You can find your Detroit Tigers Tickets for the 2011 season on SeatGeek.

Joshua Jackson writes for the Detroit Tigers blog, The Tigers Den.  You can follow Joshua on Twitter @TigersDenBlog.

Detroit Tigers 2011 Season Preview

While the 2010 Tigers season was a resounding disappointment (just as the ’07-’09 seasons were) the Tigers have spent the off season attempting to spend money. The result of which had led to a belief that owner Mike Illitch is turning the club from a Mid-Market to a Major-Market franchise. To date, the consensus is that people are still not sure if Detroit is a destination for talented Free Agents or just a city where they settle for the most money, you can state your claim with the talent that they signed – or, failed to sign – this winter, but one thing remains obvious, the Tigers have added more talent than what they lost, and the result is a raised expectation.

Key Departures
Eddie Bonine (PHI)
Adam Everett (CLE)
Gerald Laird (STL)
Johnny Damon (FA)
Jeremy Bonderman (FA)
Bobby Seay (FA)

Key Additions
Joaquin Benoit (TB)
Victor Martinez (BOS)

Re-Signings
Jhonny Peralta
Brandon Inge
Magglio Ordonez
Enrique Gonzalez

Detroit Tigers 2011 Roster Breakdown

Catcher
Alex Avila – I’m not sure if he’s the starter or the backup, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure if Leyland and Dombrowski know either. The argument for Avila is that he is a very controlled player and the staff, especially Verlander, like how he catches a game. I concede with those opinions. He has great upside and I think the only way he will be held back offensively is if Leyland opts to split him time with Martinez. That is further reason that Avila needs to start 4-5 times per week right from opening day. If he fails, then he fails.

Victor Martinez – I’m not going to blast Martinez. I don’t care if he’s a bad defensive catcher, I don’t care if he’s paid too much. The guy is going to hit the tar out of the ball and make opposing pitchers actually give Cabrera stuff to hack at. If I were going to take a stab at criticizing anything, it’s that I hope he doesn’t catch very much. A) for the reason stated above and B) because if he gets hurt catching, everyone’s going to start complaining that we signed him for his offense and putting him behind home plate was a disaster waiting to happen. I’d rather them just nip the catching in the bud and have him start no more than once or twice a week.

Infield
Miguel Cabrera – Offensive Juggernaut. ‘Nuff Said. Let’s just hope he can continue to control his drinking off the field.

Carlos Guillen – The guy won’t be ready for opening day. Knowing his history, I will be surprised (albeit, pleasantly) if he’s scribbled in Leyland’s opening day roster. Regardless, he’s universally viewed as one of those boring players no one really cares about, but he is a productive professional player who doesn’t get the respect he deserves on the offensive side. If he’s in the lineup, that helps the Tigers and that’s what’s important.

Will Rhymes – I really think this guy will start the year at second, and I think he’ll stick, mostly because Guillen is so injury prone, but also because he’s a scrappy player, much like Dustin Pedroia in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not being compared to an MVP, not by any shakes, but he’s exciting, he has a will to learn and he’s scrappy. He’s going to be 28 on April 1st, so time isn’t really on his side, but he came up and looked like a polished big leaguer. I also like the stat that he’s the first Tigers rookie in 70 year to hit .300 with over 200 at bats. That’s cool. Plus, he’s fun to follow on twitter.

Jhonny Peralta – I don’t know where to start with this one. Jay-Honny is a player that borders on just plain boring, but his name is clever, so it gets him some looks. If only he were born in Venezuela.
Brandon Inge – He’s a Detroit sports figure staple. He’s scrappy, he’s crappy. Every team has one. Just look it up.

Outfield
Magglio Ordonez – When the offseason started, I thought, hmmm, it would be interesting to see them chase after Jayson Werth, but when it became obvious that Werth’s price tag was just not…um…worth it, I wondered how much they could fetch Magglio back for. Sure, he’s aging (he’s 37!), sure he has injury concerns, but man, can the guy hit when he’s healthy, and his 2011 cost is not a steep price at all. I’ll take it.

Austin Jackson – The guy doesn’t have much power, but he has everything else. He would have won the rookie of the year if there hadn’t been a Neftali Feliz in the league saving games for the AL Champs. I’d just like to see him strike out less and walk more. If he does that next year, I’ll really be convinced that he’s going to be a good player for a long time.

NOTE: These next three players will all compete for the left field job.

Ryan Raburn – I’ll tell you right now, Raburn will win it by default out of camp unless Boesch or Wells has an amazing spring (and Boesch is probably the most likely too to do so), but he will lose it in May, then win it back again in August, to once again prove he is one of the most frustrating players in the organization. He can hit like crazy, just without any consistency.

Brennan Boesch – All this kid needs is an offseason where he can sit back, took a look at his game, and calm himself down. Maybe this is the one, maybe it isn’t. Regardless, he has a ton of talent. He has a natural left-handed swing and he is very patient at the plate. I’d personally love to see him win the job and keep it all year. Rayburn’s defense is almost Manny-Like. His bat can potentially produce at the same rate, so they cancel each other out in that aspect but Boesch’s defense (while not exceptional) can be more valuable in the long run. Spring training will tell us a lot.

Casper Wells – The least likely of the three to win the job, but if anyone gets hurt (Guillen, Ordonez, even Martinez) we will probably see his bat in the lineup. It’s not the most ideal thing in the world to see him because if it’s because he won the job, it means that Rayburn AND Boesch were just awful, and if it’s because of injury for a length of time, then the Tigers need to consider obtaining a bat via trade.

Bullpen
Jose Valverde – No closer has more spunk than Valverde, and he had a great first half, followed by a disastrous second. That can’t happen in 2011, especially if the Tigers are in a position to compete for the division, which they should be. His misfortunes fell by the wayside last year because there was no division lead to covet.

Joel Zumaya – If he can recover fully from his injury last year, he will be the foundation of a very dangerous relief core. Let’s hope that 100 MPH heater didn’t pop like his elbow did.

Joaquin Benoit – He may be expensive, but if he can repeat his performance last year, it will be worth it…I’ll leave it at that.

Ryan Perry – He improves every year. I can see closer material in this kid, and when Valverde’s contract expires after this year, they have him as a strong option…well, him and Benoit.

Daniel Schlereth – Left-handed specialists are rare to find in baseball. This makes Schlereth a very valuable arm out of the bullpen. Now, if only he would be used correctly.

Robbie Weinhardt – He has the potential to be an outstanding reliever. He just needs to learn to throw his breaking pitches with more consistency. I think he’s an arm that will stick with the big club by next year.

Rotation
Armando Galarraga – Mr. Perfect. If he can harness those breaking pitches like he did much of the second half last year, and if the tigers could give him some decent run support, he could win 14-15 games. That said, he nibbled most of the year last year, and because of it he’s going to be the odd man out when it comes to the fifth starting nod.

5. Brad Penny – It’s odd that I’m penciling in Penny as the 5th starter, but that’s where he would project. In 06 and 07 he won 32 games for the Dodgers and has 108 career wins. He’s a former all-star, he’s a decent arm that would be a benefit to the Tigers in the postseason. And at $3 million, with $3 million in incentives, he’s worth the gamble.

4. Phil Coke – I really like the fact that Dombrowski and Leyland are proactively putting Coke in the rotation. They see him experiencing the same success as C.J. Wilson did in Texas, which was simply transferring that short burst of energy he had as a reliever, into a longer, more steady stream of vigor. Of, course, that’s why most relievers are relievers. But, I can see Coke as an outlier; he started in the minors and he has three quality pitches.

3. Rick Porcello – What can I say? A disappointment last year, but after he came back from Triple-A, he looked like he had mastered his sophomore slump (and the control of his breaking stuff). It’ll be exciting to see what he can do next year.

2. Max Scherzer – The same goes for Scherzer, who struggled himself in the first part of the year, but was brilliant after his re-arrival in the 14K game on May 30th. I can see him breaking 200K’s and 200 innings next year.

1. Justin Verlander – Of course we saved the best for last. I think Verlander has sort of tapped out all he can in the game of regular season accomplishments (well, not 20 wins, but that will come), and while we can’t take him for granted, he’s pretty much a sure bet for 17+ W’s and 200K’s. However, the Tigers need to make the postseason again, so he can lower that 5.82 ERA that he had in the 2006 playoffs (and more importantly he needs to avenge those losses in the World Series). But other than that, this guy is gravy.

Projected Detroit Tigers Opening Day Lineup
CF Austin Jackson
2B Will Rhymes/Carlos Guillen
Batting third RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
SS Jhonny Peralta
3B Brandon Inge
LF Ryan Raburn
C Alex Avila
SP Justin Verlander

Trending Rookie Impact
2010 saw 11 different Tigers make their Major League debut. Obviously, most of them are going to be flameouts and non-impact players; however Austin Jackson, Will Rhymes, and Brennan Boesch have proven they are talented enough to be given legitimate shots at being in the Tigers lineup for years. The following is a quick list of the top 20 Tigers prospects for 2011:

1. Jacob Turner RHP: Main worry here is standard young pitcher health concerns, plus will the Tigers rush him? I hope not, and with the Brad Penny signing, it looks like they won’t.
2. Nick Castellanos 3B: He’s only 19, but man, does he have talent. Drafted in the first round last year, and while he only has 29 big league at-bats watch out for this kid.
3. Andy Oliver LHP: Some issues with his breaking ball and poor handling by the Tigers last summer. He reminds me of Andy Pettitte.
4. Dan Schlereth LHP: I love the power relief arm but will control issues keep him from being on the roster this year? If he harnesses his talent, he will be an effective lefty out of the pen.
5. Daniel Fields OF: The Tigers jumped him from Michigan high school competition to the Florida State League. He wasn’t bad considering the circumstances, and his tools are excellent.
6. Casey Crosby LHP: Very difficult to rank and grade due to uncertainty about his health but he is a lefty starter who can deal.
7. Chance Ruffin RHP: Watch for him. He won’t need much minor league time due to his very polished, good stuff.
8. Brayan Villareal RHP: Really don’t understand why this guy doesn’t get more respect. He has great stuff and has a WHIP of 1.17 in 5 years. He’s only 24 but I fear he’s being forgotten.
9. Drew Smyly LHP: A polished college lefty, future fourth starter but he should be a good one in the near future.
10. Casper Wells OF: He’s old for a prospect and won’t hit .300 in a full season, but will provide power. He’ll battle with Boesch and Raburn for the starting left field job, but don’t expect him to win it.
11. Francisco Martinez 3B: Tigers officials love the tools, but he’s been rushed and his performance has suffered as a result. Confidence is on a short leash, at least in the short term because he’s only 19.
12. Lester Oliveros RHP
13. Jose Ortega RHP
14. Bruce Rondon RHP
15. Robbie Weinhart RHP
16. Adam Wilk LHP
17. Charlie Furbush LHP
18. Danry Vazquez OF
19. Ryan Strieby 1B-OF
20. Avisail Garcia OF

Overall, the Tigers system is thin, although there is some intriguing material for the pitching staff. Turner, Oliver, and Smyly provide three strong starting pitching prospects, and Crosby’s upside is undeniable if he can stay on the mound (which he hasn’t been able to). There are lively arms for the bullpen as well, with Schlereth and Ruffin leading the pack, plus a bunch of hard-throwing relievers with command issues. Villareal is the sleeper who could help in either role.
Notice that there aren’t too many bats that can be considered true prospects. Castellanos is a nice player, but he’s never even played in A ball and Fields was thrown into high A ball as a first year player and he hit .240.

Overall Summary and Final Thoughts
1. The Detroit Tigers are an interesting team for a number of reasons. Their starting pitching has the potential to be dominant this year. This could be the legitimate 2012 Tigers rotation:
Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Rick Porcello
Jacob Turner
Andy Oliver/Case Crosby

That’s pretty impressive considering 5 of the 6 names would be homegrown. I’m not sure too many teams other than Tampa and Florida can say that they have that much talent pitching talent within the organization.

2. I believe the Tigers should sign another catcher to keep the pressure off of Martinez. I think we should pay attention to second base and left field; if those positions are successful, the Tigers will be very dangerous.