The final article in our series comparing the Tigers to the rest of the AL Central looks at the bullpens. So far, I’ve given the Tigers the edge in terms of outfield, infield, and rotation. Can they complete the sweep?
Detroit Tigers - CL Jose Valverde, SU Joaquin Benoit, RP Octavio Dotel, RP Phil Coke, RP Daniel Schlereth, RP Collin Balester, RP Duane Below. Luis Marte went to the disabled list today, so Below gets the last spot, which I honestly like better – it gives them a true swingman, something I don’t consider Balester to be. Anyway, the back end is very good, though Valverde is more than likely going to blow a save or three sooner rather than later. As long as Benoit’s health holds out, he’ll remain one of the better setup men around. The Dotel signing flew under the radar a bit, but I think it adds tremendous depth to the bullpen. Coke should be better now that he has a comfortable defined role; I’m not particularly enamored with Schlereth or Balester, and I’d be a little more comfortable if they had one extra arm, but the back four are pretty good. Note that Al Alburquerque is on the DL and should be back sometime mid-summer; how effective he’ll be remains to be seen.
Chicago White Sox - CL Matt Thornton, SU Jesse Crain, SU Addison Reed, RP Will Ohman, RP Nathan Jones, RP Hector Santiago, RP Zach Stewart. You’ll be forgiven if you have never heard of a few of these guys. Thornton appears to be the closer out of camp; if he falters as he did last year, don’t be surprised to see top prospect Reed take over the job. Crain and Ohman are the other veterans here; Crain isn’t bad, but Ohman is strictly a LOOGY. One of the kids may stick – Santiago in particular had a pretty fine spring – but they’re an unknown commodity at this point. Who knows.
Cleveland Indians - CL Chris Perez, SU Vinnie Pestano, RP Tony Sipp, RP Joe Smith, RP Rafael Perez, RP Dan Wheeler, RP Jairo Ascencio. The strength of last year’s team, built somewhat on a few hyperinflated numbers. Perez’s strikeout rate has dropped like a rock the last few years; despite a 3.32 ERA last year, his FIP was over 5. Be wary. I’m inclined to say Pestano is a better reliever than Perez at this point – his peripherals were vastly superior to Perez’s last year – and if Perez struggles or deals with an injury, Vinnie may nab the closer’s role and never give it back. Sipp got by with a .219 BABIP last year – at some point, he’s going to quit flouting his peripherals and come back to earth. Smith is pretty good, though, and Perez is inconsistent, but decent in his better moments. Wheeler isn’t a bad arm to have around either.
Kansas City Royals - CL Jonathan Broxton, SU Greg Holland, RP Tim Collins, RP Aaron Crow, RP Kelvin Herrera, RP Jose Mijares, RP Everett Teaford. The Soria injury hurts, but this is a good, deep set of arms. In my mind, Holland should be closing over Broxton, and he may end up doing so eventually if the big fragile guy busts again – that said, if Broxton is really truly healthy, he could have a huge impact – no pun intended. If Collins can get the walk rate under control, he could sustain the sub-4 ERA he posted last year in spite of iffy peripherals. Crow, lest we forget, was an All-Star (deservedly or not). Herrera has dominated the minors the last few years. We’ll even forgive them for rostering the horrible Jose Mijares. Worth noting this is a deep enough group that the Royals optioned Louis Coleman to AAA despite him striking out over a batter an inning at the major league level last year.
Minnesota Twins - CL Matt Capps, SU Glen Perkins, RP Jared Burton, RP Brian Duensing, RP Anthony Swarzak, RP Alex Burnett, RP Jeff Gray, RP Matt Maloney. One of the biggest problems on a team that had a whole lot of them last year, the Twins cobbled together their bullpen this year with a glut of failed starters. Capps probably won’t be as bad as he was last year, but the days of him being an ace closer appear to be in the past. Perkins might be the best one here, as there’s nothing to suggest that his surprisingly excellent 2011 was a fluke. Burton is a Reds castoff who hasn’t pitched a full season’s worth of relief innings since 2009 due to a series of injuries. Duensing and Swarzak are starters-turned-relievers, and while neither are terrible, nothing about their profiles suggests that either are bound to be breakout relievers. Same goes for the deep guys in Burnett, Gray, and Maloney. Thin bullpen and if the injury bug strikes again, look out.
RANKING THE BULLPENS
1. Kansas City – Sorry everyone! No sweep here. I love the arms in this bullpen, and they’re deeper than Detroit, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve reshuffled nicely in spite of Joakim Soria’s Tommy John Surgery.
2. Detroit – Three really good arms capable of locking down innings 7-9 after that. Depth issues are possible, but as long as they get length from their starters, they should be okay.
3. Cleveland – The luck dragon probably won’t have their back as much this year, but they’re still a decent bullpen and Pestano is the real deal.
4. Chicago – If none of the youngsters stick this year, the Twins could supplant them.
5. Minnesota – A lot of also-rans that would be 11th and 12th men on many staffs. Even if Perkins is good, they’re vulnerable everywhere else.