While the Tigers enter this spring with a few more question marks than they have in previous springs, let’s be honest. Barring injury a lot of roster spots are already locked up, and the Tigers feel very good about who they have locked up.
Starting with the lineup, if you believe that Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose are set to take some sort of platoon in center field, then the only question mark is what order this group will hit in. Here are the guys that have roster spots locked down already among the position players:
That’s ten of the 13 position player spots already locked down, with some brewing competition for the final few spots. Two of those openings will go to a backup catcher and a utility infielder. The final spot will likely have a preference for being a potent bat off the bench, especially if the utility infielder can also provide some emergency depth in the outfield, as manager Brad Ausmus has stated he hopes can be provided.
At catcher, James McCann and Bryan Holaday are expected to battle for backup catching duties. At the utility infielder role, both Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine will get significant consideration, and Ausmus has mentioned that both will get time in the outfield this spring. Tyler Collins probably has the early lead on the bench bat role, even though someone like Xavier Avery could pose a challenge. Catcher Miguel Gonzalez, infielder Josh Wilson and first baseman Jordan Lennerton are a few other names that could pop up in competition.
Moving over to the rotation, where there are basically no question marks. The order might need a bit of juggling, but here’s the Tigers 2015 starting rotation:
As has been noted here and elsewhere, this is actually a really strong starting rotation, especially if Verlander can return to being the above average starter he’s been since he debut with the big league club, even if that’s not the Cy Young version Tigers fans remember fondly. That, plus Price and Sanchez still near their peak and you’ve got a very formidable top three. It’s just not a rotation that will place itself among the all-time greats, and probably won’t lead MLB rotations in WAR.
So, with the lineup and rotation already set, we’ve already got 15 spots locked down. Now, we jump to the unit that gave the Tigers so many problems in 2014, and that’s the bullpen. While some fans were hoping for the front office to nuke the entire unit and start fresh, that didn’t happen. Instead, they’ve identified a handful of arms to add competition to the unit, especially in the middle relief roles.
That being said, the late inning and many of the middle relief roles are probably already locked down, unless a spring training collapse occurs. They are;
That still leaves another right-handed relief spot to be fought for between Joel Hanrahan, Alex Wilson and Josh Zeid, two of whom were off-season acquisitions and Hanrahan who was technically a member of the organization last year but never pitched outside of Lakeland. In addition, left-handers Blaine Hardy and Ian Krol are likely to battle for the other left-handed relief spot. Org members Kyle Lobstein and Luke Putkonen could also play into the battle for a spot as well, if the Tigers want to have a dedicated long reliever.
So, in all, 20 spots are basically decided before camp even begins, and virtually all the important roles are locked down. Of course, a single key injury could throw this entire group out of whack, but as things stand on February 1, the roster, outside of backup and deep bench roles, is largely set.