After a week of debating The Deal and being irritated by Lynn Henning's daily criticisms of Curtis Granderson, it's time to look ahead. Where do the Tigers now stand position by position?
Gerald Laird is still the number one catcher but TigsTown prospect expert Mark Anderson thinks that Alex Avila will get a lot of action next year and may take over the starting job some time during the season. If Avila opens the season in Toledo, then Robinson Diaz will be the backup catcher.
First base belongs to Miguel Cabrera.
Scott Sizemore is the new second baseman replacing Placido Polanco. The Tigers will have a few rookies getting regular or semi-regular playing time next year but Sizemore (.308 with 61 extra base hits in 130 games in AA and AAA) is the one most likely to provide instant offense at the MLB level.
Adam Everett will be the good field no hit shortstop again this year. Ramon Santiago should see a good deal of time at both second and short.
Brandon Inge is expected to be ready to play third every day again after undergoing surgery on both knees.
They are still looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder (Scott Podsednik?) but, until that happens, I think Ryan Raburn is the favorite to get the most at bats. Wilkin Ramirez will also get some opportunities.
It sounds as if the Tigers will give new acquired Austin Jackson every chance to win the center field job. Jackson has a lot of promise but will likely struggle in his rookie year. He batted .300 as a 22 year old in AAA last year but had a 123/40 K/BB ratio and just four homers in 132 games. If he needs to be send down to Toledo, then Clete Thomas and Casper Wells are candidates.
Magglio Ordonez will be the regular right fielder. Whether or not the Tigers let his option vest another year will depend on how well the Tigers do and whether he gets off to a good start. After their recent cost saving moves, I can't imagine the Tigers will be as willing to wait out another slump as they were last year.
There will probably be several DHs with Carlos Guillen getting the most at bats. Healthy productive years from Guillen and Ordonez are a must if thet are going to stay in contention in 2010. Ryan Strieby (.991 OPS in 86 games for AA Erie in 2009) might get some at bats here if his wrist is healthy and he starts strong in the minors.
The top three are set: Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. After that, it's up in the air. Jeremy Bonderman will get the first crack at one of the remaining two jobs but he's really questionable. After undergoing thoracic surgery for a blood clot in 2008, he has spent the last year strengthening his shoulder and trying to regain his velocity. Jim Leyland would like a lefty in the rotation and the leading candidates are Nate Robertson and recently acquired Phil Coke. Coke pitched in 72 games in relief for the Yankees in 2009 posting a 4.50 ERA and 49/20 K/BB ratio in 60 innings. He was a starter in the minors as recent as 2008 however. Other candidates for the rotation are Armando Galarraga and Eddie Bonine.
The Tigers are talking about Joel Zumaya as their closer but that sounds really optimistic given his inability to stay healthy the last three years. I still expect them to sign a veteran reliever to close such as Kevin Gregg or Fernando Rodney, if his contract demands become more reasonable. If they fail to sign anyone, then Ryan Perry is a possibility. The rest of the bullpen should include left-handers Fu-Te Ni and Daniel Schlereth and right-hander Zach Miner.