A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE TIGERS
This is how it's done: They spent money and made trades with prospects to get quality big league players to build a veteran team.... They're not cute running the bases, but they'll hit lots of doubles and home runs.... Plain and simple: Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are the best 3--4 combo on the planet.... Victor Martinez has looked good coming back from the knee injury. I think he took a few too many swings early in camp because he was feeling so good, but he'll be fine.... He was terrible in 2011, but Austin Jackson changed his whole plate approach last year and was really good. I don't know if he'll be that good again, but somewhere in between would be fine because he's really a fine defensive outfielder.... The Tigers have small issues that could be big, especially at closer. The concern is how much they have to use Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke so they're still fresh at the end of the year.... They have one future Hall of Fame pitcher in Justin Verlander, and the next three starters are above average. On about 15 teams, Max Scherzer would be an ace.... Rick Porcello had a good spring, but he's had good springs in the past and it hasn't carried over. Lefthanded hitters kill him, and the league has seen him now for three years.... Jhonny Peralta didn't move well at shortstop most of last year. He came to camp 20 pounds lighter. But if he hits .150, they'd rather have the fat, slow Jhonny Peralta. He's never had great range anyway.
2013 Projected Statistics
MANAGER JIM LEYLAND
Eighth season with the Tigers
NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE
LINEUPS AND STAT PROJECTIONS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
The K Meter
Percentage of 2012 plate appearances that ended with a strikeout, and major league rank
BY HITTERS | 18.0% | 7TH
BY PITCHERS | 21.8% | 4TH
Scherzer is a Cy Young candidate, and the Tigers are lining up their postseason rotation on Labor Day.
They win the division, but an unsettled bullpen makes them a strong candidate for an early postseason exit.
Albert Chen has more on the Tigers at SI.com/mlb
Perhaps the biggest story out of Lakeland this spring was whether rookie Bruce Rondon is ready to take the Tigers' closer job. It was a fun camp story line, but rather than get heavily invested in a single pitcher in a single role, manager Jim Leyland should dip into his past and turn the lack of a designated closer into an advantage. He can use Rondon (11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors last year) and Al Alburquerque (13.5 K/9 in two big league seasons) when a strikeout is needed. He can go to Joaquin Benoit in parks that hold fly balls, and Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke to match up against righties and lefties, respectively. It's a radical idea that once upon a time helped Leyland win three division titles: The 1990--92 Pirates averaged seven pitchers a year who had at least one save and had no pitcher who had 20 in a season. Leyland has gravitated to a closer-centric bullpen since then. But the skipper has the experience and the political capital to move away from that model now that he has the personnel for something different—and better.
JOHN BIEVER/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (FIELDER)
KIM KLEMENT/USA TODAY SPORTS (RONDON)
AL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (CABRERA)
The Heavy Wears a Crown Can Cabrera win another Triple Crown? That's asking a lot, but the Tigers will again throw their weight around in the Central.