Who saw the press conference, last month, announcing that Torii Hunter signed with the Detroit Tigers? Me too. How many of you loved the enthusiasm he displayed to be playing for the Tigers and his desire to bring a World Series to Detroit? Me too. I loved every minute of it. As a baseball fan, I enjoy the Torii Hunters of the world, and I will root for a player like that, regardless of the uniform he wears, even if he's a Met. (Actually, it is not so much the Mets as it is Terry Collins. Last year, I had Ruben Tejada in a deep league, needed the runs, Collins pulls him out of the lead off spot....Don't get me started) As a fantasy player, though, I want to know what value Mr. Hunter can bring to my team, and where I should draft him. Let's take a look.
Torii Hunter has been a major leaguer since 1997. I'm not sure how long that is because I misplaced my calculator but I can tell you with certainty, that it is a long time. He plays almost every day, he has a nice batting average, nice underlying stats, hits home runs, steals a few bases, scores lots of runs, and drives in even more. Overall, through 2012, you wanted Mr. Hunter on your team. But he will begin his 2013 campaign at age 37, and will turn 38 around the All Star break. However, even with the risk of advancing age, I think there is still a fair amount of value for fantasy owners and, unless someone gets sneaky and unfairly drafts him before I can next year, I will target him for the redraft league I'm in.
Last year Torii hit 16 home runs and had 92 RBI. He did this in a stadium that laughs at power hitters, from either side of the plate. Those 16 home runs came on the heels of three straight 20+ HR seasons. But Mr. Hunter has also had three straight seasons of Isolated Power declines. While the power will, no doubt, continue to decline with age, perhaps the more neutral confines of Comerica Park will keep his home run prodcution in double-digits, at least for 2013. His speed is another matter. He has not stolen more than nine bags in the past three years, and I would not anticipate more than five or six next year. Runs are a fantasy bright spot, though. I believe the Tigers will have him hitting ahead of Cabrera and Fielder, which will put his runs-scored numbers conservativley around one trillion. This, and the RBI, is where I think his fantasy-value lies. Maybe the trillion thing is a slight exaggeration, but I am confident that he can have another season of 80+ runs and 80+ RBI, in 2013. I would not anticipate another .313 batting average next year. I think something more in line with his career .277 mark is where owners should set their sights.
The key will be where you will draft him in 2013. The Fake Teams consensus rankings have him at 46, but the individual rankings go from 36 to 59. I have him as a top 40 outfielder, and with such a wide range of opinions, I think if you want him, that is about where you will need to draft him. Potentially Torii gives you 81 runs, 88 RBI, 13 HRs, 6 steals, and a .276 BA. That is nice production in the middle of a fifteen team mixed league draft. Mr. Hunter is not as valuable as he once was in dynasty and keeper formats, but for 2013, I like the production. And on a personal note, he is the kind of player I enjoy watching and rooting for, and I like those guys on my team.