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Turner key part of Tigers-Marlins deal

7/23/2012

While most fantasy owners will see Monday's five-player trade between the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins, and presume the veteran players heading to the American League will pick up steam statistically, I'm more interested in the top pitching prospect the Marlins acquired. Yes, right-hander Jacob Turner hasn't shown much over six big league starts (three this season and three in 2011), but he's 21 years old. He's got time and now he's leaving for the weaker league and what appears to be (though we need far more evidence) a pitcher's park. There's no guarantee the Marlins give Turner double-digit starts the rest of this season, but I can already picture Turner being on my sleeper list for 2013.

As for right-hander Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante, they are clearly upgrades for the AL Central leaders and worth owning in standard fantasy leagues, but don't get too excited about either player raising his individual performance level. Sanchez ranks 75th on the ESPN Player Rater among starting pitchers, but he's better than that; the lowly five wins (in 19 starts) has affected his value, but we know wins can't be predicted. Sanchez is healthy and on pace for 188 strikeouts.

Sanchez has seen his strikeout rate drop in 2012 from last year, but he's a reliable pitcher and probably the Tigers' second-best option for October baseball. Don't be surprised if Sanchez maintains performance, as his new division isn't exactly stocked with sluggers. It's worth noting Sanchez had been performing considerably better away from new Marlins Park (5.20 home ERA, 2.88 road ERA), though that tells us nothing about what he'll do in Detroit. Sanchez is owned in 85.6 percent of standard leagues and that seems about right.

As for Infante, the Tigers need him a lot more than fantasy owners do. Detroit second basemen are hitting .201 this season, as Ryan Raburn clearly wasn't getting the job done, and Infante is a career .276 hitter. Once upon a time (in 2004), Infante even hit 16 home runs and stole 13 bases for these very Tigers. He began to show his power swing this April, hitting five home runs in the first few weeks, and he swiped seven bases in May. Of course, Infante has hit precisely one home run in each month since, and he's not really a base stealer. Still, he's the No. 18 second baseman on the Player Rater, certainly not a must-own anymore but perhaps due to raise his play some, and while he had been hitting considerably better away from home, that's overshadowed by his month-by-month trends. In other words, the guy has eight home runs on the season, but don't expect eight more the rest of the season.

I'm more interested in what the Marlins do about their team, frankly. Turner likely heads directly to Triple-A New Orleans, but at some point he should be up with the Marlins this season. As colleague Keith Law notes, Turner is a potential power pitcher with nice upside, and moving to the NL should help him. Don't rush out to get him in standard leagues, but spend a buck in NL-only formats and keep him in mind for dynasty formats.

As far as the Miami offense, Infante will be ably replaced at second base by stolen-base fiend Emilio Bonifacio, more of an infielder than center fielder in the first place. This frees up continued playing time for journeyman Justin Ruggiano, whom the Marlins have been using regularly in the outfield and as their clean-up hitter with Giancarlo Stanton out after knee surgery. Ruggiano has the potential to hit for some power and steal bases, but knock 100 points off his current batting average. It's also possible that while Stanton is out, the Marlins give Bryan Peterson another shot to play, or maybe Chris Coghlan, or they could opt for an awesome Greg Dobbs/Austin Kearns platoon. Regardless, fantasy owners don't need to run out and get any Marlins hitters that weren't already owned.