With Tuesday’s news that Prince Fielder appears headed to Detroit, here’s one look at how the Tigers’ lineup could shake out in 2012:
1. Austin Jackson, CF: Strikes out way too much, but the Tigers don’t have a better option at leadoff. Especially since the Prince Fielder signing probably means they are out of the running for Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
2. Brennan Boesch, RF: Healthy after last year’s wrist injury, he gives the Tigers some thump and a little bit of speed near the top of the lineup. Considering who’ll bat behind him, he should see plenty of great pitches to hit, too.
3. Miguel Cabrera, DH: Manager Jim Leyland already this offseason had been toying with the idea of moving him from cleanup. Now it’s a no-brainer, considering the $214 million man who’ll be taking up residency behind him. And you thought Victor Martinez provided protection.
4. Prince Fielder, 1B: Comerica Park is tailored for a big left-handed power hitter. Yet, strangely, since the ballpark opened in 2000, the ballclub’s mostly added pop from the right side. That’s changed now. And the results should be fascinating.
5. Delmon Young, LF: People tend to forget about him, but he gives the Tigers a fourth consecutive hitter who has 100-RBI potential. And he’ll have no shortage of RBI opportunities in 2012.
6. Alex Avila, C: One of the Tigers’ best situational hitters in 2011, who in his second full season in the big leagues grew into one of the best hitting and defensive catchers in the game.
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS: He’s coming off one of his best seasons in the majors, and his first All-Star appearance. You’d be hard-pressed to find many better bottom-of-the-order options.
8. Ramon Santiago/Ryan Raburn, 2B: Santiago should see most of the action at second, because his glove is better and his bat impressed in 2011. Raburn also can get a fair share of reps in left field.
9. Brandon Inge/Don Kelly, 3B: If Inge can rebound from a dismal .197 showing, he’ll get the full-time job. If not, Kelly proved last postseason he has the glove and bat to do the job sufficiently.
The one big issue that could shake this up is whether the Tigers plan to move Cabrera to third base full-time in 2012, or ease him into the transition – with most of his work at DH this season, then the shift to third in 2013 when Victor Martinez returns from his left knee injury.
If Cabrera is the Tigers’ third baseman this year, then that opens Leyland up to a DH by committee, with Young, Avila, Raburn, Cabrera and Fielder all taking their turns.
That scenario obviously would make the Tigers’ offense better, but take away from a defense that’s already in the bottom tier of the American League.