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Detroit Tigers: the Five Biggest Players Who are Injury Concerns for the 2015 Season

January 30th, 2015 at 4:19 PM
By Max DeMara

The Detroit Tigers haven't enjoyed the greatest health lately. Arguably, that has been one of the biggest factors putting a halt to successful playoff runs in both 2013 and 2014, helping defer the dream of a title longer.

With a new season, of course, will come natural optimism. This year, it's tangible for the very fact that multiple performers figure to be as health as they have ever been once action kicks off in the spring.

Still, there's always reason to be concerned. Which players can the Tigers not afford to lose this season under any circumstances? Who should fans be agonizing about the most from now until October? Here's the five biggest to remember.

1. Miguel Cabrera. Detroit fans have seen what happens minus a healthy Cabrera, and the results are staggering. The Tigers will still score runs, but they will be plenty less effective overall at doing so without their biggest gun feeling healthy. Coming off ankle surgery, there's reason to worry about Cabrera long-term this season. He's seen troubles dampen the last two seasons, so until he proves otherwise, watch with caution. Cabrera's one of the bigger gamers this side of Cal Ripken Jr., so it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup unless forced. Still, he has to be completely healthy in order for the Tigers to have a successful year.

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Detroit Tigers’ Minor League System Rated Worst, Proving the Steep Cost of Contention

January 29th, 2015 at 11:47 AM
By Max DeMara

It's difficult for a baseball team to compete at a high level while maintaining a well-stocked farm system. It's simply the cost of playing poker.

Therefore, it wasn't terribly shocking to see ESPN's Keith Law rate the Detroit Tigers' minor league system the worst in baseball on Wednesday. The prospect rankings, whether Law's or anyone else's, have long reflected the tough state of Detroit's bare-bones minor league system.

The Tigers haven't developed much big-name talent because they've been too busy trading it away for impact players.

But, that's the price to pay for maintaining a contending baseball team with star power. Certainly, fans would rather have a relevant squad during the regular season capable of winning than hear endless rants about how great scores and scores of minor leaguers will be.

Go back in time to 1996-2004. That eight year run was full of can't-miss Tigers' prospects that would have topped any scouting list. Had Law been in the ranking business then, he probably would have been lauding players like Kenny Baugh, Kyle Sleeth, Matt Anderson, Eric Munson and Scott Moore. Now, that list is a who's who of baseball's biggest busts.

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Detroit Tigers’ Best Bullpen Battle Will Come from a Varied Collection of Lefties

January 28th, 2015 at 11:03 AM
By Max DeMara

One of the things that's been lost in the shuffle this offseason is the fact that the Detroit Tigers have quietly put together a great competition for one of the most important spots in any bullpen.

That spot, of course, is the left-handed specialist.

Gone is the inconsistent Phil Coke, but returning to the fray are the opportunistic Ian Krol and Blaine Hardy, both of whom performed at a major league level at times in 2014 when they were badly needed. Also added to the mix is Tom Gorzelanny, who's been a consistent, serviceable performer throughout his well-traveled career.

Add to that minor-league options like Kyle Ryan and Joe Mantiply, and it's clear the Tigers are working from a position of strength. Whomever makes the roster will have likely earned the job thanks to plenty of personal toil in training camp.

On the outset, it appears as if the team will carry a pair of lefty pitchers into the season. Going into camp, that didn't look to be the case, but Detroit signed Gorzelanny a few weeks back to a one-year deal, and it's likely they want the stability of at least one proven lefty arm for the bullpen to rely on.

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Detroit Tigers Bring Back Al Albuquerque, Who is a Quiet Key to Team’s Bullpen

January 27th, 2015 at 11:05 AM
By Max DeMara

On Monday, the Detroit Tigers reached another one-year deal with relief pitcher Al Alburquerque, avoiding arbitration once again.

That news certainly won't generate headlines or register even a shock-wave through baseball, but for the Tigers, it is no less important. In an offseason full of change, Detroit couldn't afford to lose a consistent, cost-controlled performer like Alburquerque from its bullpen.

At times in 2014, Albuquerque was Detroit's only consistent performer in the late innings, and certainly the only pitcher who could be counted on to appear in multiple days and provide a similar result. For this, he casually earned the nickname "everyday Al" around the park.

Statistically, Alburquerque was that consistent. He posted an impressive 3-1 record with a 2.51 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched. It wasn't quite as notable as Alburquerque's breakout 6-1 season in 2011, but it was a major improvement over rough 2013 year following an injury-plagued 2012.

Quietly, Alburquerque might be one of the bigger keys to the bullpen having success in 2015. With plenty of question marks arising again, it will be important to have a routine competitor like Alburqueque to rely on late in games. He's proven effective through his first handful of seasons in the majors, and can be a reliable option the team trusts later in games.

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Credit Max Scherzer for Showing Touch of Class Amid Highly-Publicized Exit from Detroit Tigers

January 26th, 2015 at 10:34 AM
By Max DeMara

The more money gets involved, the more the sports world has turned into a nasty landscape. There's backstabbing, public dispute and always plenty of "he said, he said" going on.

In other words,oddly enough, fans of daytime soap operas might find a natural attraction given the current landscape.

But, like anything, there are also notable exceptions. Take Max Scherzer, the new Washington Nationals' staff ace. Scherzer, who recently inked a $210 million dollar deal to leave Detroit, took time out to thank the city, organization and its fans with a full page ad Sunday in the Detroit Free Press.

Such acts, though becoming more common and starting to feel contrite, are still certainly worthy of praise in many cases. During his time in Detroit, Scherzer was always one of the more magnanimous Tigers' players, always taking time out to deflect praise to teammates. Knowing this, it's easy to see how Scherzer's ad placement was a genuine act.

It's tough for Tigers' fans to remain mad at the pitcher. Think about it. If anyone could maximize financial profits in their career, wouldn't they fight hard for it? Respect comes from not only being the best, but getting recognized that way by people who matter. The Tigers tried hard to keep Scherzer early, but couldn't justify another massive contract when the rubber met the road.

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