Taking a Stab at the Detroit Tiger's Opening Day Roster: Hitters Edition

Matt SCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2010

CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 11: Infielder Austin Jackson #14 of the Detroit Tigers bats against the Philadelphia Phillies March 11, 2010 at the Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

We're not quite halfway through the spring campaign yet, but I can already see that Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski will have some tough decisions to make before naming the 25 guys they'll take back to Detroit to begin the season.

We're probably looking at thirteen hitters on the opening day roster (12 pitchers), so let's try to figure out who it will be.

The locks:
Gerald Laird
Miguel Cabrera
Adam Everett
Brandon Inge
Johnny Damon
Magglio Ordonez
Carlos Guillen

Nearly locks:
Austin Jackson
Ryan Raburn
Ramon Santiago

There were a few question's surrounding Austin Jackson's ability to hit Major League pitching, but he seems to have answered those questions in a positive manner so far this spring.

Ryan Raburn will be on the team. You'll always hear the word versatility when Raburn's name comes up (he can play all nine positions poorly), but he provided a reliable bat and some nice power last year. He's only versatile as long as he keeps hitting.

Santiago has a great glove and hits well enough to justify a roster spot. He provides a little bit of speed and his ability to switch hit is a plus.

Probably in:
Scott Sizemore
Alex Avila

Sizemore's the reason that the Tiger's allowed Placido Polanco to get away.

Management felt he was ready to step up to the big leagues. His defense is still a question mark, but he hit well with a bit of power at the AA and AAA levels last year. His poor spring at the plate is making me question whether his spot on the 25-man roster is really guaranteed.

I like Avila at the backup catcher spot. He provides a left handed bat and showed his ability to hit for power last season. The Tiger's may be looking for their backup to play more than might be the norm in the majors (Laird hit very poorly last year), so Avila may see enough time behind the plate to continue in his development. If the front office feels it's best for him to play everyday in AAA, it'll be Robinzon Diaz or Mike Rabelo that gets the spot.

The Rest:
Don Kelly
Clete Thomas
Brent Dlugach
Wilkin Ramirez

We probably only have one spot left by now, and it'll likely be an extra outfielder.

My guess is it will be Donnie Kelly. Kelly has had a very nice spring at the plate (0.375 average in 24 at bats), and he has the ability to also play third base, but most of all, he's out of minor league options and I don't think the Tigers want to put him on waivers.

Clete Thomas and Wilkin Ramirez have also been successful at the plate this spring, but they both (should, by my estimation) have options remaining, so they can be assigned to the minor leagues without having to clear waivers.

I put Dlugach on the list, because it would seem that he's the guy that could steal Sizemore's roster spot. He's seen some extra time at second base, and his 0.353 spring batting average has to be getting the skipper's attention.

The only hole in my 13 is that there's really no backup at first base should Cabrera need a break. Raburn and Guillen have played the position in the past, but I don't know if they're viable everyday options should Cabrera suffer an injury. If they're looking for a first baseman, you may see Ryan Strieby (or maybe Jeff Larish) get the call.