Saturday, March 31, 2012

Looking at the Tigers Final Moves for Opening Day

(Photo is of the Tigers brand new scoreboard)

With Opening Day Thursday, the Detroit Tigers will be making their final roster cuts for the start of the season. First, let's look at the spots on offense taken.

Catcher - Alex Avila (Gerald Laird as the backup)
1st Base - Prince Fielder
Shortstop - Jhonny Peralta
3rd Base - Miguel Cabrera
Right Field - Brennan Boesch
Center Field - Austin Jackson
DH - Delmon Young
Utility - Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, and Ryan Raburn

This leaves a battle for the last utility infield spot between Brandon Inge and Danny Worth. Inge has been working to play 2nd base, and can play 3rd base, while Danny Worth can play 2nd base, 3rd base and shortstop very well.

Jim Leyland said earlier in the offseason that Brandon Inge had to hit his way to earn a job for the season, and Inge hasn't hit at all in Spring Training having just 1 Home Run and 2 RBI with a .180 batting average in 50 at-bats. Danny Worth in Spring has done well hitting .286 with 1 Home Run and 6 RBI in 35 at-bats. Danny Worth deserves the last utility spot in my opinion, but Inge may recieve the spot based on his 2012 salary.

The other roster spot on offense comes down to Andy Dirks and Clete Thomas who would spend time in left field and would also be able to play center and right field as well as DH. Dirks spent time last season with the Tigers while Clete Thomas spent the season in Triple-A Toledo after recovering from injuries in previous seasons. While Andy Dirks has outperformed Thomas in Spring, Thomas is out of options, so if he doesn't make the 25-man roster, the Tigers risk losing him while he goes through waivers. I believe Dirks deserves the spot.

Now, the pitching. Guaranteed spots:

Starting Rotation: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello.

The final rotation spot comes down to Duane Below, and Drew Smyly. Below has struggled a bit in Spring, and Smyly has done well, but Below spent time as a starter and reliever for the Tigers last season, and Smyly has just 1 year in the minor leagues under his belt. While Smyly may deserve the spot, he may not recieve it if the Tigers believe he could use more reps in the Minor Leagues. I would personally go with Below, and if he struggles, the Tigers could turn to Andy Oliver, Drew Smyly or Jacob Turner to take over at some point during the season.

Here is how the bullpen looks:

Closer: Jose Valverde
Set-up man: Joaquin Benoit
7th inning reliever: Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke
Middle reliever: Daniel Schlereth and Collin Balester

This leaves one spot remaining and it has come down to Brayan Villarreal and Luis Marte. Villarreal began the 2011 season with the Tigers, but struggled and was sent down to Toledo, while Marte spent most the 2011 season in the minors before being called up at the end of the season. Villarreal has picked up the speed on his fastball coming into Spring Training which has helped him, and may help him enough to get the spot on the opening day roster. Both player have done well in Spring, but I think in the end Villarreal will start the season with the Tigers.

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