It had been a boring offseason to be a Tiger fan. Sure, we’d signed Octavio Dotel, adding even more depth to a bullpen that included Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, and lefthander Phil Coke. They had even brought back Gerald Laird to backup Alex Avila. Reports that DH Victor Martinez’s season would be over due to torn ACL drew a groan, but I thought Dombroski would figure something out, maybe even bring back Magglio Ordonez for a year. Never in a million years could I have expected the Tigers to sign Prince Fielder. But I should’ve known. After all, Dave Dombrowski has signed other Scott Boras players before. So, why do the Tigers join the ranks of the Yankees, Rangers, Devil Rays, Angels, and Red Sox as favorites to represent the American League?
More or less, Fielder fills Martinez’s spot. But he does so with more power. Hitting behind Cabrera means
Fielder will get plenty of RBI chances. It also means Cabrera will see more fastballs. And Cabrera will see more fastballs. Why? Because pitching to Martinez instead of Cabrera was a no-brainer. As good as Martinez was, Cabrera was more dangerous. With Fielder, opposing managers have to really pick their poison as both hitters hit for average and power, while both are clutch with runners in scoring positions. So the lineup will likely be:
CF Austin Jackson
RF Brennan Boesch
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Prince Fielder
LF Delmon Young
SS Johnny Peralta
C Alex Avila
2B Ryan Raburn/Ramon Santiago
3B Don Kelly/Brandon Inge
Justin Verlander Reigning AL MVP and Cy Young
While there is still a question of who will be the no. 5, Andy Oliver and Jacob Turner are the favorites. While Porcello has struggled, it’s easy to forget Porcello is only 24. Scherzer has shown the ability to dominant lineups at times.
CL Jose Valverde
SU Joaquin Benoit
SU Octavio Dotel
SU Phil Coke
The remaining reliever roles have to be determined, but of these four, only Coke hasn’t been a successful closer, so if a team doesn’t have the lead on the Tigers by the start of the 7th inning, they likely won’t get it afterwards.
C Gerald Laird
OF Clete Thomas
When Inge and Santiago don’t start, they’ll likely be used as defensive replacements while Kelly and Rayburn will see action as pinch-hitters. There will also be some competition for the final bench spot.
While the Angels and the Rangers fight for the West, and the Yankees, Devil Rays, and Red Sox battle for the East, the Tigers pretty much own the Central. Every team in the Central is rebuilding to some degree or another. They either lack the hitters, the starters, or the bullpen to compete with the Tigers, or all the above. Barring injury to key players like Verlander and Cabrera, the battle for the Central will be for 2nd place. So it’s an almost lock for the Tigers to make the playoffs, and once there who knows? As the Yankees have found out a couple times now, the Tigers are dangerous come playoff time.