Every season fans look forward to a revised roster. One that corrects the flaws of the previous season but keeps all the “good stuff” intact. Whether it plays out that way or not is what makes the season interesting, exciting or frustrating. Will the 2015 Detroit Tigers roster be strong enough to win a Championship?
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The roster this year will present some very pivotal contributions.
The outfield should be good. Perhaps very good. It will be interesting to see if JD Martinez can continue to be a front-line player and also improve defensively with his shift to right field. If JD can muster 80% of his rate of production from last year he will make the middle of the line-up hateful for opposing pitchers.
The key will be how things go in center field. Anthony Gose will be challenged to become an everyday player but I fully suspect he will fall short and the other road runner, Rajai Davis, will platoon with him. Back-up depth will likely be provided by Tyler Collins. He runs well, fields well, possesses home-run type power and can play any outfield position.
Perhaps even more importantly, he is a left-handed batting option on the bench. The one guy I see as being a consistently dependable outfielder is Yoenis Cespedes in left. We are fortunate to have his intimidating bat in our lineup, even though the price of obtaining him was a costly one (Rick Porcello).
Our infield should be solid. It better be, especially since the starting rotation has lost three excellent ground ball pitchers in the last two seasons. The biggest question mark will be Jose Iglesias. How much will he have lost being idle? How will his legs hold out? A successful comeback year from Jose galvanizes the entire infield into a comfort zone for its pitchers.
We hear Miguel Cabrera may not possibly start the season. Miggy’s management of his weight has been and may continue to be a problem for him. He has a personal assistant on the team so why not a personal dietitian, too? Ian Kinsler is a star who solidifies the right side of the infield with exquisite fielding and heads up play. Nick Castellanos will very likely improve both at the hot corner and at the plate.
One of the most impressive things I saw last year with respect to Nick was how well he fit in with the veterans. He will enter this season with a tonne of confidence. According to Hoyle, that’s a pretty impressive infield. Who will back them up? I think every chance will be given to Hernan Perez to be utility man on this team. He’ll likely be asked to play some corner OF in spring training. If he can handle that, he’ll be the new and improved Don Kelly. “Defense first”, Andrew Romine, would then be expendable.
A long-shot, Jordan Lennerton, has an outside chance of making a left-handed impact at 1st base, should Miggy miss opening day. Possible Hall-Of-Famer Victor Martinez can help out in emergency situations. Alex Avila and James McCann will both be more than adequate behind the plate. Alex will arguably be playing the most important season of his career, in more ways than one. Can he protect his health? Will he again learn to hit with power to his off field? No one will need to remind him that this is his last year before free agency.
Many fans feel that baseball success begins and ends with pitching. The cliche being, you can “never have enough”. Do we have enough? I mentioned briefly that we have lost 3 good starting pitchers over the last year. Doug Fister, Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello. We now stand to lose Max Scherzer. Those kinds of names missing from any starting rotation are mind-blowing. The impact of their departures puts a lot of pressure on this vital component of a championship caliber team.
Sure, we got David Price in the Smyly deal, but chatter of him being uncomfortable with the trade is not exactly heart-warming stuff. Anibal Sanchez is a surgeon on the mound but he seems to be a perennial candidate for surgery himself. He needs to give his team 25 starts this year. Justin Verlander will not allow Justin Verlander to become an ordinary pitcher. One full off-season should re-invigorate the war-horse that he is. Roy Halladay had an off year when he was 30. He went about the business of (re)re-inventing himself and went on to pitch some really fine baseball. Justin has some of that same demeanor. He is a little more stubborn, but he will “get it”. Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon are Las Vegas and Reno. If even one of those guys works out, Dave Dombrowski will have to count his blessings.
I have questioned the way Dombrowski has constructed the bullpen for years now. There are some unproven commodities and a whole lot of assumptions being made, but I think the bullpen could actually be a strength this year. If Joakim Soria can reclaim some of his former expertise I presume he will take over the closer role as Joe Nathan fades into the sunset. That leaves the enigmatic Al Alburquerque to keep surprising team-mates and fans alike with another year of late-inning relief. In addition the pen has two rehabilitation projects, Bruce Rondon and Joel Hanrahan, hoping to rediscover arm strength after Tommy John surgery.
The southpaws are another crapshoot. I just don’t see either the floor for Kyle Lobstein or the ceiling for Ian Krol materializing. Tom Gorzelanny will have a lot on his shoulders trying to define and understand his job as a swing-man, a long reliever or a LOOGY. It does seem that every year we hear the same exhausting story about one guy channeling his 8th or 9th inning niche which “defines” everyone else’ role.
It is high time the Detroit Tiger bullpen begins the season with a solid foundation. There are always adjustments to be made but I hope it is because we are making them to keep the bullpen healthy and not because we are again trolling for solutions.
And what about our manager and staff? Better leave that to another time!