a quick snap shot of key player’s in each organization’s major league club as well as their minor league system. This isn’t a “point out the obvious” elite players. We are taking a look at player’s in situations that could help your fantasy team or be a good addition to your fantasy farm.  This time around we are taking a look at the Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers have several interesting players, including Miguel Cabrera who we predicted to have a monster season.

Detroit Tigers

Team: Detroit Tigers

Record: 42-36 (2nd in the AL Central)

Payroll: $123 million (6th in Baseball)

The Detroit Tigers are 6 games over .500 and a game behind the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central and 5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League Wild Card Race.  Expectation still remain high and folks in Detroit do not want a repeat of last year, where the Tigers missed the playoffs late in the season after the surging Twins took the Division title away from them.

Major Leaguer: Miguel Cabrera 1B

Miguel Cabrera, 1B Tigers

New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano, St. Louis Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols, Texas Rangers DH/OF Vladimir Guerrero, and Detroit Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera.  These are the hitters who are leading baseball right now and are on another level.  The 27 year old Cabrera is in the prime of his career, he’s hitting an epic .337 with 20 hr’s, 68 rbi, 57 runs, 2 sb in 285 ab’s over 75 games.  In the American League Triple Crown race he’s currently 5th in average, tied for 1st in hr’s, and 2nd in rbi.  He’s on a pace to hit .337-42-144-121-4 over 604 ab’s in 159 games.  Cabrera is one of the most dependable players in the game and perhaps one of the most dependable ever to play the game.  He’s missed just 22 games in 8 seasons, a remarkable statistic to which few can compare.  It’s obviously way too late get Cabrera at a discount in a trade with fellow fantasy league owners, but if he’s available in your league, you have to make an attempt at trading for him, regardless of what long term keeper or farm player you may have to cough up – especially if you are in a position to win a league title.  Prospects come around every year, league titles do not.

Minor Leaguer: Rick Porcello SP

In 70.1 innings in the majors this season, the 21 year old posted a 4-7 record with a 6.14 era, 33 k’s and 22 walks.  That’s not going to get the job done for the Tigers and as such, he was banished to AAA Toledo to work things out.  So far he is 1-1 with a 3.21 era, 6 k’s, and 4 walks for the Mud Hens.

Recently, Baseball Instinct Writer Dave Reiffer (avid Tigers fan), Baseball Instinct Minor League Expert Tom Belmont, and myself discussed the situation with Porcello and with past cases where the Tigers seemingly have put their prized pitching prospects into harms way quicker than they should have.  Such in the case of Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander.

Dave, what’s the connection here with Porcello and Tiger pitchers like Bonderman?

Dave:  Detroit definitely rushed Bonderman.  That young pitcher had a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider.  No third pitch.  Had he had the time to develop that third pitch, it’s possible that Bonderman could have avoided these last two lean years.  But I think Porcello has all the pitches.  This is just the kind of on-the-job training that will involve Bonderman-like stints.  The best case scenario would have had Rick dominating each level in order to develop confidence along side his pitches and to figure out what kind of pitcher he wants to be.  So now he’s in the minors with reported “mechanical problems”, is this really a surprise?

Let’s turn things over our guy with an eye for these problems, Tom Belmont.  Like he did with Chris Tillman in our Orioles Chin Music edition, he will break things down on Porcello.

Tom: No. He’s not a prospect anymore. But Porcello was recently sent to minors so the Tigers could help him figure out what wrong with his mechanics. But I’m not sure it is his mechanics. Let’s take a look at the peripherals:

Year Age Level ERA WHIP BB/PA K/PA BABIP GB% HR/Air FIP
2008 19 A+ 2.66 1.19 6.3% 13.7% 0.275 65% 5% 3.84
2009 20 MLB 3.96 1.33 7.2% 12.4% 0.280 56% 9% 4.82
2010 21 AAA 3.21 1.07 7.4% 11.1% 0.262 67% 0% 3.44
2010 21 MLB 6.14 1.69 6.7% 10.1% 0.345 49% 6% 4.77

His ERA has sky rocketed but his true ERA based on FIP is actually not really all that different. 4.82 in 2009 vs. 4.77 in 2010. Was he really a sub-4.00 pitcher last year? No. Is he a 6.14 ERA pitcher this year. No to that as well. We’re just looking at a swing in normalization.

Porcello has more balls getting through the infield and dropping in for base hits than he did last year. That should normalize with time and his ERA should fall in to the mid 4’s.

Porcello isn’t the strikeout pitcher I once thought he could be while watching him play High School ball. But the Tigers rushed him and didn’t allow him enough development time to become that pitcher. Luckily his ability to get groundballs remains strong and his Walk Rate is good. Sure, as a groundball pitcher in a good pitchers park he’s going to rely more heavily on his defense than is probably needed. But this is a good set of skills for a pitcher and he’s only 21 years old working in his second full season at the majors.

His star has not dimmed. He just needs time to refine his skill set.

Major Leaguer: Brennan Boesch OF

In 215 ab’s on the season, Boesch is hitting .340 with 12 hr’s, 46 rbi, 27 runs, and 2 sb.  To say he’s taken the league by storm and fantasy leaguers by surprise is an understatement at best.  He’s on a pace for 532 ab’s and a line of .340-30-114-67-5.  That would make 25 year old 2006 3rd round pick worth about $25-$30 in next year’s auction.  While I think Boesch will have a fine season as a whole, I’m not convinced that he is going to stay this hot over the course of a 162 game season.  I’m not convinced of the power or average, however I will say I think he is faster than he has shown.  In 1749 college and minor league ab’s, he hit .269 with 50 hr’s.  I do think he can post a line of .310-20-100-70-10, given his start.  This still makes for a great season, but you should cash in on his early production now, especially if you are contending for a league title.  He’s exactly the sell high type of player that brings in players with proven track records of not wearing down in the heat of the summer into fantasy league playoffs.  This isn’t a knock on Boesch, he simply doesn’t have the track record that suggests he won’t fade down the stretch.  Conversely, if you are out of it and trying to rebuild, he’s not a bad player to try to build with.  However, because of his start, don’t expect to get him at a discount, if at all.  Most fantasy leaguers get it backwards; buy high and sell low, which is never a recipe for long term success.

Minor Leaguer:  Andy Dirks OF

Dirks is hitting .281 with 10 hr’s, 40 rbi, 50 runs, and 17 sb’s on the season.  He’s struck out 46 times to 27 walks and has been caught stealing just 4 times.

Here’s Tom Belmont again to give you a break down on Dirks.

Year Age Level Team AB AVG OPS ISOP BB% K% LD% wOBA
2008 22 R Tigers 31 0.387 960 0.161 5.9% 14.7% 23% 0.388
2008 22 A Tigers 10 0.100 282 0 9.1% 18.2% 12% 0.147
2009 23 A+ Tigers 103 0.330 789 0.049 11.1% 9.4% 20% 0.362
2009 23 AA Tigers 361 0.255 670 0.094 8.8% 15% 15% 0.297
2010 24 AA Tigers 313 0.281 782 0.160 7.7% 12.9% 16% 0.339

Andy Dirks wasn’t on any Top Tigers Prospect lists heading into the season and he wasn’t on my radar either, but Dave Reiffer, our resident Tigers correspondent told me to check Dirks out.

At 24 years old and 3 years into his development, Dirks, currently an Eastern League LF for the Erie Sea Wolves is producing an All-Star level season line. 10 HRs, 16 2Bs and 16 SBs. It’s his best performance to date in his career.

His peripherals unfortunately don’t support the production level 100%. His BB% has declined each level since the start of last season. He has gotten his K% down to 12.9% which is an improvement over the 15% in his Double A action last year.

My biggest concern is his Isolated Power (IsoP) jump this year. The jump of .049 in limited action in A ball in 2009 improved to .094 in his move to Double A. It’s a nice increase. But the .160 that he’s posting in 2010 is a monstrous jump. Is it sustainable? He’s probably not a 30/30 type player. But he could be shaping up into a nice player with the abiltiy to steal 20+ bases and year and chip in 10+ Homeruns while holding down a 4th OF spot.

Major Leaguer:  Austin Jackson OF

Jackson came to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson trade, and so far the Tigers have enjoyed the better end of the deal.  Despite cooling a bit in May and part of June, Jackson has become a top 50 fantasy outfielder.  He’s hitting .307 with 1 hr, 19 rbi, 45 runs, and 13 sb.  He’s on a pace for a line of .307-2-42-99-29.  Not too bad for a rookie, However I think a rebound is in order and while you can’t expect the clip he was hitting at early on, a line of .315-2-42-110-35 isn’t out of order and right now is a perfect time to try to land him.  I think more so for the crowd trying to rebuild, but he could also help those trying to win now.  The key is going to be what it will cost you to land him.

Minor Leaguer:  Jacob Turner SP

Turner was the Tigers 1st round draft pick in 2009.  Currently he’s 2-3 with a 4.26 era, 58 k’s, and 11 walks at 2 levels in the minors.

As we do in every segment, we will turn it over to Tom Belmont for his minor league prospective.

Tom: Turner is the Top of the list of Tigers prospects. Big and projectable as a workhorse. His fastball sits low to mid 90s and he has the ability with development to make that consistently in the mid 90s touching as high as 97-98. He has the best curveball in the system and is going to strike out a lot of hitters at the major league level as soon as 2011. As a 19 year old already in the FSL for Lakeland, the Tigers are definitely pushing the envelope again. They know they have a stud on their hands.

For a good look at his ability lets take a look at his Midwest League numbers:

Name Level Age G IP BB% K% BABIP GB% ERA FIP
Jacob Turner A 19 10 48 4% 23.8% 0.295 39% 3.38 3.21

K rate and BB rate are both outstanding. His GB% needs some work and once he starts getting hitters to pound the ball down by working lower in the zone, Turner is going to fast track to the Tigers rotation.

Verlander, Turner, Scherzer, Porcello.

That’s scary for the AL Central.

Check out our next edition of 3U3D when we do a quick hit on the Atlanta Braves.


Closing in on 25 years of following the greatest game in the world very closely. I can remember as a kid how excited I was when a player that I had watched in the minors make his major league debut. The same holds true today. We designed Baseball Instinct with that in mind; getting you the fan excited to get out and see the see the stars of tomorrow - today!

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