For a team that appears very stable on the surface and are expected to repeat the successes of a season ago, the Detroit Tigers are putting the finishing touches on a major roster overhaul prior to Monday’s tipoff with the Twins.
Gone from 2012’s Opening Day roster are Gerald Laird, Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, Clete Thomas, Ryan Raburn, Collin Balester, Luis Marte, Daniel Schlereth, and Jose Valverde. That’s 40% of the entire roster being turned over for the start of the 2013 season.
In place of those nine players are Brayan Pena, Victor Martinez, Omar Infante, Matt Tuiasosopo, Torii Hunter, Anibal Sanchez, Darin Downs, Al Alburquerque, and Brayan Villarreal.
Jim Leyland had to make some tough roster decisions this week including keeping Don Kelly in place of Quintin Berry and sending down Bruce Rondon and Luis Marte in favor of Downs and Villarreal.
One last roster move is pending and that is the fate of the utility infield spot. Danny Worth is the guy the Tigers want to keep but the $2.1M left on Ramon Santiago’s deal make him the player the team will probably hold onto. Detroit is trying to move Santiago in a trade but is finding partners about as tough to locate as they did when attempting to deal Brennan Boesch a few weeks back before ultimately releasing him.
So, after all of that, here are your 2013 Detroit Tigers!
In this segment of my season preview I will give a brief rundown of the 12-man pitching staff and what we can expect from each of them.
Justin Verlander – Now 30 years old, JV just keeps getting better. His efforts in 2011 and ’12 have put him firmly atop the list of the game’s elite arms. Verlander is supremely motivated to claim the city’s 1st World Series championship in almost 30 years and you’d be a fool to bet against him. (2013 projected stats: 20-7, 2.85 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 235 K’s)
Max Scherzer – Scherzer has two more years before he hits free agency and if he does things right he could parlay his work into a monster free agent contract at the end of 2014. Despite his triumphant 2012 he still went through his typical ‘Bad Max’ phase early in the year. If he could remain mechanically sound for a full 32 starts his numbers could rival Verlander’s. Max is the best strikeout artist on this team and top 5 across all of baseball. My guess is that he turns in a career year starting next week. (2013: 17-10, 3.26 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 230 K’s)
Doug Fister – Fister has had a rough camp but there is nothing to be worried about here. He is the ultimate ‘feel’ pitcher, which puts his spring struggles in context. There are several teams across the league who would consider Fister to be their #1 if he suited up for them. Detroit is extremely fortunate to have him as their 3rd best (or maybe even 2nd best) starter. (2013: 15-9, 3.30 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 160 K’s)
Anibal Sanchez – Before the Tigers knew how impressive Rick Porcello would be this spring, they inked Sanchez to a 5-year, $80M deal. Had they only known. Regardless, in Sanchez they get a very steady #4 who has the potential to be much more than that as evidenced by his lights-out effort last October. Tiger fans will get agitated every time this guy turns in a bad start but his track record speaks for itself. Add up his 32 starts into one body of work and he’ll be just fine. (2013: 13-11, 3.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 170 K’s)
Rick Porcello – At age 24, has this guy finally figured it out? He displayed a tremendous curveball in spring training, which was the one thing he’d always been missing. Can his improved strikeout rate this March translate to the regular season? Will he be consistent enough to keep Drew Smyly lodged in the pen all year? Remember, this guy had a 1.53 WHIP in 2012. Ugly stuff, folks. He was so impressive this spring that the Tigers pulled the plug on trade talks that seemed all but certain to end with his departure from Motown. Now it’s time to prove it. (2013: 15-11, 3.85 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 125 K’s)
Can the Tigers trust Joaquin Benoit in the 9th?
Joaquin Benoit – The Tigers are going to roll with a ‘closer by committee’ system in the early going and Benoit could very well get the early right-handed situation save chances. After a brilliant 2011 he was merely so-so in ’12 as he struggled giving up homers at times. This is the final year of his 3-year deal and he will be looking to show the league that he isn’t at the tail end of his career. (2013: 12 saves, 3.15 ERA, 75 K’s)
Phil Coke – Based on his performance in pressure situations last October it seems likely that Leyland will give him the ball in the 9th inning on occasion to see if he can take the gig and run with it. Coke seems to thrive in difficult situations and has the emotion and mental makeup that good closers tend to possess. The real question is: can he get right-handers out? Righties hit .396 with a .446 on-base % against him in ’12. If he corrects that he could lead this team in saves. (2013: 8 saves, 3.45 ERA, 65 K’s)
Octavio Dotel – Dotel is the reliever on this team with the most closing experience. Don’t be surprised if he gets a few save chances. At 39-years old, I think it’s safe to say that Leyland would prefer he remain in a setup role as often as possible. (2013: 4 saves, 3.50 ERA, 55 K’s)
Al Alburquerque – Senor Slider might have the best pure closer-like stuff of anyone in this bullpen. The Tigers worry about his command and his durability. If he starts the season pounding the strike zone and missing bats at his usual clip though, he just might get a few looks as the 9th inning guy. I, for one, hope he gets a shot at it. (2013: 5 saves, 2.75 ERA, 80 K’s)
Darin Downs – Downs is a lefty a lot of fans aren’t that familiar with. After a strong 2012 in limited work with the Tigers he put forth a dominant spring and literally pitched his way onto the roster. You have to respect that. Look for Downs to provide the Tigers with a tough situational lefty who can eat up some innings as needed. (2013: 3.45 ERA, 45 K’s)
Brayan Villarreal – Villarreal is similar to Alburquerque in that he has closer ability but Detroit worries about his stamina and mental makeup. He tends to rush himself at times and that’s when he gets in trouble. When he pitches with composure he can be flat out nasty. (2013: 1 save, 2.95 ERA, 65 K’s)
Drew Smyly – Perhaps the toughest decision Leyland had to make all spring was pushing Smyly to the bullpen. His future is as a starter but his arm is too valuable to send down to Toledo. So for now he will be the long man in the bullpen and the occasional spot-starter. If, and more likely when, one of the starting 5 goes down it will be Smyly who is ready to step right in and grab those available starts. (2013: 6-5, 3.90 ERA, 70 K’s)
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