Coming off their second World Series appearance in six years, the Detroit Tigers are focused on getting back to glory. After squeaking by the Chicago White Sox to win the AL Central and getting swept by the San Francisco Giants in the series, it was certain there would be changes in Motown.
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Torii Hunter was the main free agent acquisition, signing for two years and $26 million. This is a little much for a 37-year-old outfielder who’s nearing retirement, but nonetheless, the Detroit Tigers certainly filled a much needed void in right field.
Earlier this week Brennan Boesch was released, securing Don Kelly’s spot on the roster. Kelly cleared waivers in October 2012 to become a free agent. He was later re-signed by the Tigers on January 31. Kelly and Ramon Santiago are the go-to utility players for Leyland’s platoon-heavy depth chart.
Jackson has developed his game since his 2010 debut with the club. This guy is a 30-30 player in the making. Go ahead and match him up against every lead-off hitter in the American League; aside from Jose Reyes, Jackson is about the best there is. A good comparison would be former Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson. Granderson started out a premiere lead-off hitter, gaining more power and contact at the plate before he became the type of hitter he is today.
Martinez is returning from a torn ACL that kept him out all of last season. Many fans are excited to see him back. He will fill out the five-spot in the lineup, a spot unsuccessfully maintained by Young, Boesch, Avila and Peralta last season.
Without question, the scrapper of the team is Dirks. It’s hard not to like this guy. What’s that saying we hear every year from John Kruk? Oh yeah, “he’s the X-factor!” Dirks should finish the season between .280 and .300, and be a solid all-around outfielder.
Detroit Tigers depth chart
Catcher: Alex Avila, Brayan Pena
First Base: Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez
Second Base: Omar Infante, Danny Worth
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago
Left Field: Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry
Center Field: Austin Jackson, Don Kelly
Right Field: Torii Hunter, Avisail Garcia
Detroit Tigers pitching staff
Closer: Bruce Rondon
Detroit Tigers projected lineup
- Austin Jackson
- Torii Hunter
- Miguel Cabrera
- Prince Fielder
- Victor Martinez (DH)
- Andy Dirks
- Jhonny Peralta
- Alex Avila
- Omar Infante
Detroit Tigers prospect watch
You know what’s scary? While the Detroit Tigers have the best team in the American League, they also have one of the better farm systems.
One rookie to watch this season is Nick Castellanos — their number-one prospect. He has proved himself this spring and is ready for the show. It will take a season or two under before he’s an everyday player. He’d likely start on every team in the AL Central. It just so happens he’s on one of the more talented rosters in the league.
Newly appointed closer Rondon has some big shoes to fill. Well, at least Leyland thinks so. Rondon was a bit of a surprise to replace Valverde as the team’s closer. He’s an unproven rookie. What the Venezuela native does bring to the mound is a fastball with great movement that can reach 101 mph. What makes Rondon intriguing is he’s cocky and naive for the type of challenge he’s embarking on. This might be just the right fit for him. Most closers are headcases anyway; just look at Valverde last postseason — he absolutely lost it. Expect Rondon to start out strong. The real challenge will be his mental ability to last a lengthy MLB schedule.
The Detroit Tigers will win a weak AL Central once again and improve on last season’s record. They realized how good they can be, and with the productive offseason they’ve had, I expect them to go nuts and finish 98-64.
Even though teams like the Los Angeles Angels have powered up, it’s hard not to pick the Detroit Tigers as the best team in the American League for the second straight season.
They’ve reached their goal: advance to the World Series. Now, they just need to win one.