Will hands of stone affect Tiger pitchers?

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's been bombs away for Ryan Raburn this spring as the 30-year-old is tied for the major league lead in exhibition homers.

But with Raburn getting the second base job in the Motor City, the true offensive assault may be targeted on the Detroit pitching staff.

With heavyweights Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, and the stone-handed Raburn anchoring the infield defense, every ball put in play could be an adventure.

That's bad news for those investing heavily in Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, and for those selecting Justin Verlander as the first pitcher off the board.

According to FanGraphs, in 56 games at second base in 2011, Raburn committed 10 errors and had an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of -6.4 (meaning he gave away 6.4 runs over the course of the season with his glove). Compare that to 2011 UZR leader Dustin Pedroia, who had a UZR of 17.9.

Meanwhile, Fielder had 15 errors and a -5.1 UZR in 2011, while Cabrera made 23 errors and had a UZR of -4.2 in 2007, his last full season as a third baseman.

That kind of porous defense doesn't bode well for a pitcher like Fister, who has a career ground ball-to-fly ball ratio (GB/FB) of 1.36 (320 ground balls and 216 fly balls).

Verlander will still be Verlander, as he strikes out a ton of batters and gives up more fly balls than ground balls, but save yourself the headache if you have a choice - take a National Leaguer like Clayton Kershaw or Roy Halladay as your No. 1 pitcher over the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.

As for Fister, look for other starting pitching options in the middle rounds. Pitching is extremely deep and there are many comparable options to be had. Pitchers like Jordan Zimmermann, Shawn Marcum, Jaime Garcia and Wandy Rodriguez are all options to give you 150 Ks with a 3.00-3.50 ERA, so don't pay extra for what Fister did last season (2.83 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 146 strikeouts) because he isn't likely to repeat that feat.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Raburn as a potential late-round second base option, especially if you miss out on Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia. Raburn has averaged 15 homers a year in the past three seasons, and he's been on a tear with six this spring.

Unlike the Tigers, a fantasy owner can reap the rewards of Raburn's bat and multi-position eligibility without having to put up with his defensive shortcomings, provided you don't invest in any of Detroit's pitchers.

If you do wind up with one, or several, Tigers pitchers, hope for strikeouts, or long fly balls for cavernous Comerica Park to swallow up.


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