2014 Player Previews: 1B Miguel Cabrera

For the first five months of 2013, Miguel Cabrera was having one of the best offensive seasons of all time. But then injuries caught up with him, slowing his production dramatically. The trade of Prince Fielder will facilitate Cabrera's move back across the diamond defensively; will that alleviate the concerns of a potential setback?

Miguel Cabrera 2013 In Review

2013 Stats
Detroit 652 7.6 .455 .348 .356 .344 .442 .636 14% 3/0 -18 -15

Miguel Cabrera is among the best offensive players of his era, and so it should come as no surprise that he posted some incredible offensive stats in 2013, at age 30, right in the middle of his prime. Arguably the only thing that kept Cabrera from ultimately posting one of the greatest offensive seasons ever was a variety of injuries suffered over the course of the season, which finally took their tool in the final month. His .455 wOBA was tops in baseball by a long shot, more than 30 points greater than runner-up Mike Trout, and that's despite the fact that Cabrera struggled to drive the ball in September, with a wOBA of .329, and just two extra base hits in 86 plate appearances.

Where Cabrera's issues really came problematic was at third base, where he had a noticeable decline after being serviceable in 2012. Cabrera's hip and groin injuries sapped his ability to move much laterally in either direction, hurt his speed on the basepaths (which he didn't have much of to begin with), and ultimately sapped the power from his swing.

Simply put, Cabrera is a franchise player that is worth every penny he's paid, based on his ability to hit the ball, and anything being done that sacrifices his ability to do that is something the Tigers had to reconsider, and ultimately did.

2014 Player Projections

2014 Advanced Projections
Service PA WAR BA BAbip OBP SLG wOBA D-Val
ZiPS 648 5.3 .317 .324 .404 .581 .403 -4
Steamer 661 6.3 .325 .335 .418 .594 .426 -16
Oliver 600 6.5 .326 .333 .414 .594 .427 -7

The move back to first base was arguably the biggest piece of news for him this off-season, in addition to the successful core muscle surgery he underwent in late October, that should have him fully healthy by spring training. First base is less demanding physically, which should hopefully reduce the likelihood of him suffering the multiple injuries that he did in 2013. It should also mean the Tigers will get a boost defensively, with Cabrera being much closer to average defensively at first base than at third (while Prince Fielder was decidedly below average), and Nick Castellanos should hopefully be an improvement over Cabrera at the hot corner.

Offensively, most of the projections expect Cabrera to take a dip, but that's not unusual given his superhuman first five months of 2013 and the fact that he'll turn 31 just after Opening Day, putting him on what is usually the downslope for most players. That being said, all three projection systems have him posting an OPS above or near 1.000, which would have likely still made him the best hitter in baseball in 2013. Basically, the projections again expect him to be arguably the most dangerous player in MLB with a bat in his hands, just maybe not quite as good as his campaign last year.

The defensive component is the only one that shows variation at this point in time, but given the position switch and the uncertainty there, it's an educated guess at best. If he can return to 2011 form at first base, he is again a serviceable defender that might cost you a few runs over the course of the season, but certainly won't be a huge negative, and will be an upgrade over Fielder. He'll also provide the rest of the Tigers' infielders another six inches of catching radius in all directions, something easily overlooked, but potentially quite valuable.

2014 Projections come from three different sources; ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver, all publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers, and Oliver Projections from Brian Cartwright.

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