Prince Fielder Guarantees the Detroit Tigers Another AL Central Championship

Chris RinaldiContributor IIIJanuary 24, 2012

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 09:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates after he hit a 2-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game one of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 9, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers arguably have two of the top 10 hitters in baseball after signing Prince Fielder. They certainly have one of the top 10 left-handed hitters, and one of the top 10 right-handed hitters. And with that, they now have a lineup that can hit with the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

The lineup figures to shape out like this:

1. Austin Jackson: CF

2. Ryan Raburn: 2B/OF

3. Delmon Young: LF/DH

4. Miguel Cabrera: 1B/3B/LF/DH

5. Prince Fielder: 1B/DH

6. Alex Avila: C

7. Brennan Boesch: LF

8.  Jhonny Peralta: SS/3B

9.  Brandon Inge/Ramon Santiago/Don Kelly

The lineup can be shifted around, especially with all the theoretical places people will have to play on the diamond every day in order to accommodate Fielder and Cabrera. 

When Victor Martinez returns next year it’s likely Cabrera will bump to the No. 3 hole, with Fielder going to the fourth and Martinez sliding nicely into the fifth spot.

The biggest winner of the deal, from an individual perspective, is Delmon Young. If Dombrowski doesn’t trade Young he will have earned him a lot of money as Young heads into free agency in the offseason.

In only 178 plate appearances in Detroit, Young posted a .274/.298/.458 line, with eight home runs, 32 RBI and 28 runs.  Those numbers dwarf his performance in 325 plate appearances in Minnesota prior to the trade. 

Now, Young will likely see more pitches batting in front of Cabrera and Fielder than he did in front of Cabrera and Martinez. A 25-home run season with 100 runs and 100 RBI looks like a reasonable prediction for Young.

The biggest winners of the deal, from any other sort of perspective, are the Detroit Tigers.  The pitching staff looks the same as last year.  They lose Brad Penny as their fifth starter, which should be an improvement, whether he is replaced by another veteran or a prospect such as Jacob Turner or Drew Smyly.

The biggest losers here are the Cleveland Indians.  It really looked like Cleveland was putting a team together that could challenge Detroit for the AL Central.  It’s still possible they can with bounce-back years from Sin Shoo-Choo and Grady Sizemore, continual improvement from Carlos Santana and breakout years from Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. 

However, their chances took a hit.  So did any possibility of a feel-good run by the Kansas City Royals.