When tallying the reasons the Detroit Tigers are the overwhelming favorites to repeat as AL Central champions, you start with the presence of Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.

Then you can factor in the arrival of Torii Hunter and the return of Anibal Sanchez. And don’t forget the emergence of Austin Jackson as an All-Star center fielder, the increased comfort of Prince Fielder in his second season in the Motor City and the rise of righthander Max Scherzer to elite status.

With so many assets, it is easy to overlook what might have been the most important development of the Tigers’ offseason. That would be the return of one of the game’s most overlooked hitters, Victor Martinez, who missed all of 2012 after blowing out his left knee in an offseason workout.

“It’s like another big free-agent pickup,” says Fielder, who found a home in Detroit only after Martinez was injured last year.

Now the Tigers have both in the middle of a batting order that, with Cabrera in the three-hole, is the most dangerous in the game.

Martinez is expected to bat after Fielder and Cabrera, a spot that the switch-hitting DH covets but calls “a little sad at the same time.”

Why’s that?

“You hope they leave something (on the bases) for you,” he says with a smile.

Considering how often Cabrera and Fielder reach base, Martinez doesn’t need to be concerned about a lack of RBI opportunities. Fielder led the majors in reaching base last season (284 times) and Cabrera was second (274). Even after subtracting all of that duo’s homers—they combined for 74—Martinez shouldn’t bat very often the bases empty.

Few hitters take better advantage of run-producing situations, either. In his 10 major league seasons, Martinez is batting .319 with runners in scoring position, a hefty enough hike over his .303 overall average to consider him a true clutch hitter.