You know the stars on the Tigers: Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and so on and so forth. Of course, none of them are really x-factors, but the Tigers still have plenty of players that are going to make an impact on their team this year that might be falling under the radar a little bit.
My x-factor for the Detroit Tigers in 2013 is Alex Avila.
Alex Avila had an awesome 2011 for the Tigers: .295/.389/.506 in 141 games with 19 homers. That's a star-making line, especially when coming from behind the plate. Hell, Avila's 4.9 fWAR was topped by just Matt Wieters in 2011, and by only four catchers last season. But his performance dropped off a year ago, to the tune of a .243/.352/.384 line wiht nine homers. While Avila's walk and strikeout rates held fast, his BABIP fell by 53 points, and his ISO fell by a third.
You can point to an increased groundball rate for Avila's struggles a year ago, as he mashed balls into the ground 46.4% of the time compared to 37.8% of the time in 2011. With that shift in groundball rate came an equal shift in flyball rate, and even with a consistent HR/FB, his power numbers fell off a cliff. Only Josh Reddick had a lower flyball rate last season than Avila, which tells me that his struggles seem like something that can be fixed with a change in approach at the plate as opposed to a full-fledged revamping of his swing.
If Avila even upped his flyball rate to the league average of 34%, his stats would improve across the board, even if his BABIP doesn't jump through the roof. But hell, his BABIP likely will take a step forward with fewer groundballs. Even if Avila doesn't regain his 2011, nearly five win form, he'd still provide a lot of value to the Tigers with a three and a half win season. With a weak-hitting backup in Brayan Pena, the Tigers need as much production as possible from Avila in 2013 in case any of their other offensive starters struggle.