Is Miguel Cabrera a fantasy baseball steal?

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It’s hard to classify a projected first-round fantasy selection as a potential steal, but Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera could be just that in 2015.

As Tigers fans already know, the national media has not been kind to the team this offseason. Whether its due to the team’s age, health, offseason losses or past postseason performances, the media has its doubts about the 2015 Tigers.

Those doubts have lingered into fantasy realms. Even to the team’s best player.

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Cabrera has finished each of the last two seasons hurt. He went as far as to compare his battle with bone spurs in his ankle and stress fracture in his foot to a fight with Mike Tyson according to CBS Detroit.

All those injuries did finally take a toll on his stat line in 2014. Cabrera hit .313/.371/.524 with 25 home runs, 109 RBI and 101 runs, which was considered a down-year.

Wow. That really just speaks volumes to what Cabrera can do when he is healthy.

I’m 24 years old and been watching baseball since 1997. The only right-handed hitters in the same conversation as Cabrera in my time are Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols.

That’s it. Those three guys are the top tier in the last 18 years.

Each of those guys have played at least 12 seasons and have career batting averages over .310, at least 390 home runs and an OPS greater than .950.

But even if one conceives to the claim Cabrera is a top-three right-handed hitter of the last two decades, there are still going to be owners that won’t draft based on merit. Pujols is in the same tier of great right-handed hitters, but he isn’t a first-round fantasy pick this season.

Valid point, however, to say Cabrera will begin to decline because his numbers were down in an injury-plagued season is silly.

Furthermore, this notion that Cabrera is not a top fantasy pick this year because he might not be ready for Opening Day is even more asinine.

Baseball is a long season. If Cabrera was in danger of missing the entire month of April, that would be one thing, but he has been hitting for two weeks, is close to running outside and fielding ground balls and still has a good chance to play on Opening Day.

Even if Cabrera doesn’t return to his 2013 MVP numbers, .348/.442/.636, 44 home runs, 137 RBI, 103 runs, and hits closer to his measly .313 with 25 home runs, he is still a top-five fantasy player.

61 percent of fantasy experts, though, have him ranked below No. 5 in their preseason rankings.

With all due respect to those experts, fifth is the lowest Cabrera should be on any list. Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen and Clayton Kershaw are the only names that should go before Cabrera.

Actually after Trout, who is the obvious No. 1 choice, Cabrera, Stanton, McCutchen and Kershaw are all interchangeable and will go based on preference in how owners want to build their teams.

Is there some risk involved with taking Cabrera in the top five? Of course, but there is also risk taking the injury-plagued Paul Goldschmidt and Carlos Gomez, or second-year player Jose Abreu.

When owners are picking fifth and those are the options, the player who has averaged 36 home runs, 120.9 RBI and 102.3 runs per season over the last seven years sounds like a no-brainer.

But if Cabrera falls below fifth, and he could in as many as 60 percent of leagues, he will be a fantasy steal, which is ironic, because steals is about the only think Cabrera doesn’t give fantasy owners.

This is the first in what Motor City Bengals hopes will be a weekly Friday column covering fantasy baseball topics surrounding the Detroit Tigers and AL Central. MCB would love to hear from readers what fantasy topics they want discussed in future columns. Please leave a comment below.

Stay tuned for one more fantasy article on Friday.

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