With opening day just over two weeks away who has turned some heads and will be making the trip to Minnesota to open the season, and who is headed a to the minors?
They players in camp will be separated into three categories: Stone Cold Locks, Got a Shot, and Headed to Toledo or Other Employment. Each player will be accompanied by their spring training slash line, current as of 3/16/13.
Stone Cold Locks-
No doubt about either of these two breaking camp with the team. Pena may lose his roster spot if he doesn’t start off well and prospect Bryan Holaday, who had a cup of coffee in Detroit last season, starts off hot at AAA.
The starting infield hasn’t been in question since the end of last season (unless you count the rumors that the Tigers were targeting Orioles SS J.J. Hardy during the off season). The questions arise about who will be backing these fellas up.
You know who your outfield is on most days, the only questions remaining are will the Tigers platoon with Dirks in left, or will he handle a full schedule. The extra outfielder spots are wide open, with as many as five guys are fighting for one or two spots.
Justin Verlander 13.1 IP/4.05 ERA – Doug Fister 11IP/8.18 ERA – Max Scherzer 4.2IP/0.00 ERA – Anibal Sanchez 5.0 IP/ 0.00 ERA – Rick Porcello 18 IP/2.50 ERA – Bruce Rondon 7.2IP /3.52 ERA – Octavio Dotel 3.0 IP/ 0.00 ERA – Joaquin Benoit 8.0 IP/ 2.25 ERA – Al Alburquerque 8.0 IP/ 1.13 ERA – Brayan Villarreal 7.0 IP/ 2.57 ERA
There are only two questions about the pitching staff. Will Porcello or Smyly be the fifth starter and who loses their spot if Porcello moves to the pen? If Smyly wins the fifth starter battle, that means the bullpen is short a lefty. Who does that open up a job for? I also believe that Bruce Rondon will be your closer all year unless he is hurt or blows 4 or 5 opportunities in a row.
Got a Shot-
Only one of the guys from each category will make the team, unless the Tigers decide only to take 11 pitchers with them, which is very unlikely in my estimation. I think Danny Worth is the utility infield slot front-runner because he’s younger, cheaper, and more defensive flexibility. Santiago could fetch a couple boxes of baseballs on the trade market at the end of spring training. I would leave both Castellanos and Garcia in Toledo, slow down their arbitration clocks and let them grow up a bit more. That being said, I would keep both Kelly and Kobernus for various reasons. If you don’t take them, you lose them (Kelly has an opt-out clause, and Kobernus is a Rule-5 pick), and they both can play the infield and outfield. The tigers don’t really need to carry more than 4 bench guys, because they have five or six guys that will play 155+ games each.
Headed to Toledo or Other Employment-
Only two of these gentleman on this list may have a shot of sneaking into the Got a Shot category; Quintin Berry and Darin Downs. Berry could make this team because of his speed, and Downs will make it if Smyly wins the 5th starter battle or the Tigers trade Rick Porcello. I don’t think either will happen, which will put Berry as the 4th outfielder in AAA (Castellanos, Garcia, and Collins will be ahead of him). Tyler Collins has some nasty numbers, but he is only 22 and hasn’t played an inning above A ball. Marte, Ortega, and Putkonen will all get innings in the bigs at some point this season, but not in April, pending injuries.
These are just my opinion and best guesses. The wildcards in all of this is Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski. Leyland often favors veterans over the young guys, but Dombrowski isn’t against throwing young guys up there before they are completely ready.