The Tigers stole the headlines this offseason by signing free agent 1B Prince Fielder from the Brewers to a 9 year, $214 million contract. This came about a week after they found out they will be without DH/C Victor Martinez (.330, 12, 103) for the entire 2012 season due to an unfortunate injury. This is a team with a tremendous starting lineup and a solid rotation. Their bullpen will be good, but the one area of concern going into the 2012 season is defensive make-up. Miguel Cabrera is moving to 3B for the first time since 2003. OF Ryan Raburn is also making a move to 2B. Though this lengthens the lineup, there has to be some concern over the defensive outlook when pitchers like Justin Verlander and Doug Fister are relying on the infield defense.
Austin Jackson (.249, 10, 45, 22 SB, 11 3B, 181 K) has to reduce his strikeouts but is expected to get better. Delmon Young (.268, 12, 64) played the latter part of the season and the postseason like he did in 2010 (.298, 21, 112). Cabrera (.344, 30, 105) and Fielder (.299, 38, 120) are the best 3-4 combo in the game. Cabrera will get even more pitches to hit hitting in front of Fielder, though they can swap spot if necessary. Jhonny Peralta (.299, 21, 86) plays SS and will probably have some opportunities early in the season with teams pitching around Fielder and even Cabrera. Expect Peralta to get off to a good start offensively. Alex Avila (.295, 19, 82) put up very good numbers in his first full season as the team's catcher. Brandon Boesch (.283, 16, 54) will be followed by Ryan Raburn (.256, 14, 49).
There is a way the prior eight mentioned could all play the field. If so, perhaps the Tigers could be in the market for one of the remaining DHs: Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero or Hideki Matsui. If not, the Tigers have some options. Ramon Santiago (.260, 5, 30 in 101 games) played 2B down the stretch and in the postseason. Brandon Inge (.197, 3, 23) is coming off a terrible season but plays very good defense at 3B. Never hit much for an average, but twice has hit 27 HR in a season. Super-utility player Don Kelly (.245, 7, 28) could play almost anywhere and Andy Dirks (.251, 7, 28) could play for spirts in the outfield.
Of course, AL Cy Young Winner and AL MVP Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40, 250 K, 0.92 WHIP, no-hitter) leads the pitching staff. Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83, just 11 HR in 216 IP) would have won more games if he pitched the entire season for Detroit. Fister was 8-1, 1.79 in 10 starts for the Tigers after he was acquired from Seattle. Max Scherzer (15-9, 4.43) and Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75) are being counted on to provide innings. The Tigers do not have a set fifth starter, with pitching prospects Andrew Oliver (24 yrs old) and Jacob Turner (21) in the mix along with 26 yr old Duane Below. The Tigers got 31 starts from Brad Penny last season, who left to play in Japan. It would not be surprising to see the Tigers check out the market for a fifth starter.
The Tigers bullpen was good last season. Jose Valverde (2-4, 49-49 saves, 2.24, 75 games) is coming off his best season. Joaquin Benoit (4-3, 2.95, 66) is a very good set-up man. Octavio Dotel (5-4, 3.50, 65) joins his 13 different team in his career and provides some bullpen depth. Al Alberquerque (6-1, 1.87, 41) and Collin Balester (1-4, 4.54, 23 games), the latter who came from Washington in a trade for RHP Ryan Perry, will fill out the bullpen along with LHPs Daniel Schlereth (2-2, 3.49, 49) and Phil Coke (3-9, 4.47, 48, 14 starts).
I see no reason the Tigers can't make a serious postseason run. I think it is a given they will get there, but with before mentioned teams such as the Yankees and Angels, anything can happen in the postseason. Vegas has them at 92.5 for the O/U and I see them finishing over, at 96-66, first place in the AL Central. They have a combination of players that will win a lot of games and fans should enjoy a lot of success in Detroit in 2012.