Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
The Tigers can't really go wrong putting either player in the number three hole - both have experience hitting there, as well as having a pedigree to do well there. Both have been RBI machines, get on base at a good clip, though Gary Sheffield actually has a slight edge in that department. However, Sheffield struggled at times last season (with a very poor April, and a shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness for much of the second half of the season). Cabrera on the other hand is younger, hasn't faced the same injury concerns, and theoretically is still getting better considering his age. For that reason, the Tigers are better off moving Cabrera up to three and letting him receive the extra handful of at bats, while putting Sheffield in a less pressure position, and even a handful less of at bats.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
In reality, I don't think it matters how we structure the three through six hitters in our lineup this year. Any combination of Ordonez, Cabrera, Sheffield, and Guillen is going to create scoring opportunities and keep the Tigers in games; there is little doubt about that. As of now, I would likely take a little pressure off of Cabrera and bat him fifth or sixth, until he gets into a comfort zone. Sheffield's experience throughout his career is likely to help him handle any additional stress from hitting in that critical spot in the lineup. I think throughout the course of the year you will see Manager Jim Leyland use a litany of combinations in the three through six spots in the lineup, with just about every player getting a chance in each location.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I would be inclined to have Gary Sheffield hit third. Sheffield has eight seasons of 100-plus RBIs, so he obviously can drive in runs, but his propensity for taking walks would create an extra baserunner and extend the inning to give Cabrera a chance to swing the bat. Sheffield also doesn't strike out much, which allows him a better opportunity to move runners into scoring position along for Cabrera as well, so Sheffield would be my choice.
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