Besides one certain masked man from Puerto Rico, the Tigers' biggest acquisition of the off-season belonged to the outfield. While we were all complaining of beginning our Christmas shopping, the Tigers had already started theirs. They wrapped their gift in a home jersey and topped it with an Ole English 'D'. When Detroit's gift is finally opened, they'll see their All-Star left fielder with a big smile and a bigger bat. Rondell White will put his power to the test in the spacious dimensions of Comerica Park. He also brings a decent glove with some good speed that is saved for the field. White is no longer a threat to steal bases since he has had knee trouble. White, previously with the Royals, will roam the outfield with center fielder Alex Sanchez and right fielder Bobby Higginson.
Alex Sanchez and his great speed parole the vast area in the middle of the outfield. His great speed makes up for a weaker arm. He has the potential to be a great leadoff hitter, but he has been performing inconsistently. He had three separate months with over a .340 OBP, as well as three other months when his OBP was below .312. He only averaged about four walks a month. He has shown that he can get a bunt single almost willingly. With some added consistency in his play, Sanchez will easily have a chan! ce at stealing over 50 bases again this season.
Thanks to a hard working off-season, Bobby Higginson is coming into the 2004 campaign without his hampered hammy. Higgy should continue his strong defensive prowess; however, his defense hasn't been the question mark in his game lately. Higginson's numbers have dropped significantly the past few seasons, but he still manages to get on base fairly regularly. He may not get back to his 2000 form, but a significant improvement will be necessary if he wants to keep a regular job.
Craig Monroe will undoubtedly be itching to take a spot whenever and from whomever he can. Monroe proved that he could play with the big boys last season. He crushed left handed pitching, and he may be used frequently as a pinch hitter against southpaws. Injuries to either of the outfielders, his spring-training performance, or Higginson's lack of production could give Monroe a chance to play everyday.
The Tigers are in a more fortunate position this year than the past. Last season, they were desperate to fill their lineup with some real ball players. This season, they will have some difficulty finding playing time for deserving ones. The Tigers also have some other players who will get a strong look during spring training. Cody Ross is the right fielder of the future, but he may spend the beginning of the season in Toledo so he can get regular playing time. Ben Petrick will also be looking to fight for a spot on the roster after playing 43 games with the Tigers last year. The Tigers have some other infield prospects that can play in the outfield as well. This may hinder Trammel's ability for finding a spot for Ross or Petrick.
Two of the three outfielders have had recent injury problems, but the Tigers actually have some depth this season to deal with this type of adversity. This corps of outfielders should get the job done defensively, but don't look for them to lead the league in many categories. Offensively, they should be greatly improved with their new All-Star and some depth.