Expect Tigers to contend for few more years

Nick Castellanos is one of Detroit's top minor-league prospects. (www.detnews.com)

The Detroit Tigers have clearly reinvented themselves in 2011. The team has a different personality from the 2006 gang. Detroit has a serious baseball team on its hands, and it looks to be staying here for awhile because the farm system is loaded.

The Tigers organization handed out their minor-league awards Thursday, and there was no surprise that Nick Castellanos was their player of the year. The 19-year-old third basemen and potential designated hitter had some fairly impressive statistics. Since May, Castellanos batted .312 with 36 doubles, seven home runs and 76 RBIs.

Those are encouraging numbers for a team that has been pining for a bat at the hot corner since Travis Fryman. Castellanos needs to remain an offensive weapon because it’s unlikely he will ascend to Comerica Park based solely on his glove.

But, on the flipside, this Tigers team still is establishing its identity.

Hitting is becoming more and more central to Detroit’s success, which is why Castellanos will be a celebrated name in Motown when it is scribbled onto lineup cards. Castellanos probably will nestle up next to Miguel Cabrera in the batting order, who is followed by the fearsome catching duo of Alex Avila and Victor Martinez. With Austin Jackson, 24, leading off and a healthy Brennan Boesch, 26, in the future, The Tigers could sustain their current trajectory for years to come.

Any batting order that has faced Justin Verlander’s cruelty will uphold that the pitching is all there. Jose Valverde is having a career season as well with 44 saves.

It appears as if Dave Dombrowski has provided Detroit with a team that will comfortably compete, that is to say albeit any injuries or contractual drama, one could safely rely on the Tigers to be the primary division threat well into the future.

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