Detroit Tigers Roundtable: On Nelson Cruz, the Leadoff Spot, and Magical Upgrades

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Sep 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Nick Castellanos (30) hits a single in the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Magical Baseball Genie allowed you to instantly upgrade one spot on this Tigers team, which spot would it be?

Chris Hannum: Could that baseball genie maybe get Nick Castellanos‘ rookie year out of the way and turn him into the middle of the order bat that he projects to be?

Matt Pelc: We’re all hoping for the best from Alex Avila, but if I could upgrade just one spot, I would upgrade catcher. Avila struggled mightily at the plate in 2013, but he also struggled behind the plate as well. He threw out just 17 percent of runners attempting to steal last year, easily the lowest of his career. I can deal with a light-hitting catcher who limits stolen bases, but Alex didn’t do anything very well last year.

Matt Snyder: I would upgrade Miguel Cabrera. Not because he’s bad or anything, but geez, can you imagine an upgraded version of Miggy? That would be fun to watch.

Scott Byrne: Catcher. Alex Avila’s 27th birthday is next week, but it seems like he should be 37, and he moves like he is 87. I feel like the 2011 season wrung too much out of him and that was the absolute zenith of his career. Love the guy, he has the heart of a Tiger, but they could really use something more than the 87 OPS+ he delivered last year.

Michael Emmerich: It’s a toss up between third base and the 8th inning bullpen guy, but I’ll go with a set up man. Hey, ZIPS love Castellanos, so why should I worry about that position.  No one loves the Tigers bullpen after Nathan though.

Josie Parnell: In my opinion, left field has already been improved. I happen to be very optimistic about Rajai Davis and the potential he has to improve the team with his speed and base running ability. However, I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at a defensively sound everyday left fielder with a power bat and speed if I encountered a magic baseball genie.

Tom Zahari: I would upgrade the middle relief pitching because it is the cheapest thing to do in a big area of need. This did not need to be a magical genie; I am a bit upset that the Tigers did not sign Grant Balfour to the deal the Rays signed him. If the Tigers could have the 7th an 8th innings locked down without a question, this team would probably be the most complete in all of baseball.

Josh Paulisin: Third base. No one knows how Nick Castellanos will perform in his first full season of duty. Prospects scare me. They can range from Mike Trout to Matt LaPorta. And when you’re trying to win the World Series, I would rather have a proven player over a young prospect any day.

Blair Tatrault: One more quality arm for the bullpen. Please. Can throw right, left, or both. Have you been watching what Oakland is doing? They are adding strength to an already potent bullpen. I like that approach.

Grant Stoye: I’d upgrade the training/medical staff, so as to prevent any significant injuries whatsoever to this year’s squad. No offense, Kevin Rand.

Sam O’Toole: Corner infield depth. What if Miguel Cabrera gets banged up again this year? Does Brad Ausmus keep playing him like Jim Leyland did at one point? Also remember, Nick Castellanos will begin his first full season and might not produce what an average third baseman would. Compared to last year, the defense on the corners has improved with Cabrera moving to first base, but offensively, the the Tigers are weaker there now, in my opinion. Don Kelly looks like the backup at both positions with Victor Martinez being able to play some first base as well. If one of the starters is out for an extended period (either injury or poor performance), the Tigers will lose some pop to an already power-depleted lineup.

Summary: third base (3), bullpen (3), catcher (2), left field (1), Miguel Cabrera (1), training staff (1)