When you think of the Detroit Tigers over the last few years, who are the players that come to mind?
Magglio Ordonez or Ivan Rodriguez? Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge and Johnny Damon?
It always seems like the Tigers are the oldest team in the league. This season, however, that could not be farther from the truth.
On their 40-man roster, Detroit has only nine players over the age of 31.
These new Tigers are dominated by youth. Players expected to be major contributors this year include Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, and Brennan Boesch.
Verlander is the oldest in this group, and he just turned 28 five days ago. It seems as though he's been starting for Detroit since the turn of the millennium.
Of the Tigers' nine projected Opening Day starters, only Inge and Ordonez will be over 30. The rest of the starters and most of the key backups are young, and in their prime.
The same goes with the rotation and most of the bullpen. It has been a long time since I've felt that Detroit was cultivating youthful talent instead of bringing in players on the back end of their careers.
It doesn’t stop with the major league roster, either.
The Tigers have a fine stock of young talent in the minor leagues just waiting for their turn. The most notable of those players is Jacob Turner. He is one of the stars of the future for Detroit, and he is only 19 years old.
The Tigers will be hard-pressed to keep Turner in the minors for the whole 2011 season; if he pitches like the coaches expect he will, a September call-up is not impossible.
Of all the things I see from the Tigers this spring, youth is the most important.
To me, it means the Tigers are drafting well and cultivating homegrown talent. They are letting players develop into stars instead of shopping them for the next stop-gap player who comes along.
That's the difference between teams that try to win today, and teams that continue to win tomorrow.