Detroit Tigers: The Starting Nine
The removal of two mainstays in the lineup, Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco, denotes a new era of Detroit baseball.
The Tigers parted ways with these two major contributors in favor of younger, cheaper players.
This face-lift may force manager Jim Leyland to scramble for baserunners in 2010. Void of patient hitters, the Tigers aren't expected to regularly produce a heap of runs.
Newcomers Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore will see plenty of action, if ownership stays course and avoids signing a hitter off the free agent list.
Though not much can be expected from them out of the gate, they will be given ample opportunity to prove their worth.
Detroit also lost valuable bench slugger Marcus Thames. As a consequence, Miguel Cabrera remains the lone consistent deep threat.
Low walk, high strikeout guys dot the order and opposing pitchers lack a daunting challenge outside the three and four holes.
"Stagnant" and "streaky" may best define the Tigers attack in 2010.
Here is your 2010 starting lineup:
1. Austin Jackson, Center Field
The 23-year-old outfielder will be given every chance to earn the starting center field job in Spring Training.
If he can cling to the parent team when they travel north from Florida, the Tigers will have a more prototypical leadoff hitter than they've had in years.
Loads of potential came to Detroit along with Jackson, who the Tigers received in the Curtis Granderson swap.
In parts of five minor league seasons, Jackson swiped 124 bases and compiled a .288 batting average.
But be warned; if Detroit signs Johnny Damon, the job will likely be given to him. Jackson would be sent to Toledo to develop another year.
2. Ryan Raburn, Left Field
There is a distinct possibility Raburn begins the season batting leadoff, primarily if Jackson shows he needs more seasoning, but Tiger fans should expect to see the former super-utility player bat second much of the season.
Raburn, at age 28, broke out in 2009, hitting .291 with 16 homers. After the All-Star break, he clubbed 10 dingers and hit .310.
He came on strong when Leyland needed him the most and will be looked upon to fill the shoes of Mr. Dependable (Placido Polanco).
3. Carlos Guillen, Designated Hitter
Guillen's struggles at the plate last season were linked to injuries—a healthier 2010 should contribute to an increase in production.
Though the Guillen of old is likely gone, management believes the 12-year veteran can still swing the stick.
Leyland promised him a shot at left field, but judging how poorly this experiment ended two years ago with the creaky Gary Sheffield, it won't last long. A .287 career hitter, he should consistently find his name on the lineup card.
4. Miguel Cabrera, First Base
Despite the oft-followed practice of batting your best hitter third, Leyland prefers to keep Detroit's offensive leader at cleanup.
In seven seasons, Cabrera whacked 209 homers and hit .311. But one of baseball's best found trouble as the playoffs approached last year and Tiger fans will be watching to see if Miggy is truly over his struggles with alcohol.
"My drinking was a problem, and I feel good without it. I feel like a new man," he said.
The dynamic 26-year-old has a bright future ahead of him.
5. Magglio Ordonez, Right Field
Second to only Miguel Cabrera (.396) in on-base percentage (.376), Ordonez absorbed waves of abuse from the public last season.
An $18-million contract and .241 April batting average didn't sit well with Detroiters. Maggs took a leave of absence to tend to his ailing wife early in May and he slumped miserably until the stretch run.
Though he rapidly rounded into form in August, he never fully regained his home run stroke and fans rode him until infamous game 163.
Many experts predict a surge in production from Magglio, who now should be concern-free.
6. Brandon Inge, Third Base
Inge will never be a top-of-the-lineup type, but he can pack plenty of power further down the order. He appeared in his first All-Star game last season, after slugging 21 homers in 299 at-bats.
Unfortunately, microtears in his patellar tendon greatly limited his effectiveness from July 1 until season's end.
During that period, he struck out 99 times in 331 plate appearances and compiled a .189 average. If the stellar defender stays healthy, he's capable of knocking in scores of runs.
7. Scott Sizemore, Second Base
Sizemore fractured his fibula in Arizona Fall Ball, but that won't stop him from getting an extended look to succeed Placido Polanco.
With large shoes to fill, the second base prospect posted close to a 20-20 season at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo in 2009.
Club officials believe Sizemore is ready to contribute at the next level and he projects to hit in a low-pressure position close to the bottom of the order.
8. Gerald Laird, Catcher
In the 29-year-old's first year in Detroit, Laird gunned down an MLB leading 42 would-be base stealers. Too bad such dominance doesn't translate to offense.
The Tigers primary catcher had a wretched season at the plate (.225 BA, 4 HR, 33 RBI).
Backup receiver Alex Avila may steal a considerable amount of plate appearances, if Laird cannot pick up the pace and Detroit struggles to score runs as anticipated.
9. Adam Everett, Shortstop
Here's the good news: Everett is not as bad as his 2009 on-base percentage suggests (.288). The bad news? For his career, it's only nine points higher (.297).
Everett's statistics rival that of a 1950's middle infielder—low power and a minuscule batting average. More of a defensive specialist, expect much of the same from Everett.