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Tigers Den Roundtable: What should be the Tigers’ Opening Day lineup?

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We know the Tigers’ likely Opening Day lineup, so it’s time to start arguing about it.

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Debating about lineup construction is an age-old pastime for baseball fans of every team. We didn’t have blogs or Twitter in the 1960s or ‘70s, but one imagines there were more than a few gripes about how Mayo Smith, Billy Martin, and even Sparky Anderson constructed their batting orders. Now, with more information than ever at our fingertips, the debates have only intensified.

We actually posed this question earlier in the week, but Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire did us a solid on Wednesday by running out what could be his Opening Day lineup in a rain-shortened win over the New York Yankees. We’ll get to his version of the batting order in just a bit. First, let’s see what the BYB staff wants to see out of the Tigers in 2019.

This week’s question: What do you want the Tigers’ Opening Day lineup to be, and why?

Cameron: This is legitimately the most fun lineup I can think of so I would like it to be the Tigers Opening Day lineup.

Mike Trout, CF
Joey Votto, 1B
Francisco Lindor, SS
J.D. Martinez, DH
Alex Bregman, 3B
Bryce Harper, RF
Yasiel Puig, LF
Willians Astudillo, C
Jose Altuve, 2B
Justin Verlander, SP

Ashley: I respect that catcher pick.

Cameron: J.T. Realmuto is the best, but we have enough fire power where I’d rather enjoy Willians.

Ron: Are we talking realistic or dream lineups here?

Rob: I just want players on the actual Tigers roster. Here’s mine.

Candelario
Stewart
Cabrera
Castellanos
Goodrum
Jones
Harrison
Greiner
Mercer

Kenon: I’d love Nick in the two-hole but I don’t feel good at 4-5-6 if I do that.

Peter: So I took the Steamer projections for the team and chucked it into the old Baseball Lineup analyzer and the “best” lineup (4.586 runs per game) is the following:

Cabrera
Stewart
Mercer
Castellanos
Candelario
Goodrum
Harrison
Jones
Greiner

The “worst” lineup isn’t that much worse, as it is projected to score 4.296 runs per game. Interestingly enough, every one of the worst lineups the analyzer comes up with is led off by either JaCoby Jones or Niko Goodrum. Gardenhire could pull the lineup out of a hat every game and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference.

So, my ideal lineup is one that is chosen by the Harry Potter sorting hat. Or at least Gardenhire wearing a sorting hat.

Ashley: I used random.org to see if that was true and this is my lineup for Opening Day.

Greiner
Harrison
Cabrera
Candelario
Mercer
Stewart
Castellanos
Jones
Goodrum

Peter: Lineup chosen by fan vote would be interesting, and possibly revenue generating. First 20,000 fans in the gates get a vote.

Jeff:

Stewart
Castellanos
Cabrera
Candelario
Goodrum
Jones
Mercer
Harrison
Greiner

The most important trait for a leadoff hitter is on-base percentage. Stewart has had an above-average walk rate in the minors and it continued in his limited time in the majors last year. While it may not be practical to expect a .375 OBP for a full season, it should be reasonable to expect it to be above average. I’ve always liked Nick in the two-hole. Cabrera hitting third is a no-brainer. Candelario and Goodrum have the next-best power. Jones is primed to also have reasonable power. Then Mercer, Harrison, and Greiner.

Zane: I agree with Jeff. Let’s treat Stewart like the Astros treat George Springer. My lineup is:

Christin Stewart
Jeimer Candelario
Miguel Cabrera
Nicholas Castellanos
Niko Goodrum
Josh Harrison
JaCoby Jones
Jordy Mercer
Grayson Greiner

If John Hicks is playing, move him to eighth while Mercer bats ninth. I want Candelario protected by Cabrera in the lineup.

Ron:

Harrison
Candelario
Cabrera
Castellanos
Stewart
Goodrum
Jones
Greiner
Mercer

There won’t be any quarrels from anyone about batting Cabrera third, I assume. Castellanos seems like a good fit for cleanup, as he had his best numbers all season in 2018 from that spot. Stewart makes sense fifth; it gives him a chance to see more at-bats in fewer high pressure situations, and no doubt would add a good one-two punch behind Cabrera. I could see a lot of people putting Hicks at first base, but I would actually go with Goodrum. His bat outranks Hicks in virtually every statistical category, and he could develop into a valuable utility player if given the reps. I was debating between Jones and Harrison at leadoff because they are similar players, but I think with Jones’ struggles last year, starting out lower in the lineup is best for his development.

Adam: I don’t really have great justification for this other than getting some good hitters up early, and I didn’t want to have the same lineup as anyone else.

Candelario
Goodrum
Castellanos
Cabrera
Stewart
Harrison
Jones
Mercer
Grenier

Patrick: I selected Victor Reyes over JaCoby Jones because it would likely take a big spring breakout for the Tigers to give him the starting job. If he can get on track as a hitter, his upside is tremendous. JaCoby is a great athlete who will probably always be challenged as a hitter. More likely, Reyes will start the year in Triple-A Toledo, but a boy can dream.

Stewart
Castellanos
Cabrera
Candelario
Goodrum
Reyes
Mercer
Harrison
Greiner

Ron Gardenhire:

Adam: I’m not terribly happy about Stewart and his 40 grade speed in the two-hole. I will point out that most of us were very wrong about Leonys Martin’s spot in the lineup last year, so we should probably prepare to be wrong again.

Chris: Harrison’s low walk rate concerns me, since you need a high on-base guy in the leadoff spot. In that facet, I’m perfectly fine with Candelario or Stewart batting high in the order. If only JaCoby could tame his swing and draw a few more walks. He would be the ideal combination of speed and potential power in the leadoff spot.

Adam: I could not agree more with that last statement.

Rob: Harrison’s career .317 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot is the bigger problem here.

Chris Milz: I should probably get my lineup out there, too.

Candelario
Goodrum
Cabrera
Castellanos
Stewart
Jones
Greiner
Mercer
Harrison

From Jones on down it’s all interchangeable. Whatever will provide a bit of a spark at the turn of the lineup.

Adam: I agree. I tried to just mix mine up a bit to allow for some diversity.

Jay:

Goodrum
Castellanos
Candelario
Cabrera
Stewart
Mercer
Jones
Greiner
Harrison

Adam: Provocative!

Jay: I’ll take that as a compliment.

Adam: Niko batting first isn’t anything I’ve seen before, and I’m a little hesitant to put him in that spot. Nick in the two-hole might be sacrificing some RBI opportunities. Moving Cabrera back to fourth is something that’s more radical that one might expect, but it could be time for him to do so.

Jay: I was going for the Springer-y thing with Niko. I know that Stewart has been that choice for most of you guys, but I’d like to see him hit MLB pitching for an extended sample before leading him off.