95 wins and an American League Central championship have left Detroit Tigers fans hungry for more. The 25-man roster is nearly set and the boys will be headed to Boston for Opening Day on Thursday, April 5th before we know it.
Now it’s time to put my brain where my keyboard is and tell you how this marathon is going to shake out in 2012 from a statistical perspective. Following is a list of all 13 position players and my expectations regarding their production. All projections are assuming the unlikely, that each player remains at or near full health for the entire season.
This article makes 2 fairly large assumptions: 1) that Andy Dirks beats out Clete Thomas in left, and 2) that Brandon Inge doesn’t make the team.
Part 1 of this feature will focus on the offense:
Austin Jackson – CF – The table-setter with legs that won’t quit and a hole in his swing the size of my mouth when staring at a plate of Outback cheese fries. His stats fell in some very important categories from year 1 to year 2. Some good news is that his walk rate increased and he hit 10 bombs as compared to 4 during his rookie season. With some mega bats behind him in the order, Jackson needs to get on base somehow, some way. Will the new approach at the plate take hold or will fans be calling for Andy Dirks to take the controls at leadoff by Cinco de Mayo?
Expected Stats: .265 avg., 10 homers, 90 runs, 40 RBI’s, 25 steals and 20 less K’s than in 2011 (which would be 161 and still far too many)
Brennan Boesch – RF – Boesch is going to drop his hulking frame right in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder all season long. 29 other 2-hitters in the major leagues are extremely jealous. The only thing standing between this big fella and a bigger season is health. There’s no reason to think he won’t stay on the field. The only thing I’m not sure about is his ability to track balls in the outfield, but who cares, I’m all in on Boesch.
Expected Stats: .285 avg., 28 homers, 90 runs, 80 RBI’s, 8 steals
Miguel Cabrera – 3B – Back from a broken face, Cabrera doubled in 2 runs in his first at-bat. He’s fine. He’s actually the best right-handed hitter in the game and could see a boost in his numbers now that he has a solid on-base guy in front of him in the lineup and one of the games’ few true power hitters behind him. Watching him play 3rd base could prove to be a nail-biting experience but it’s a gamble the Tigers were willing to make. It’s time for that much deserved AL MVP. 2012 is the year.
Expected Stats: .340 avg., 35 homers, 115 runs, 115 RBI’s
Prince Fielder – 1B – The funny thing is that it feels like he’s been here for years. He has fit right in from day 1 and is going to be a monster presence in the middle of Jim Leyland’s lineup. Learning a new league could cause a few slow stretches here and there but it shouldn’t be noticeable by season’s end. He is a legit power hitter that will put a few holes in the Belle Tire banner in right field this year.
Expected Stats: .285 avg., 35 homers, 95 runs, 125 RBI’s
Delmon Young – DH – Something tells me that if Young keeps his mouth shut and enjoys the scenery of a top flight baseball team all summer long that he is going to be a weapon. If he cries about not playing left field, tempers will flare in Motown, and heads could roll. Hopefully he’s smart enough to know that he has a chance to be a big part of something special in one of the great baseball cities in America.
Expected Stats: .270 avg., 22 homers, 95 RBI’s
Alex Avila – C – At just 25 years old, the future is ultra-bright for Avila. He turned in an All-Star season in 2011 by hitting .295 with 19 homers and 82 RBI’s. Hitting 6th in this lineup should lend to a ton of RBI chances. He hit .290 with men in scoring position last year. His quick stroke from the left side will play out well as he is part 6 in Jim Leyland’s complete righty-lefty rotating lineup, which is a thing of beauty. Alex proved he could play through pain last year but with a true backup catcher on the team this season, he shouldn’t have to.
Expected Stats: .280 avg., 18 homers, 80 RBI’s
Jhonny Peralta – SS – Talk about consistency. To get a proven track record of 20 homers and 80 RBI’s from the shortstop position is awfully hard to find, but the Tigers have it with Jhonny. He probably won’t hit .299 again like he did in ’11 but does he really have to in order to remain productive? Of course not. He will always be looked at with a raised eyebrow due to his limited range up the middle but he has a very accurate arm and didn’t cost the Tigers much in terms of bad plays last year.
Expected Stats: .270 avg., 20 homers, 80 RBI’s (what else?)
Andy Dirks – LF – Dirks reminds me of the non-criminal baseball playing version of Lenny Dykstra. Just a gritty ballplayer who looks at home on the field. Dirks endeared himself to fans and management a season ago, had a big offseason, and a huge spring earning the gig as the regular left fielder. It will be interesting to see how many at-bats he gets but my hunch is that if he gets enough of them that his end of the year numbers will look very inviting.
Expected Stats: .275 avg., 12 homers, 45 RBI’s, 15 steals
Ryan Raburn – 2B – Raburn should be the 2nd baseman on most days and probably deserves it after a hot spring. He will no doubt make some head-shaking errors in the field but don’t be surprised if he follows it up with a 3-run bomb in the bottom half of the inning. The big trick will be to see if he can start the season looking like a major league player, something he has never done. If he does, and glues that to his now standard of excellence in the 2nd half, Detroit will be thrilled.
Expected Stats: .275 avg., 15 homers, 55 RBI’s
Don Kelly – IF/OF – Detroit’s sweetheart is back for another go around. Kelly has proven that he can play literally anywhere in the field and hold his own. He can hit in the clutch, hit for power, and the ladies love him too. What’s not to like? He will see most of his time in the corner outfield spots and at 3rd base when Cabrera DH’s.
Expected Stats: .265 avg., 8 homers, 25 RBI’s
Ramon Santiago – IF – It seems like he’s been around forever and nobody wants it any different. Ramon will get starts at 2nd base and occasionally shortstop when Peralta needs a rest. The track record is pretty well-established for Santiago at this point. Jim Leyland knows what he’s getting and couldn’t be happier about it.
Expected Stats: .265 avg., 5 homers, 25 RBI’s
Gerald Laird – C – G Money is back for his 2nd run with the Tigers and will now serve in a comfortable role as backup catcher to Alex Avila.
Expected Stats: Let’s be honest, if he gets any hits, Tigers fans will rejoice. .225 avg., 2 homers, 15 RBI’s
Danny Worth – IF – Worth is one of the best gloves in the system and has been perking up with the bat lately as well. He may be an up and down guy this year depending on how injuries and other roster spots shake out, but he’ll be solid when he plays.
Expected Stats: .250 avg., 1 homer, 10 RBI’s
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