Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
The easy answer to this question, and the one provided by my colleagues, is of course Miguel Cabrera. Uncertainty of an ankle could significantly hamper Cabrera's ability at the plate. However, as Cabrera has shown over the past couple years, he's capable of playing, and producing, despite injury. He might be limited, but unless the injury is truly debilitating, he's going to be out there, and can still be a dangerous hitter. The Tigers also have the ability to swap him and Victor Martinez at first base, limiting the wear and tear Cabrera might undergo. On the other hand, with the departures of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, the Tigers are going to be counting on Anibal Sanchez in a way they haven't had to since they acquired him in 2012. The Tigers were operating at a luxury when they had the ability to slot Sanchez in the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation when needed, and to not need to rush him back after past injuries. But without Porcello and Scherzer, the Tigers rotation will resemble a more typical MLB rotation, with David Price at the top, Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon at the back, and Justin Verlander and Sanchez holding down the 2 and 3 slots. Without anyone else near capable of filling Sanchez's shoes, another serious injury to Sanchez could create serious problems in the Tigers rotation.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
With varying degrees of injury concerns surrounding Anibal Sanchez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Alex Avila, Joe Iglesias, and others, there are plenty of worries to go around in Tigers camp this spring. That said, Miguel Cabrera has to be the guy most are substantially concerned about. Despite getting out of his walking boot and looking the part of a guy that's on the road to recovery, his injury and any lingering effects will have the most dramatic impact on the Tigers chances this year. The Tigers can find a way to overcome problems with Verlander or Sanchez, Avila or Iglesias, but without a healthy Miguel Cabrera returning to MVP form, the lineup looks a lot less potent and potentially unable to support a pitching staff that has question marks. Miguel Cabrera is the cog in the Tigers machine, and with health, they will likely take the Central Division again and could be World Series contenders. Without Cabrera at full strength for the vast majority of the season, those lofty aspirations become less likely.
James Chipman, Senior Correspondent
The health of the face of the Tigers' franchise Miguel Cabrera is undoubtedly concerning. The 31-year-old slugger had surgery in late October to remove bone spurs and to address a stress fracture in his right ankle. Foot and ankle injuries, and their recovery for that matter can be pesky, lingering issues -- especially when the rehab process is rushed. Cabrera appears to be healing ahead of schedule as he recently took to Instagram posting pictures of his rehab and announcing that he had shed his walking boot. All of which is great news. Still, he's no guarantee to be ready for the start of spring training, or Opening Day for that matter. Cabrera opening up the season on the disabled list would definitely sting. Plain and simple, you always want your superstars on the field. At what cost though? You certainly never want them to rush through rehabbing an injury. Call me pessimistic but I'm already concerned about Miggy pressing too hard to be ready for Opening Day, and furthermore, the management of his playing time during baseballs arduous 162 game grind. Cabrera has played 150-plus games in 10 of his last 11 seasons. He is highly regarded as a guy that wants to play everyday; often willing to keep his mouth shut and grind it out through injuries, for the good of the team. Both the Tigers and Cabrera will have to take an honest, patient and cautious approach throughout the season to ensure Miggy is healthy when it counts most, down the stretch in September and October.
Neil Weinberg, Senior Analyst
I mean, this is a gimme. Miguel Cabrera. Obviously Bruce Rondon, Jose Iglesias, and Alex Avila figure to be important parts of the roster but Cabrera is the team's best position player and his ability to produce in the middle of the order is critical to the team's success. And this is especially important considering the fact that we're now looking at three consecutive injury affected seasons for Cabrera as he settles in on the wrong side of 30. If Cabrera doesn't hit like himself for an extended period of time the Tigers are in big trouble. A month or two of uncertain health from a 2-3 win player isn't huge deal, but when you're talking about a star player's ankle, there's a real chance it could cost the team a few early wins that they'll need to make the postseason.
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