We're continuing our previewing of the Detroit Tigers player by player. Expect much of the bullpen and the bench players to be doubled up a bit during the final week before the season, but we'll go one a day until then, by uniform numbers. I reserve the right to go out of order either on purpose or by accident.
Miguel Cabrera #24
You never want to predict Miguel Cabrera will have his best season yet. You look at the numbers he's already put up in his career, and it's mind boggling to think of the kind of season required to have a "best yet." After 2010, it was easy to expect some sort of step backwards. With a .420 on-base percentage and .622 slugging average, it sure seemed hard to think he'd improve on that. In 2011, he was the batting title and got on base even more often.
So with a healthier physique, a lineup spot that should get him a few more at bats and a batter like Prince Fielder in the on-deck circle behind him, it's easy to let your mind run away with hope.
Cabrera will obviously remain one of the top batters in the game. Just don't seriously expect a jump to 40 home runs or another .344 batting average.
I would say an average around .330, on-base percentage around .430 and slugging around .575 seems possible. In other words, I still think he's going to be really good -- though I worry I'm a bit too optimistic.
With Cabrera we have the added question of fielding. If we can judge by spring training -- and let's remember the game is going to speed up in April when it really counts -- he'll survive at third base just fine. He's no Gold Glove, but I think it's safe to say he's playing better than expected by most pundits.