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AL Central Roundtable: Tigers

Recently Marc of Beyond the Box Score created an AL Central Roundtable, where the bloggers of the AL Central came together and discussed the up and coming division. Involved were The Cheat from South Side Sox, Will of Royals Review, Jay of Let's Go Tribe, Jesse of Twinkie Town, and myself. Make sure to check out the Roundtable for all the teams in the Central at those different blog sites.

Here is the AL Central Roundtable look at the Tigers:

1. With a healthy Carlos Guillen, a more pudge-like Pudge, Bonderman/Maroth/Robertson another year older, with Verlander a step closer to the bigs, and possibly Curtis Granderson in the outfield, how do the Tigers stack up against the rest of the AL Central in 2006?

Mark of Bless You Boys: Well, to tell the truth I think the Tigers will still finish in the 4th spot in the division. While they seem to be improving and becoming deeper each season, I still feel there is work to be done with this club. Guillen needs to remain healthy. Pudge needs to be more patient. Pena needs to be more consistent at the plate. Todd Jones needs to repeat how performed last season. And so on and so forth.

In terms of the youngsters, I would rather not see the Tigers rush Verlander and Zumaya. And if they do I don't know if they will progress to the level that the Tigers will want them. Granderson looks like a future star, and I see him really contributing to the team this season.

If all of the chips fall the Tigers way, I believe they can achieve a record over .500. If a couple fall here and there, then the Tigers should remain around .500, but chances are once again they finish below that mark.

Will of Royals Review: If the White Sox and Indians both take a step back - which I think is quite possible - the Twins or Tigers may be in a position to grab some additional wins. I love the potential of Detroit's young pitching, and they probably have a more plausible best-case scenario `06 than Minnesota, which looks D-O-N-E to me.

Jesse of Twinkietown: We're done? Ouch. Any particular reason? Anyway, I remember watching Granderson last year and thinking he looked like a future star. Bonderman is still young and may still be one year removed from uncovering all that potential, but I still expect improvement from him. But with Guillen in the lineup with Rodriguez, Ordonez, Inge, Young and Granderson...there's potential there to be a fairly potent lineup. Much like last year, if Detroit's pitching can keep them in the game, they'll surprise some. I'm betting they turn in a winning season.

And Nook Logan? He could find a place in that lineup as well.

Mark: There have already been reports that Jim Leyland is a Nook Logan fan and will try to work him in to the lineup as much as he can. The Granderson/Logan platoon looks to be a good one as long as Grandy gets more of the PT and continues to grow, to go along with a (hopefully) revived Maggs and Monroe.

Jay of Let's Go Tribe: The fact that Logan could crack the lineup says more about the lineup than it does about Logan. Logan strikes me as a poor man's Wily Taveras - and that is not a compliment, believe me. There's some nice talent on this team, but I don't think Pudge is bouncing back, and the rest of the team just doesn't add up to a contender.

The Cheat: They remind me of the 2001-2004 White Sox. Lots of offense, suspect pitching. That used to be good enough to contend for the division. Nowadays, that combination will likely get you 4th place.

2. List off your favorite Tigers moves from the offseason, as well as your least favorite.

Mark: Really the best move the Tigers made this season was holding off on some disastrous moves. There were many rumors flying around regarding trading Verlander or Granderson, and it was good to see Dombrowski and the Tigs front office valuing the farm system talent the team all of a sudden has.

Both the Rogers and the Jones moves were pretty much so/so. They are two aging pitchers who both have performed pretty well over the last few seasons. While they are up in the years, the Tigers avoided giving them long, drawn-out contracts that would be regretted in a few years. For the Tigers sake I hope that Kenny Rogers can influence the lefties in this rotation and give Jeremy Bonderman a little room to grow as Rogers takes over go-to guy spot in the rotation.

It's tough to choose a bad move, although I think the Tigers could have tried to lure some younger guys to the team, instead of just band-aids at certain spots.

Jesse of Twinkietown: The difference between the Royals' moves and the moves of the Tigers is that the Tigers had a base of talent to combine with the influx of new players. Instead of signing players to keep from getting worse, they signed players to compliment areas that needed complimenting. Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers aren't fantastic moves, but they fill needs.

The Cheat: Their best move of `06 may be acquiring a healthy Magglio Ordonez. He should be back to his .900 OPS ways.

As for bad moves, well, they didn't make any franchise killing moves. Just think, Juan Gonzalez could still be under contract. I'm pretty sure the cameramen in Detroit signed a petition against the Gambler signing.

3. Where do you see the Tigers in 2007 and beyond, as far as record and competitively speaking?

Mark: The Tigers have made strides in the last couple of seasons. I mean, you can only go up after losing 119 games in one season. The direction the team is headed is definitely positive, and if some of that farm system talent pans out, you may see a competitive Detroit team in a couple years...I believe 2007 will still be a transition year in this long rebuilding process. I could easily see them just around .500 next season. Tigers fans have learned patience over these losing seasons, and are not in the "Win Now" mindset.

Jesse of Twinkietown: The only thing that concerns me for the future of the Tigers, at this point, is the future of Pudge. By the time the Tigers are ready to compete for the division crown, will he still (1) be around, or (2) play well enough to not be a just a distraction in the lineup. If the Tigers are ready to make a run in 2007, he'll be 35. If the Tigers aren't ready by 2007, how much of a role can he play?

Mark: In terms of the catcher position, it could possibly be the biggest weakness in the Tigers system. There really aren't any future prospects at the position that are looked upon as the future backstop for the Tigers. There are a couple guys that may break out, Chris Robinson and Danillo Sanchez, but this looks like a situation where a future free agent signing or trade will have to come about. Plus, I don't know how much stock you can put into this, but Pudge doesn't seem like the kind of patient catcher you need with a young, growing rotation.

Jay of Let's Go Tribe: I think it will be a very, very long time before the Tigers win more than 85 games. I think they have possibly the most inept management in baseball, which is really saying something. I think they had a decent young core and have squandered it by promoting several of them too early, plus an incredible string of dumb free agent signings. I'm sure it's a comfort to every walk-year closer out there to know that if he breaks his arm in June, the Tigers will be offering him a two-year deal in November.

The Cheat: It's hard to see guys like Maggs and Pudge being part of the next Tigers team to take home a division title. But I suppose Detroit needs to get to .500 first before they start having delusions of grandeur. I think their prospects for .500 are pretty good this year, however.

Their farm system isn't as deep as Cleveland or Minnesota's, and they'll probably never spend as much as the White Sox. In short, they're going to need some good fortune before Comerica is hosting meaningful games in October. On the bright side, they're not the Royals.