It's no surprise that the reigning AL champs are the favorites to win the Central division for a third straight year. Not only are the Tigers the division favorites, but they just may be the AL favorites as well. As of right now, the LA Angels are the only other team I could realistically consider putting ahead of the Tigers.
This Detroit team that made it to the World Series last year looks to be even better, as it signed key free agent Torii Hunter and is also be bringing back Victor Martinez from injury.
With those two now in this batting order, there aren't too many lineups in the game that appear to be better. The heart of the order is as good as it gets, with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Martinez batting 3, 4 and 5 respectively.
Adding Torii Hunter to that No. 2 spot in the lineup will be a huge upgrade as well. Even at 37 years old, Hunter showed that he has plenty left in the tank last year, hitting .313 with 92 RBI. Plus, you're probably not going to find a better clubhouse guy around.
Andy Dirks is no slouch batting behind Martinez, as he hit an extremely impressive .322 last year. The bottom of the lineup does tale off a bit with Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila, but having a potential .290 hitter in the No. 9 spot with Omar Infante is pretty intriguing.
This lineup should be very tough to stop, as it is scattered with guys who can hit for both power and average throughout. Miguel Cabrera probably won't duplicate the Triple Crown numbers he put up last year, but he will still have some of the best numbers of any hitter in the game.
Expect Prince Fielder's power numbers to go up as well; he hit 30 home runs last year, but we should definitely see more as he gets more and more comfortable here in his second year in Detroit.
Even though the lineup looks like one of the best around, most people consider the rotation to be even better. It contains the game's best pitcher in Justin Verlander, and is followed by three more very solid starters.
Having Anibal Sanchez around for an entire year will help immensely, as will the presence of Doug Fister, who was hurt on and off last year. Max Scherzer is a guy who has the all the potential in the world, but hasn't really been able to put it together over an entire season.
He was dominant over the second half of last season, though, and needs to carry that performance over to the start of this year. The final starter appears to be Rick Porcello, but it is almost impossible to know what to expect out of him. He needs to start delivering, though, as patience is wearing thin.
We saw how good this rotation can be with what they did in last year's postseason, as this unit was literally unhittable at times. Nobody expects a repeat performance, but they just simply need to be consistent, especially Scherzer.
There's no question that the bullpen appears to be the weakness on this team. The closer role is wide open, as young flamethrower Bruce Rondon will start the season in the minors. At this point, a closer by committee approach might not be a bad idea.
Joaquin Benoit saw his fair share of ups and downs last year, and at 35 years old can hopefully bounce back. Having Al Alburquerque back from injury will be a huge boost, as he is one of the keys to this 'pen.
Even though Alburquerque can be lights out at times, there really isn't anyone else in this bullpen that can say that; Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and Duane Below may be decent in their roles, but none of them are likely to be great.
Brayan Villarreal is a guy that has an electric arm and the potential to be great, but at 25 years old needs to first show he's ready to step up.
Because the lineup and rotation are such strengths for this team, it's not like the bullpen will drag this club down or anything. It could cost them some games, but it's certainly not something that should prevent them from winning the division.
I wanted to project a higher win total than 94, but I also think an improved Central division will have a say in things. The Royals and Indians look to be much better, making navigation through the division not as easy as in recent years.
So is this Detroit team built to make another deep playoff run like last year? Everybody remembers the thrilling ALDS series victory over the Oakland A's, and then the ALCS sweep over New York that all of America seemed to enjoy. But the season then ended in embarrassing fashion, as the Tigers were swept in the World Series.
Hopefully, that memory will make this team hungrier than ever, and allow them to capture their first World Series title since that magical season of 1984.