Detroit Tigers Projected 2011 Lineup, Updated: Motown Must Wait Til' Next Year

Nicholas RoddyCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2010

Detroit Tigers Projected 2011 Lineup, Updated: Motown Must Wait Til' Next Year

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    About a month ago, I wrote a prediction for next year's Detroit Tigers starting lineup. But my how things change. 

    The Tigers are still out of the playoff picture, but are currently playing with no distractions and no worries about choking down the stretch. 

    Over their last three series with the Chicago White Sox, the Tigers have gone 6-2, dropping the White Sox to nine games back of the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins.

    While some players have dropped off in their performance, others have picked it up and virtually guaranteed starting spots on next year's team.

Catcher: Alex Avila

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    With Gerald Laird out with a back injury, Avila has stepped into the starting catcher role. He has picked up his performance, but is still not producing as well as many thought he would.

    Chances are that Laird has seen his last days with the Tigers, making it Avila's job to lose. If he can hit around .270 for the rest of the season and come to Spring Training with a new mentality and clean slate, he should win the starting spot.

    Possible free agent targets:

    • Victor Martinez
    • John Buck

First Base: Miguel Cabrera

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    This is one of the two spots that is not up for debate. Miguel Cabrera will be a Triple Crown and MVP candidate in Detroit for years to come.

    After a night of partying that resulted in an assault case before the most important game of the 2009 season, Cabrera has come back with a rejuvenated attitude and has had a monster season. If the Tigers were more involved in the pennant race, he would undoubtedly be the MVP favorite.

    Possible free agent targets:

    • None

Second Base: Scott Sizemore

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    While Will Rhymes has been one of the biggest stories of the season, he is likely not an everyday starter. After winning the starting job out of spring training, Sizemore was sent down to AAA Toledo in May with a .206 batting average.

    During his time with the Mud Hens, he improved his hitting with a .298 average, nine home runs, and 37 RBI in just 76 games. This position will be one of the most heated battles next year, but look for Sizemore to win the spot in spring training.

    Possible free agent targets:

    • Jose Lopez
    • Willie Bloomquist

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta

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    Peralta has shown he wants to remain with the team and have the Tigers pick up his 2011 option. He has been a major run producer for the Tigers, and was tied with Cabrera for second on the team in the month of August with 16 RBI.

    This month, he is tied with Ryan Raburn for the team lead with 12 RBI. He has performed well enough for the team to feel confident in picking up his $7 million option.

    Possible free agent targets:

    • Cristian Guzman
    • Derek Jeter

Third Base: Brandon Inge

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    His contract is up after this season, so GM Dave Dombrowski has a tough decision to make. He and Jeremy Bonderman are the only two players who have been with the organization since the record-setting 2003 team that went 43-119.

    He has increased his average every year over the past three seasons, and has played stellar defense at the hot corner for as long as he has been here. Chances are that Dombrowski rewards Inge with a contract for all of the dedication and service to the organization.

    Possible free agent targets:

    • Ty Wigginton
    • Adrian Beltre
    • Jorge Cantu

Left Field: Ryan Raburn

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    Raburn has been one of the hottest hitters over the past month, raking in 11 home runs and 33 RBI in the past two months, while hitting .404 in the month of September.

    Not only has he guaranteed himself a spot on next year's roster, but also probably a starting spot in the 2011 outfield.

    After failing to find his swing in the first half, hitting coach Lloyd McClendon tweaked Raburn's motion and it has paid off immensely.

    Possible free agent targets:

    • Carl Crawford
    • David DeJesus

Centerfield: Austin Jackson

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    Jackson has quickly made Tiger fans forget former centerfielder Curtis Granderson with his incredible defense and smooth bat.

    He is without a doubt the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. Throughout the season, he has maintained a .300 batting average, has 169 hits, and 24 stolen bases.

    He needs to cut down on his strikeouts, but that will come with experience. He is definitely the player alongside Cabrera that will not have to worry about his spot in the lineup for next season.

    Possible free agent targets:

    • None

Right Field: Casper Wells

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    In his short time in the big leagues, Wells has surpassed expectations and has outperformed former AL Rookie of the Year candidate Brennan Boesch. 

    Since his call-up on August 23, he has hit two home runs and knocked in 10 runs. In August, he carried a fantastic .467 batting average. This month, he is hitting a smooth .343.

    Without a doubt, Boesch over-perfomed in the first couple months of his rookie season, setting the expectations sky high for this untested outfielder. He will likely either make next year's squad as a role player or spend some more time in the Minor Leagues.

    Possible free agent targets: 

    • Jose Guillen
    • Jayson Werth

Designated Hitter: Magglio Ordonez

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    Ordonez's contract is up after the season, and includes an option for next season for $15 million. He will not reach the designated amount of starts and plate appearances to guarantee his option is picked up, so Dombrowski will have a tough decision to make.

    Before he was injured, he was hitting .303 with 12 home runs and 59 RBI through 84 games. He showed he can still hit with the best of the league, but the question remains if he is worth that much money.

    Possible designated hitters within the organization:

    • Brennan Boesch
    • Carlos Guillen
    • Johnny Damon