The first 2 and ½ months of the Detroit Tigers’ 2012 season have been tumultuous. Consider that the Tigers have already used 21 position players and 19 pitchers. Of those 40 players, the Tigers have rolled out 4 different catchers and 7 starting pitchers. Jacob Turner will make it 8 on Thursday when he resurfaces for a spot start.
Are you still wondering why they haven’t hit their stride? Turnover like this is a recipe for inconsistency, which is exactly what we’ve seen in Detroit this spring. But hey, summer is only 3 days away and wouldn’t you rather they be the Boys of Summer than the Studs of Spring?
Now consider that the Tigers have won 3 series’ in a row, are just 3 games out of first place, and have 96 regular season games remaining on their schedule. Alex Avila will be back this week and the serviceable rookie Drew Smyly should return soon. Andy Dirks will follow in about 3 weeks.
Are the Tigers finally nearing their ultimate lineup? This is a team that is forking out $130M to achieve winning baseball in 2012 and advance deep into the playoffs. Last season the injury bug rarely bit but that hasn’t been the case this time around. It’s reasonable to expect that a little good fortune is due to come this team’s way.
Here is what we should expect to see going forward with the hopefully-not-forever revolving door roster.
The catchers will be Alex Avila and Gerald Laird. Laird has been a revelation in his 2nd stint with the Tigers and Avila will get it rolling now that he has his legs under him again.
The starting infield will be Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Miguel Cabrera, and a platoon of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago at 2nd. Prince and Death Cab have been tremendous all season long and Peralta has started to join the party of late. Assuming Santiago and Raburn can’t continue to stink up the batter’s box like they have then the Tigers should have an offensively productive infield across the board.
The outfield is where it gets interesting. Austin Jackson will continue his All-Star season in center on an everyday basis. But what happens when Dirks comes back?
Fresh off of a 5 for 5 performance on Sunday, Quintin Berry has fans all lathered up again over his abilities. Brennan Boesch has slumped once more after a nice start to his June. He went 0-12 against the Rockies this weekend.
Dirks’ .328 batting average leads all Tigers with at least 100 at-bats. He will get his daily gig back in left upon his return. He isn’t recovering quickly however and likely won’t return until after the All-Star break now. This opens the door for more Berry.
So for the next few weeks you should expect to see a Berry-Jackson-Boesch lineup in the outfield on most days. But ultimately, Dirks-Jackson-Boesch is what we want to see. If Boesch continues to scuffle, the rumblings of more playing time for Berry will grow louder by the day.
Delmon Young will remain the DH for now, but don’t be surprised to see him moved at the trade deadline as the Tigers aren’t in love with the guy. Carlos Quentin has been rumored as a potential replacement for Young.
Joining Berry, Santiago, and Don Kelly on the bench should be Danny Worth. He is the best infield defender on the team and is a solid late inning defensive replacement/pinch runner.
In the rotation, the Tigers boast 2 of only 3 players to reach 100 K’s on the season. Aside from Stephen Strasburg, the only other 100-K club members at this point in the MLB season are Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. They will anchor the rotation along with Doug Fister, whose return couldn’t have come at a better time.
Rick Porcello will continue to be the 4th guy and Smyly deserves the 5th spot barring a completely unexpected rise by Jacob Turner. That 5-man rotation is good enough to win the AL Central.
The 7-man bullpen will get a jolt in a few weeks when Al Alburquerque comes back from injury. Somebody will have to go down when he returns. Between Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Luis Marte, Brayan Villarreal, Phil Coke, and Duane Below it seems like Marte would be the likely odd man out, though he has been tremendous. If nothing else, when Al comes back it will add quality depth to the pen.
And that’s it. To me, this is a roster that can compete with the big boys. Detroit will get busy at the trade deadline and consider a right-handed power hitter as well as a 2nd baseman if the right situation comes up. But for now we can only project what currently resides on the roster and this should be good enough.
St. Louis comes to town this week for a 3-game midweek series. If Detroit can take another 2 of 3 for their 4th series win in a row, well, look out. It’s about to get fun around here again.