Who to Watch: Indians, Tigers

While the Indians and Tigers begin 2010 in rebuilding mode, they’re fantasy studs remain strong early in the draft.  But what hidden gems await in the later rounds?  Brett Greenfield and I take our first look at the AL Central and point out the players you want and don’t want on draft day 2010.


The Indians player that I want in 2010 comes with one condition: He has to make the team first.  That player is Michael Brantley and he will be one to watch this spring. 


Brantley brings advanced plate discipline to the table, something rarely seen in such a young player.  In 457 triple-A at bats last season, Brantley stole 46 bases and put up a 1.23 BB/K rate.  He has some raw power, but his game is more gap-to-gap.  Though his 112 at bat sample size with the Indians is too small, what he showed was all positive.  There were plenty of line drives (24), he made great contact (91 percent) and he didn’t chase many bad pitches (only 15 percent).  While those rates may not look so pristine over more at bats, they are good signs that Brantley should be able to hold his own at the big league level and provide deep value with 30-plus stolen bases given 550 at bats or more. 


Keep an eye on his status this spring.  If he breaks camp as the starting left-fielder in Cleveland, he worth owning in all formats. 


The Indians player I don’t want in 2010 is the rapidly declining Travis Hafner.  Hafner is only 33-years-old, but his health and production are both heading down hill.  When in the lineup, Hafner held an AB/HR rate of about 21, which would actually lead to some decent home run production.  However, there has only been one 500-plus at bat season in Hafner’s career.  At this point he is nothing more than an injury liability that is getting worse against left-handed pitching.  Having DH-only eligibility only adds to the reasons not to take a chance on Hafner again in 2010.


From the Detroit Tigers it is Max Scherzer that I want to target on draft day.  Scherzer may have durability questions, but when he is on the mound, he is a strikeout machine.  In 226.1 career Major League innings Scherzer has struck out 240 while walking a reasonable 84, good for a 2.86 K/BB rate.  The move to the American League won\’t help much, but at least he will pitch home games at the spacious Comerica Park. 


Even if Scherzer tops out at 180-190 innings, he should provide a decent ERA and 190-plus strikeouts. 


The Tiger I don’t want is Rick Porcello.  This is saying nothing about the future potential of this 21-year-old, but for 2010 purposes his value will be minimal at best.  Porcello is a ground ball machine, which will help his ERA in the long run, but so far in his young (very young) career he has yet to provide much in the strikeout category.  His 4.7 K/9 in 2009 was well below league average and even an improvement would still leave much to be desired. 


Fantasy owners might be swayed by his 14 wins as a rookie and expect that number to only improve.  Don’t be that guy/gal.  Pitchers can only control what they do, not what their defense does or what type of run support their offense provides.  The Tigers offense actually got a bit worse this offseason, making 14 wins seem like a long shot for Porcello.  When all is said and done, we have a pitcher who won’t provide a ton of wins and won’t provide much over 100 strikeouts.  While Porcello’s future is still very bright, pass on him in 2010 and look for someone with more strikeout potential late in the draft.


Brett Greenfield of Fantasy Phenoms gives his take…


The Indian to own in 2010 is Michael Brantley.  He stole 46 bases in 51 attempts in the minors last year and shows the ability to take a walk.  He may lead off and be followed by Choo and Sizemore in the lineup, which could lead to 100 runs scored.  Brantley could provide McCutchen-like numbers, yet twelve rounds later.


The Indian to avoid in 2010 is Jhonny Peralta.  No longer eligible at SS, he’s become a marginal CI at best.  His 10-20 HR power was a nice surprise as a MI, but as a CI it’s hardly impressive.  Add a .275 AVG and a lack of steals and you’ve got a mediocre third baseman at best.

The Tiger you’ll want on your roster this year is Magglio Ordonez. He led the majors with a .375 AVG over his final 224 AB. He added 21 XBH to boot. Ordonez is in a contract year and might be traded to a contender at the deadline, especially if it helps Detroit save about eight million of his salary. Magglio has proven to be durable and hit a blip early in 2009, but rebounded nicely in the second half. He seems to be a forgotten man in drafts and could be a cheap #4 OF for your team.


The Tiger you don’t want this year is Rick Porcello.  He’s young and likely will be pushed towards 200 innings, considering Detroit’s past.  Looking at Bonderman and Verlander, Porcello and Scherzer could be next.  The problem?  Porcello’s K/9 ratio is right along par with Joel Piniero, Mike Pelfery and the rest of the Baltimore Orioles staff.  That’s a big problem and limits his fantasy upside.  There are many other better bets.