2012 Prediction Series: The Opening Day Roster

Nothing has been finalized yet – that will come early next week – but given the way spring training has played out this is what Walkoff Woodward thinks the 25 man Opening Day roster should look like.

I find myself thinking about Brandon Inge way more than I need to, and you all do too considering how many of you like to talk about him. For those who feel the way I do please understand the inclusion of him on the roster: I can’t see the Tigers designating him for assignment. I would like to be able to type Danny Worth or even Clete Thomas into his spot on the roster but I can’t do it based on the historical marriage between the Tigers and Inge.

However, and I’ve said this before regarding the Inge “controversy”, he isn’t going to make or break the Tigers season. He is a replacement level player, give or take a win or two, just like Danny Worth or Clete Thomas is. The Tigers brain trust will weigh the pros and cons of his value and will respond in kind.

Whether we like to admit it or not, there are many conversations that happen behind closed doors that we will never know about. For all we know, Inge could be holding Patrick Leyland hostage in a dark basement. He could be hand knitting Dombrowski’s hideous striped polo’s. He could be grooming Prince Fielder’s hair. It doesn’t matter. He’s probably going to get 300 plate appearances, cause twitter to explode for every single one of them, and in the end the Tigers will be in the same place with or without him on the roster.

Catchers

Alex Avila

Gerald Laird (Omir Santos)

Infielders

Miguel Cabrera

Prince Fielder

Jhonny Peralta

Ryan Raburn

Brandon Inge (Danny Worth)

Ramon Santiago

Outfielders

Austin Jackson

Brennan Boesch

Delmon Young

Andy Dirks (Clete Thomas)

Utility

Don Kelly

With Dirks in the lineup (as he should be against RHP) there is decent speed at the top and bottom thanks to our favorite winter ball celebrity and Austin Jackson.

Delmon Young has professed that he prefers to play the field, but he’s really the only rational DH against RHP. With the lineup against LHP, he would play the field, Raburn would DH and Inge would play second.

Leyland will utilize lineups featuring Cabrera as a DH and Don Kelly playing third, Fielder as a DH and Cabrera at first, etc, etc, etc. He will rest his regulars in the DH spot often. It’s not ideal, but it’s also not a bad thing. The same things would be accomplished if Inge were not to make the team: Danny Worth would simply replace his name in the lineup, although Don Kelly would probably see more playing time against LHP.

Starting Rotation

SP Justin Verlander

SP Max Scherzer

SP Doug Fister

SP Rick Porcello

SP Drew Smyly

There has been some talk of the Tigers heading to Detroit with just four starters, and two long relief men, one of them being the fifth starter, who doesn’t need to be used right away. Last year Phil Coke made two relief appearances before starting his first game, so the classification of “four starters” would just be a formality. If Smyly were to make the team, I’m not sure why the team would employ him in a long relief role before making his debut as a starting pitcher. If they were to do this, they would probably need to give him a start sooner than later.

Of course, the rationale behind keeping Duane Below on the roster is justifiable as well. If he were to head North he could be used as a long man before he is needed to start, and therefore the Tigers would have a bit more flexibility in using the other four starters to start the year.

One other thing to consider is the team’s view of Jacob Turner. If they believe he will be ready to start in the big leagues at some point this year, and they are known for pushing their prospects, then Below would also make sense.

So have I talked myself out of Smyly as the fifth starter? Not at all. I think he gives the Tigers a better chance to win every time he pitches and that’s why he’s on my roster, but there are other things to consider when debating who earns the job.

Relievers

Jose Valverde (RHP – CL)

Joaquin Benoit (RHP – SU)

Octavio Dotel (RHP – SU)

Phil Coke (LHP)

Daniel Schlereth (LHP)

Brayan Villarreal (RHP)

Collin Balester (RHP – LR)

I think the only debatable name on this list is Villarreal. Luis Marte has pitched extremely well this spring and will probably be considered until the final possible moment. I’d like to see him make it, especially since he popped out of nowhere last year, but Villarreal has been dynamite as well and has a bit more experience.

The bullpen looks a lot healthier than it did last year, and I don’t mean physically healthy. With Dotel signed, Coke in the pen for a full year, Al Albuquerque coming back around the all-star break and a group of impressive arms in Villarreal, Marte, and even Matt Hoffman all looking to get innings this year, the Tigers bullpen is theoretically in much better shape than the one that trotted out last opening day, and that’s at least reassuring more than anything.

  • JT Plotzke

    what about ramon santiago?

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