Instead of looking at who the Tigers can go out and snag in free agency, or bring into the fold through trades, let's use a different tact. What does each player on the Tiger roster – those likely to return for 2008 – have to improve upon to help the Tigers get back to the post season? We will go player-by-player discussing an aspect of each player's game that needs to take a step forward, focusing on those players with nearly guaranteed roster spots.
Magglio Ordonez – It really is difficult to pick on anything after an MVP-caliber season. Really, I can't think of anything on Earth he could improve upon in 2008. Just don't regress. I suppose his assignment would be continue working out like a mad man and come back for next season ready to duplicate his impressive efforts.
Curtis Granderson – His strikeouts were the hot topic in 2006, and while they dropped in 2007, the ‘problem' was masked by a monster performance. If Granderson takes another stride forward and cuts his whiffs by 30-40 more next season, we will have a bona fide superstar here in Detroit.
Carlos Guillen – With the news of his move to first base, Guillen has to be sure he learns the position quickly. It seems easy enough to run to the bag every time a groundball his hit, and catch the subsequent throw, but there is a lot more to it. Carlos needs to become familiar with when to charge bunts and dribblers, when to let his second baseman get the ball in the hole, when to read Pudge's desire to snap throw behind the runner, etc. Defense at first isn't critical to a team's success, but if Guillen struggles in the field, can we expect the same offensive performance?
Placido Polanco – Yet another player who is difficult to give a challenging assignment, but if you had to pinpoint something, I would have to select his willingness to work counts and take walks. With sluggers such as Ordonez, Sheffield, and Guillen behind him, his on-base percentage absolutely must remain high. At .388 in 2007, it was certainly high enough, but it was largely batting average driven. If the hits aren't falling in '08, he has to find other ways to maintain his presence on the bases for the Tigers to continue scoring runs.
Gary Sheffield – Get healthy; end of story! A healthy Sheffield is exactly what the doctor ordered, while a Sheff with a bum shoulder and little power is tough to swallow in the DH role. If it requires surgery, get it done. If it requires rehab, get cracking. Sheffield's only mission should be to come into camp strong and ready to crush the ball.
Marcus Thames – Thames has helped his stock the last two years, by slugging when he gets a chance and making himself more versatile in the field. It is difficult to ask an older player to change their approach, but Thames would do well to take advantage of what is given him by the pitcher rather than looking to yank every single pitch out of the park.
Ivan Rodriguez – There is some uncertainty about his option, but the odds are he returns for another season in Detroit. If he does, Pudge has to get back to using the opposite field to his advantage. Throughout his career, he has hit to the opposite field with the best of them – and 2006 was a perfect example of this. If he is able to get back to that concept, he should be able to get back in the realm of his '06 numbers.
Brandon Inge – I honestly don't know what to say here; where do you start? This is like that kid in class with loads of potential but he just always manages to get in his own way. Just when it looked like he was putting things together in 2006, we get a stinker in 2007. I think it is obvious he is never going to be an offensive monster, but he has to simplify his approach at the plate and get back to the basics of seeing the ball, and hitting the ball. Maybe if we lock him in a room with Larry Walker he will get that through his head and stop over-thinking things.
Omar Infante – Tighten up your game defensively, young man! If Omar can come into spring training showing a strong arm from second, short, and third, while also demonstrating a willingness to run around in the outfield with some aplomb, he can get back to being considered a promising young super-sub.
Mike Rabelo – Mike did well with sporadic and unpredictable playing time. He didn't hit a ton, but he was never expected to. He wasn't a Pudge clone defensively, but he was never expected to be. If Mike can refine his frame of mind to get used to limited playing time, he could become a backup catcher dejour; someone capable of filling in admirably to rest an aging future Hall of Fame backstop.