Mensching: What does crystal ball say about 3 sparkling starts?

By Kurt Mensching, Special to The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera clocks a fourth-inning homer Sunday and Jose Iglesias is impressed with the power.

We're through the first week of the baseball season, which makes for a nice time to look atop the leader boards and dream about just how great of numbers players would put up if only they could keep up the pace the rest of the year.

J.D. Martinez would hit 81 home runs. Jose Iglesias would bat .526. Miguel Cabrera would drive in 216 runs.

Actually, that last one is almost believable if you've watched Cabrera during his career. Almost.

Intuitively we know that the Tigers aren't going to have four hitters batting above .400 come come October, but it's worth wondering just how good that trio of Tigers leaders may be at the end of the year.

Let's just get the first one out of the way: Miguel Cabrera's healthy, and he's back.

Not to the extent of a .520 average, but an 11-hit series in Cleveland will do a bit to muck up the numbers in the first six games.

When last we saw a healthy Cabrera, he was actually in contention for another Triple Crown season, in the dog days of 2013. He hasn't been fully healthy since, undergoing surgeries on his core muscles and ankle during the past two offseasons.

Now he looks strong and looks like the Cabrera of old. He's taking what opposing pitchers give him and depositing the ball all over the field, and twice in the stands on Sunday.

Amazingly, we haven't even seen the best of him yet this year, and the stats already boggle the mind.

Two-hundred-plus RBIs? No, probably not.

Are we watching the start of a Triple Crown season? Well … it would be a stretch to predict a thing this early. But hey, it's April. Why not get a little excited?

Either way, he's one of the best you'll see play the game.

Then we have J.D. Martinez.

A quick glance at his stats entering the Tigers' game on Sunday might have led you to believe he's struggling and that last season was a fluke. After all, he batted just .217 with a .217 on-base percentage.

That would ignore the fact that in every way but results Martinez picked up 2015 right where he left off in 2014. The low averaged belied the fact Martinez drove the ball for line drives 30 percent of the time he put the ball in play, yet only had a .167 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) to show for it.

A 3-for-5 day Sunday, including a home run, righted the ship a bit and brought his average up to .286.

An average in the high-.200s seems about right for Martinez, and it's clear already the power is going nowhere. He's going to continue being a productive batter.

Eighty-one home runs is a laugher of a thought, but a total above 30 seems more believable every day.

But what to make of Iglesias? That is the million-dollar question.

While no one believes he's going to compete for a batting title, he quickly put the woes of spring training -- where he battled a .100 average -- behind him.

Through Sunday Iglesias is batting .526 with a .550 on-base percentage. This is a player who hit .244 during parts of three seasons in Triple A.

A reason to believe? Iglesias batted .330 with Boston in 66 games in 2013 before being traded to the Tigers, before pain in his shins that would eventually derail his entire 2014 season fully took hold.

Although his BABIP of .376 seemed unsustainably a high, a fast player who hits line drives will do well enough in that regard.

High-fives all-around for J.D. Martinez after his ninth-inning homer Sunday.

Reasons not to believe? A player without a lot of power is going to have his average completely driven by how often he strikes out and how often balls manage to find a safe place to land on the field. And his minor league track record as a batter wasn't stellar, either.

Iglesias, a player who strikes out in more than one-sixth of his at bats, has yet to do so this year. That, and balls have found holes all over the field to the tune of a matching .526 BABIP.

Supposing for a moment that Iglesias has grown during his time in the game -- this isn't a big leap of the imagination for an intelligent, young and athletic player -- and that the truth lies somewhere between Iglesias' time in Boston and Detroit, suddenly it doesn't feel like such a leap to believe he could have near a .300 average for the year.

You'd be right to be skeptical about that. But if he can hit for average, run the bases well and continue to play the kind of defense he does at shortstop, Iglesias will be one very valuable player for the Tigers.

The gaudy numbers of Iglesias, Martinez and Cabrera will be a thing of the past mere weeks from now.

Yet watching each of them in the first week of the season, you have to believe there's a little more reality to their numbers than at first it might seem.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog ( He can be reached at