We've been keeping track of The Next Relevant Tiger Team here at Bless You Boys, our best guess of what the team's roster will look like when the Tigers begin a several-year run of hanging around playoff contention. It's an optimistic way of lookiing at things, in a way; it assumes that the team will be good before every contract except for the one of infinite length gifted to Magglio Ordonez expires. Only players currently on the major-league roster are eligible for this exercise.
The time has come to add Curtis Granderson in center field. He's hitting well in a short stay in the majors after overcoming a slow start in AAA. He covers centerfield reasonably well. Concerns? Only three walks in a Tiger uniform, which fits right in with the rest of the local hackers. Baseball Prospectus doesn't love him (subscription required), comparing him to a bunch of part-time outfielders, though names like Abreu, Wertz, and Lankford start to show up farther down his comparables list. I think, actually, that Lankford represents the upside. Good power, occaisional high batting averages, decent defense in center or good defense in left. If the Tigers keep a player like Nook Logan around to push Granderson to left in late innings, or when a lumbering starter needs a day off, he'll be that much more useful. Welcome to the squad, Curtis.
Times have not been as kind to two current members of the NRTT, Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen. When we built the team's infield a couple of months ago, Inge was installed in the leadoff spot and sported a .360 OBP. Since then, he's started to hit like, well, Brandon Inge and to field like Howard Johnson. The last week has seen him hit a rash of doubles, however, to push his OPS back up close to .800. He's also got 20 errors, most of any major-league third baseman this year and worse than all but two shortstops, though BP's fielder's rate of production says he is an above-average third baseman, regardless.
Guillen's performance this year (.318/.366/.436) has been reasonable, though it's much more in line with his past performance, and makes 2004 look like a bit of a fluke. He hasn't been on the field very much, though, which is also in line with his pre-2004 history. Somehow he only has 23 RBIs, and it's not for want of opportunity. Is he going to be healthy enough to start for a contender? Can he possibly age well? He has two years and about $8 million left on his contract after this year.
Will Inge and Guillen be part of the Next Relevant Tiger Team? Let me know, both in the comments and in the poll below. Meanwhile, welcome, Curtis.