Miguel Cabrera | First Base | #24
2014 salary: $22 million
2013 statistics: .348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 26 2B, 1 3B, 3 SB, 90 BB, 94 K
Projected role: First baseman
Rather amazingly, Miguel Cabrera turns 31 in April. (It seems like he’s been around forever and yet you’re still surprised he’s that old. It doesn’t make sense.) And he’s coming off the finest season of his career, and said season included two months in which he couldn’t really move. We don’t really need to remind you how remarkable the guy really is.
Of course, this year he moves back to first and has Victor Martinez hitting in front of him instead of his departed pal Prince Fielder. Contrary to what some might say, this likely won’t affect him too much (see this bit from Fangraphs after the 2012 season that searched in vain for evidence of Fielder’s “protection” benefiting Cabrera). He hit .344 with Martinez hitting in front of him in 2011, and his OPS that year was better than it was in the season he won the Triple Crown. And in late and close situations, Fielder was seeing a bunch of LOOGYs, so the guys pitching to Cabrera were probably thinking about how they should pitch to Cabrera. Lineup protection isn’t the reason Miguel has established himself as the best hitter in baseball, and I suspect Fielder’s departure won’t hurt Cabrera’s numbers much.
Ideally, the move back to first should aid Cabrera as well. He was decent enough there, his range won’t be as much of a factor, and he won’t have to move around quite as much. A fully healthy Cabrera should have no problem maintaining his status as the most feared hitter in the American League. He’s the least of my worries heading into 2014.