I SAY GOODBYE:
The Tigers let go of DH Aubrey Huff, and SP Jarrod Washburn, who both struggled when they came to Detroit. The Tigers did not re-sign Gold Glove 2B Placido Polanco, who left for Philadelphia. The Tigers decided they would not re-sign reliever Brandon Lyon who went to Houston and closer Fernando Rodney who went to L.A to play for the Angels. The Tigers then made a controversial, blockbuster trade by sending All-Star CF Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees and All-Star SP Edwin Jackson to the Arizona. At this point of the off season I thought the Tigers were “D as in done”.
YOU SAY HELLO:
In return from the blockbuster trade the Tigers received some young talent, Max Scherzer and Dan Schlereth from Arizona, and Austin Jackson and Phil Coke from New York. Max Scherzer could possibly fill Edwin Jackson’s spot with the help of the final 2 spots of the rotation. And then bright spot came into the 2010 Tigers off season when the Tigers signed Houston’s closer Jose Valverde to a 2 year deal. Valverde will fill the hole that Rodney left, and relievers like Ryan Perry, Fu Te-Ni and a healthy Joel Zumaya will replace the innings Brandon Lyon left. The Tigers went out and signed LF Johnny Damon to a 1 year deal to play LF and bat 2nd in Jim Leyland’s lineup.
AT THE PLATE:
1. #14 CF Austin Jackson
In the deal that sent All-Star CF Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees the Tigers in return received a talented kid named Austin Jackson. He is very comparable to Granderson as they both weigh 185 pounds and stand 6’2. Jackson is a young athletic outfielder with great range and great instincts when tracking the ball down. He has a good arm and can steal a base when needed. He can run, catch and throw, but can he hit?
In AAA Toledo, Jackson hit .300, with not a lot of power. He has easily been the biggest surprise this spring, batting .356 with 10 extra base hits. His goal this year should be to play great defense and get on base. “AJax” will replace Granderson in Comerica Park’s CF and in the leadoff spot of Jim Leyland’s lineup card, without playing a game in the big leagues.
2. #18 LF Johnny Damon
The Tigers had two huge question marks this spring. Who would play LF and replace Placido Polanco in the 2 hole? This question was answered when the Tigers signed veteran LF Johnny Damon. Damon had a great year for New York batting .282, with 24 homers and 82 RBI’s. He is a winner and a consistent hitter. I think Damon will be a great fit with the Tigers.
3. #30 RF Magglio Ordonez
Magglio is the biggest key for the Tigers success. He had a lot on his mind last year. His family was having health problems and he was busy thinking about his expiring contract. This was probably the reason Magglio struggled in the first half with a .260 average. But when “Maggs” cut his greasy locks around the All-Star break he started hitting again, and hit .375 in the second half. He is said to be in the best shape any Tiger fan has ever seen him in. He is stronger both physically and mentally and is better conditioned after an enduring off season. Magglio will have a bounce back year.
4. #24 1B Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera has put last year behind him and is now focusing on this year. He has said he has stopped drinking and his personal life has been cleaned up. “Miggy” is one of the most talented players in the game today. He is a game changer. He can change a game with one swing of the bat, against any pitcher in any park. Miguel is so great at what he does because he does it on a consistent basics year in and year out. You can pencil in Cabrera will have 35+ homers, a .300+ average and knock in 100+RBI’s. If he can put the past behind him and focus on the now, Miguel will be a contender for the Triple Crown and the A.L MVP.
5. #9 DH Carlos Guillen
Carlos Guillen was on the DL for a good 2 months last year and when he returned he was never able to get into a hitting groove. Guillen was told last year that he would be in LF in 2010. But, when the Tigers signed Johnny Damon, he was moved into the DH role. Carlos accepted his role, and bought into the idea that it would be good for the Tigers. Guillen’s goal this season is to stay healthy and be consistent at the plate.
6. #15 3B Brandon Inge
Brandon had a great first half last year, batting .268 with 21 homers. But, the second half was a different story. Inge began to have soreness in his knees. He played through the pain but his production decreased in a drastic way. He had a tough time moving and batted .186 with 6 homers in the second half. Inge had surgery on both knees this off season. He is healthy now and needs to stay healthy all year.
7. #8 C Gerald Laird
Laird is one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball. He does a great job with the pitchers and has a cannon arm. But he can’t hit. He has changed his bat placement by simply resting the bat on his shoulder until the ball is released. This will help him relax at the plate. Laird was trying to hit for the fences which caused him to get underneath the ball and hit a ton pop-ups last season. Laird needs to shorten his swing and focus on making solid contact.
8. #20 2B Scott Sizemore
When Placido Polanco left Detroit, the Tigers said Scott would be Placido’s successor. And the Tigers stuck to their word. Sizemore was Tigers Minor League Player of the Year last year. Sizemore swung a good bat. He combined to have a .308 average in AAA Toledo and AA Erie, with 61 extra base hits. But he broke his ankle in the Arizona Fall League. He had surgery and has slowly recovered. He now is healthy. Many people have had worries about Sizemore’s glove, but he is very steady and is only going to get better.
9. #4 SS Adam Everett
Adam Everett is a steady SS that makes all the plays. He knows his role is to play great defense and small ball at the plate and occasionally come up with a big hit.
TOEING THE RUBBER:
1. #35 Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball last year. He led baseball in games started, innings, and strikeouts, striking out an incredible 269 batters. As a reward the Tigers gave Verlander a 5 year, 80 million dollar extension. Justin is happy which made the Tigers happy. Verlander has the best stuff in baseball. He has a 100 mile hour fastball, an 85 mile hour curve that breaks 12 inches, and a changeup that breaks hitters’ ankles. Verlander will once again be in the hunt for the AL CY Young.
2. #48 Rick Porcello
I often forget that Rick is only 21. And last year he pitched like a 10 year veteran. He has a lot of poise and knows how to pitch. He had an ERA under 4 with 14 wins. Porcello did everything the Tigers could ask for. He had a great spring with a 1.21 ERA and only giving 3 walks in 22 innings of ball. Porcello worked all offseason on his stuff and command and will even more comfortable this year. Porcello is a star in the making and will be a CY Young candidate real soon.
3. #37 Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer will replace Edwin Jackson. Many people think this will be a breakout year for Max. He has the stuff. He has a zippy fastball, and a developing change up and slider. Scherzer struck out 174 batters last year with 9 wins for a bad Arizona team. Scherzer is a talented kid that needs a good home where he will win some games. Hopefully, Detroit will be that for Max this year.
4. #38 Jeremy Bonderman
Jeremy Bonderman’s shoulder is now healthy after missing most of the last two years. Bonderman is a real key to this team and is going to have to pitch good ball and stay healthy all year.
5. #21 Dontrelle Willis
Dontrelle Willis has recovered from anxiety disorder and has regained some of his control. Willis won the final spot over Nate Robertson, and is going to need throw more strikes than balls if he wants to keep his 5Th spot in the rotation. Pitchers like Armando Galarraga and Eddie Bonine will be waiting for call ups.
SPRINTING FROM THE PEN:
Bobby Seay and Zach Miner will start the season on the 15 day DL. Pitchers Eddie Bonine and Brad Thomas will replace them for the time being. Phil Coke will also have a role for the pen.
Setup Man #59 Fu-Te Ni
Fu-Te Ni pitched great baseball down the stretch for the Tigers last season, with a 2.61 ERA. He is going to have a major role in the pen this year with Brandon Lyon gone and Bobby Seay and Zach Miner on the 15 day DL to start the season.
Setup Man #45 Ryan Perry
Ryan had a great rookie year with a 3.79 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 61 innings. He can really pitch. He has a power fastball and is really fierce on the mound. This is the Tigers closer of the future and will most likely be the 8th inning setup man for closer Jose Valverde.
Setup Man # 54 Joel Zumaya
Joel Zumaya has been on the shelf for the Tigers for the past two seasons and is ready to show he can still pitch. He had a bad spring but he is healthy again and is throwing 100 miles like the old “Zoom-Zoom”. Zumaya is going to need to locate his pitches and throw strikes.
Setup Man #46 Jose Valverde
The Tigers lost a 37 game saver in Fernando Rodney this offseason, and then gained an even better closer. Jose Valverde is similar to Rodney. He throws hard in the 95 mile hour range and pitches with passion and enthusiasm. “Papa Grande” is known for his antics on the mound and will keep this bullpen relaxed and will give this team the energy it needs. Opposing teams are going to have a rough time in the last 3 innings, knowing they will face 3 or 4 pitchers who can all throw 95+ miles an hour.
OFF THE BENCH:
C #13 Alex Avila
The Tigers catcher of the future, Avila will have a shot to play a lot if Laird doesn’t hit. He has a short compact swing and hits lasers all over the field. This kid is going to be a real good catcher for the Tigers real soon.
INF #39 Ramon Santiago
If Scott Sizemore doesn’t produce like the Tigers want, look for Santiago to take his role.
UTL # 25 Ryan Raburn
Ryan had real good spring batting .370. If Austin Jackson fails in CF, Ryan will replace him. And when Johnny Damon or Magglio Ordonez needs a day off Ryan will replace at the corners. He can also play 3B if Brandon Inge needs a break.
UTL #32 Don Kelly
Don outplayed Clete Thomas for the final spot on the Tigers 25 man roster. He deserved the spot with a great spring batting .338. Kelly has never made a major league team and plays with a chip on shoulder that keeps him motivated.
IN THE END:
The Tigers lost 5 of their top players from last year. Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon were and are replaceable and so might Edwin Jackson. The players the Tigers are going to wish they still had are CF Curtis Granderson and 2B Placido Polanco. The Tigers are taking a risk by starting two rookies that have never played a game in the big leagues.
The Tigers also have a lot of questions and a lot of things that have to go right.
- Will Magglio Ordonez bounce back?
- Will rookies, Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore produce?
- Will Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge, Jeremy Bonderman, Joel Zumaya and Scott Sizemore return from injury and be productive all year? Will Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis produce as the 4th and 5th starters?
- Will Miguel Cabrera move on from last year, and play MVP caliber baseball?
The Tigers have a good mix of young players and veterans. The Tigers have veteran hitters, sure handed defenders and many power pitchers. The Tigers pitching will be their strength and hitting will be their weakness. There are too many things that could go wrong and too many things that have to go right. In the end the Twins lineup and the White Sox pitching staff will over power the Tigers in the Central.
The Tigers will finish 3rd and have a record around .500.