The following is the first article in a three-part series that will offer a 2012 season preview for the Detroit Tigers.
March 31st – Projected Lineup and Bench
April 2nd – Projected Starting Rotation and Bullpen
April 3rd – General Season Outlook
April 5th – Detroit Tigers’ Season Opener vs. Boston Red Sox
Projected Lineup Card
1. Austin Jackson, CF – When Dave Dombrowski traded Curtis Granderson to the Yankees for Action Jackson, he knew he was making a commitment to keep him in the leadoff spot, barring a cataclysmic collapse. It is vital that he get on base and offer functional base-stealing services this year, so it’d be nice to see a reduced strikeout count this season. Having Jackson in centerfield is a no-brainer.
2. Brennan Boesch, LF – I think this is the start of the most dangerous two-hole through five-hole in all of major league baseball (although Curtis, Robinson, Mark, and Alex might have something to say about that). Boesch was having a great 2011 season, until a nagging thumb injury and ensuing surgery sidelined him for the Tigers playoff push. If his performance in Spring Training is any indication, the thumb is fully healed. He’s tied for the team lead at 6 HRs, with 15 RBIs to boot. Putting Boesch in left isn’t a matter of choice; rather, it is by default. I think he looks comfortable out there, and I think Dirks has a stronger arm and comparable footspeed.
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B – Do I really have to explain to anybody why Fat Cabby is batting third in this lineup? I didn’t think so. As far as positioning, we’ve already heard inadvertent Marlboro spokesman Jim Leyland commit to Miggy being his man at the hot corner.
4. Prince Fielder, 1B – This was generally accepted as the second-best offseason acquisition in all of baseball. I would argue that Fielder’s impact on the Tigers
may will be more significant than the impact Pujols has with the Angels. Without going into too much detail, I think Pujols puts up better numbers, but Fielder’s presence augments the Tigers lineup down the board in a greater way. Fielder was acquired as our first baseman, so we have to embrace that positioning and Miggy being pushed over to third.
5. Delmon Young, DH – Before the Tigers acquired Young to become part of their playoff push, he was stuck in Minnesota having the worst season of his career; the change in scenery seemed to ignite his game. In 84 games with the Twins, he was batting .266, with 4 HRs and 32 RBIs. In his 40 games with the Tigers, he logged a .274 BA, with 8 HRs and 32 RBIs. He becomes a pitching nightmare if he can find a way to even come close to recreating his 2010 performance. The designated hitter spot makes sense for Young, especially if you’ve seen him play in the outfield.
6. Alex Avila, C – The breakout young gun from the 2011, Avila is coming off a season where he was voted into the starting lineup for the American League team at the MLB All-Star game. Although he has struggled at the dish a bit this spring, he seems to have improved at thwarting base-stealers from behind the plate. With this pitching staff, Avila’s ability to keep runners at first
might should allow the Tigers to challenge other teams for the league lead in team ERA. Oh, and for the record – Alex Avila IS Jack Parkman.
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS – Jhonny doesn’t have the best range at short…okay, that’s an understatement; he makes Derek Jeter look like Troy Tulowitzki. However, fans saw last year that he is more than capable of making up for it with his ability at the plate. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t big me that Peralta is about the only shortstop in baseball that lacks the footspeed to steal bases on a regular basis; he and J.J. Hardy of Baltimore were the only qualifying starting shortstops that failed to log a single stolen base in the 2011 season. However, he was second in RBIs among AL shortstops, so I’m willing to take the good with the bad.
8. Ryan Raburn, 2B – Ask anybody I know and they’ll tell you that I’ve never been a huge fan of Raburn, and the first half of the 2011 season did nothing to change my mind. However, I really want to lead anybody that is willing to follow me onto this guy’s bandwagon now. Raburn hit .213 prior to the All-Star break in 2011, but he hit .341 after the break and has been one of the top hitters in all of baseball in Grapefruit League play this spring. I worry that he had 10 errors in only 55 starts at second base last season, but if he can get comfortable at the position instead of having to constantly adapt as a utility man, perhaps he can bring the error count down.
9. Andy Dirks, RF – Dirks has spent the last two seasons in the Dominican Winter League and has come out a winner both times. He won a title with the Toros del Este in 2010-11 and had the game-winning hit in the championship with the Leones del Escogido in 2011-2012. His passion and love for the game of baseball is unparalleled on this iteration of the Tigers roster (Considering I expect Brandon Inge to finally ride off into the sunset – good riddance). If his spring performance is any indication it looks like his time in the Dominican Republic has paid off. He’s batting average is at .422, and his on-base percentage is a whopping .481. I think it makes sense to put Dirks out in right with his arm strength.
Gerald Laird, C – I laugh every time I’m at Comerica and Laird comes to the plate, because the scoreboard animation reads, “Be Scared of Laird!” As an opposing pitcher, am I really supposed to be afraid of a lifetime .241 hitter, whose career homerun total was surpassed by Curtis Granderson’s single-season output in 2011? Who are we kidding, though? Laird’s on the squad to give Avila days off and lay one down to advance runners. I guess we can say he has a serviceable arm as well.
Don Kelly, Utility – A true utility guy, Kelly has played in at least 1 game at all nine positions in his career. Hell, the Tigers even threw him out to toe the rubber in 2011; he closed the season as the Tigers ERA leader, logging a 0.00 ERA with one-third of an inning pitched. I laugh reminiscing about that one out, as it came on a hanging breaking ball that Met’s temporary DH Scott Hairston got under and lifted out to Austin Jackson at the warning track in left center. That’s neither here nor there, though, as Kelly is really a coach’s ballplayer; he’s good for some clutch hits and you can put him where you need him on the field late in the game as a defensive substitute.
Ramon Santiago, 2B/SS – If Jim Leyland plays Ramon at second more often than he plays Raburn there, I wouldn’t be surprised or unhappy. I would prefer Raburn starting there, but Ramon has paid his dues as a Tiger and is very reliable at the plate and in the field. If I had to guess, I’d say Santiago is the least polarizing Tiger on the entire roster – I don’t know anybody that hates him, and I don’t know anybody that loves him. He’s just there; he does his job as a backup, hitting at a .263 clip since the start of 2009 and minimizing mistakes in the field.
Danny Worth, 2B/SS/3B – Fellow PAW author Dan Stone wrote a fantastic article on Danny Worth earlier this week; I’d like to echo his sentiments. For that last positional spot on the bench, let’s compare Worth and Brandon Inge. Worth has demonstrated his ability to play 3 positions on the infield; Inge can definitely play third base, and he threw his token hat in the ring to try and play second – a hopefully futile attempt to keep his roster spot. Advantage: Worth. This spring, Worth is hitting .286 in 35 at-bats; he hit .270 in 37 at-bats in 2011. This spring, Inge is hitting .180 in 50 at-bats; he hit .197 in 269 at-bats in 2011. Advantage: Worth. In terms of age, Danny Worth is 26; Brandon Inge is 34. Advantage: Worth. You can see where this is headed, right? I have to end on a pun – putting Worth on the 25-man roster will prove Worthwhile. Boom.
Author: Joe Cook