Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
After hitting the nail on the head in last year's roundtable season prediction (called 86 wins, good for second place) by following my initial reaction, I feel the need to follow the same path this season. And right now, for every solid thing I have to say about this team, I see another question mark. The uncertainty of the bottom part of the rotation with Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis offsets the confidence of the top. Jose Valverde likely upgrades the bullpen in the closer role, but Ryan Perry, Joel Zumaya and Phil Coke will have to combine to match the efforts of Bobby Seay and Brandon Lyon from last year, who were decidedly under-appreciated. The lineup has two very exciting rookies in it with Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore taking on everyday roles, on the flip side . . . the lineup has two rookies in it. Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen look to be ready to produce, but both still have questions about their health and their ability to produce at a high level into their mid 30's. For every positive I find, another negative pops up. So, with all the positives being countered by the negatives, I feel like this season will be much of the same, and the Tigers are going to be headed for a .500 record, likely good for third place in the division behind the Twins and White Sox, but not by much.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
This is going to be an interesting year for the Tigers. I don't think there is any doubt about that. While clearly a transition year as they navigate the narrow bridge between the window that is closing around veterans like Ordonez, Guillen, and Inge, and the window that is opening around young players like Porcello, Sizemore, Jackson, and Avila. Squarely between these two extremes are the studs of the franchise; Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. Most teams in this state of transition just hope to be competitive and keep fans coming out to the ballpark. Not the Tigers. Not this year. The Tigers, thanks in at least no small part to the Division they call home, could well be in the thick of the playoff hunt right to the bitter end. The offense should be improved with the addition of Johnny Damon, more at-bats for Alex Avila, a healthy Carlos Guillen, and hopefully a solid full year from Magglio Ordonez. That doesn't even mention the dynamic potential -- though likely inconsistent -- of Austin Jackson, and the solid stick of Scott Sizemore. The defense should again be able to help its pitchers. Inge and Everett will still provide exceptional glove work on the left side. Sizemore is an average defender, and Cabrera is rapidly improving at first. Laird is still the backbone behind the plate, and the outfield with Damon and Jackson should have good range and some ability to compensate for a declining Ordonez in right. The pitching staff has the potential to dominate. With Verlander and Porcello at the top, and the acquisition of Max Scherzer, the rotation should be stellar on the whole. Even the vast question marks that make up the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation may not be enough to keep the Tigers from competing. The bullpen, with the addition of Jose Valverde at the back end, should be solid, and there are a litany of options in the minor leagues should anyone falter. In the end, this is a team poised for the future, with payroll flexibility and some youth being infused, but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous right now. I don't see a group of world beaters, but I do see a team that's in it until the end. I believe the Tigers will finish among the top two in the Division, with an 86-76 record.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I view the Tigers somewhat in the same light as I did last year. They certainly have the potential to be a contender in the AL Central, but they could just as easily not be a factor as well. The Tigers' top three starters should rank as among the best in the league, but they are also counting on Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis to anchor the back of the rotation. Jose Valverde should handle the closer's role with aplomb, but questions loom as to whether Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry can handle late-inning duties, or in the former's case, can he stay healthy and be effective. The Tigers struggled mightily to score runs last year, and the veterans will need to produce to keep the heat off of rookies Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore. There is no question that the Al Central is there for the taking if everything comes together for the Tigers, and while I think they'll stay in contention until the end, there seems to be too many unanswered questions for me right now to proclaim them as the favorite to win the division. I see them finishing at 84-78 and in second place, but the number of wins could project wildly upwards or downwards depending on how the questions posed are played out during the season.
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