The Tigers have a lot to smile about. They gave the playoffs a strong run last season. They have a deeply dedicated owner in Mike Ilitch, someone determined to see the Tigers win it all again, and aged enough to feel a sense of urgency in doing so. They have no shortage of talent, and Ilitch has invested hundreds of millions to ensure that his team will compete at the highest level. They may have sustained a surprising and unfortunate injury in losing C Victor Martinez for the season, but that may have indirectly benefited the club, as it prompted Ilitch to come out of nowhere and fork over more than $200 million for the mighty, wonderful to watch slugger Prince Fielder. There are still question marks. The outfield is distinctly undistinguished. They have a good upside, and at least one of the threesome of Dirks, Jackson, and Boesch should become a genuine star. But Austin Jackson has not blossomed into the ace leadoff hitter they had hoped, and how Miguel Cabrera handles his move to the hot corner might be a concern for the defense. Their bullpen is strong, and the rotation perhaps still surprisingly so. Justin Verlander is a genuine ace, but the rest of the rotation will not be familiar to any but the hardcore baseball and Tigers fans. And yet they get the job done. Detroit has enjoyed great success in the Jim Leyland area, and the acquisition of Prince Fielder for about the next decade looks set to keep them in the running long into the future.
In: Prince Fielder
Out: Victor Martinez (season-long injury), Magglio Ordonez
Strength: bats. The Tigers can mash, and whenever Victor Martinez returns from his injury (it might not be this season) they will be even stronger. A Fielder-Cabrera 3-4 is about a sweet as can be (right up there with other great 3-4s in history, from Ruth-Gehrig to Ramirez-Ortiz), and if you add V-Mart in the 5 slot, you’ve got a real murderer’s row. Alex Avila is no V-Mart behind the plate, but he is solid defensively and posted surprisingly strong numbers batting as well.
Weakness: the outfield is a question mark, without a real star. It could turn into three genuine powerhouses, but they are as yet unproven. The rotation, after Rick Porcello, features two big question marks as well.
Manager: Jim Leyland
Projected Rotation: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, Jacob Turner
Projected Closer: Jose Valverde
Projected Starting Lineup:
Austin Jackson CF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Prince Fielder 1B
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Alex Avila C
Delmon Young DH
Brennan Boesch LF
Andy Dirks RF
Ryan Raburn 2B