Saturday, March 23, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

2012 Record: 88-74 (1st in AL Central) 

Key Additions: 
Torii Hunter (2 years, $26M)
Brayan Pena (Minor League Contract)
Shawn Hill (Minor League Contract)

Key Subtractions: 
Jose Valverde (Still a free agent)
Delmon Young (1 year, 0.75M with PHI)
Gerald Laird (2 years, $3M with ATL)
Daniel Schlereth (Minor League Contract with BAL)

Despite not meeting the criteria of "key additions", the Tigers resigned Anibal Sanchez to a 5 year, $80M contract. Another possible key addition to the 2013 Tigers is Victor Martinez, who is finally healthy after missing 2012 due to injuries, they hope he is a force in the middle of that lineup once again.

New Guy Who will help the most in 2013: 

One may say that the Tigers overpaid for Torii Hunter. In one sense, yes they did overpay the outfielder, seeing as he is now 37 years old, and a player who relies on his legs to cover lots of ground in the outfield. One thing that surprised me, though, is that Hunter's 2012 could have been the best season he has ever had. His fWAR was 5.8, a total that he hadn't touched in his long, decorated career. Will he keep this kind of thing up? Probably not, but it's not like he'll suddenly turn into Chone Figgins. 3+ WAR anualy is a realistic target for Torii, and if he achieves that, the contract is probably well worth it. It has also been said that Torii will hit 2nd in the Tigers order, right in front of the big bats of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, which means pitchers won't be pitching around him, suggesting that you could see a little bit more power out of Torii than you've seen in year's past. With that being said, it is realistic to think that a defensive decline is approaching him in the near future.

Spring Training Battles

Who will pitch the 9th inning? 

This is a question that no one really knows the answer to right now. Bruce Rondon was expected to be the clear favourite, but he has struggled a ton this spring, making it unlikely for him to win the job. Rondon is a fireballer who can hit 100 on the gun, but struggles with command, and his slider isn't quite there yet.

Another internal option would be Phil Coke. Coke became quite the sensation when Jose Valverde was forced out of the closer job in the playoffs, due to terribleness. Coke had great success, but his peripheral stats wouldn't suggest he can sustain dominance for a full season in 2013. It's not like it'd be the end of the world if the Tigers handed Coke the job, but it's not a situation that a World Series contender wants to be in.

An external option would be to sign Brian Wilson. Wilson and his infamous Beard are still waiting in free agency. It's an option that the Tigers could explore. There are question marks for Wilson coming off of surgery, but for the right price, it could be a low-risk high-reward type of thing.

Questions heading into the season: 

Will the bullpen hold up? 

I feel that I need to talk about the bullpen twice, because it really is the Tigers' only big question mark heading into the 2013 season. The back end, obviously being the big issue. The Tigers are counting on breakout years from the likes of Al Albequerque and Bryan Villareal, but neither of them have really proven themselves as big leaguers. You can always rely on Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit to give you solid innings of relief, but I am not sure that it's enough to fully support a team that is quite honestly, supposed to win a World Series in 2013. The hope for the Tigers is that they won't have to use their bullpen all that much, with the stacked rotation that they possess.

Prospect who will have the greatest impact in 2013: 

Left-Handed pitcher Drew Smyly has had an impressive spring. Unfortunately for him, fellow 5th starter candidate Rick Porcello has had a superior spring, and appears to have that job. With that being said, there's no doubt that Smyly will have an impact on the Tigers this year. If a starting pitcher goes down with an injury, or if Porcello struggles, Smyly is really the only guy that the Tigers can turn to that has any sort of upside. The possibility of Smyly going to the bullpen has also been discussed, so if the 'pen struggles, as expected, Smyly could be in Detroit by May. His future is uncertain. I can see his ceiling be a high-end #3/low-end #2 starter, with the possibility of becoming a very elite late-inning reliever.

Projected Roster: 

Projected 'Go-To' Starting Lineup 
1 CF Austin Jackson
RF Torii Hunter
3B Miguel Cabrera
4 1B Prince Fielder*
5 DH Victor Martinez**
LF Andy Dirks* 
SS Jhonny Peralta
C Alex Avila*
9 2B Omar Infante

Projected Bench 
C Brayan Peña**
IF Ramon Santiago**
IF Danny Worth
OF Quintin Berry*

Projected Starting Rotation 
1 RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Doug Fister
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Anibal Sanchez
5 RHP Rick Porcello

Projected Bullpen 
CL RHP Bruce Rondon BA#3 BP#3
SU RHP Joaquin Benoit 
SU LHP Phil Coke
MID RHP Al Alburquerque
MID RHP Octavio Dotel
MID RHP Brayan Villarreal  
LR LHP Darin Downs 

Projected 2013 Record: 94-68 (1st in AL Central) 

This is a very complete baseball team. I would put the Tigers rotation up against any rotation in the AL, and I don't think there's 1 that would beat it. Start off with the best pitcher in baseball, and it doesn't get much worse after that, with Scherzer who established himself as a star in 2012, leading AL starters in K/9. The lineup is fierce, with Jackson setting the table for the big bats in Hunter, Cabrera, Fielder, and Martinez. There's no other way to put it, after winning the AL last year, they are the favourites to win it once again, and I personally think that they will.

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