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Tigers Team Health Report 2011

Detroit's getting some love. General Motors is on the way back, it seems, and Fiat ... err, Chrysler used Eminem to personify Detroit's fighting spirit. As a guy who once drove a Pontiac Fiero, I'm all for this latest reinvention of the Motor City. Then again, maybe one of those big companies should have just hired Dave Dombrowski and his team. He's won everywhere he's gone and even though he doesn't have a ring yet in Detroit, he's put the pieces in place for another run. As unnoticed as the Tigers front office is among the media, they're one of the smartest around. Even more unnoticed is Kevin Rand and his medical staff. They've been good for years, even taking on risks like Magglio Ordonez and fighting the ravages of pitching on young hurlers. Now, this team appears to be the least risky in the AL, one of only three teams in MLB with one red rating. Even that one, Brad Penny, is a cheap gamble on a fifth starter. This team is smartly put together and a little luck could give Motown one more thing to cheer about.

(HEAD TRAINER: Kevin Rand; FIVE YEAR RANK: 16; 2010 RANK: 15)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
 
GREEN LIGHT
C Alex Avila
Avila is green on the expectation that Victor Martinez will take some of the catching duties. The more Avila can do, the better for the team, but it's also going to increase his risk.

1B Miguel Cabrera
Every year, someone questions this green and I just point at Cabrera's remarkable durability. The worst thing you can say about Cabrera as a player is that he's not quite Albert Pujols. The off-field issues might intrude on this a little, but that one's very tough to read and has no impact on these ratings, which were done before Cabrera's DUI and rehab.

DH Victor Martinez
Martinez is green but that's based on an expectation that he'll split time between DH, catcher, and first base in rough thirds. At a half-split behind the plate, he's well into the yellow.

SP Justin Verlander
Verlander has five straight seasons of more than 200 innings and some of those came young. He's a true ace, though there's some concerns that the 2009 season fatigued him. If 2010 represents his true level, the Tigers will be just fine.

SP Max Scherzer
If you include the short vacation in Toledo, Scherzer's innings increase bordered on worrisome, but The System doesn't see it that way. At 26, it thinks he could establish himself as another 190+ guy at the top of this rotation and an ideal third starter if Porcello rebounds.

SP Phil Coke
Coke was a starter in the minors, so the conversion to starting shouldn't be a big deal. They'll have to watch him over 120 innings, but if you think Coke could be this year's version of C.J. Wilson, I wouldn't disagree with you.

RP Joaquin Benoit
Benoit will get the notice as the setup man, but this is a deep, powerful pen that could shorten games when necessary. If they get Joel Zumaya back (and early signs are good), there's enough heat here to worry Al Gore.

Also Green:
SS Jhonny Peralta
CF Austin Jackson
CL Jose Valverde
 
YELLOW LIGHT
2B Carlos Guillen
Guillen is a very high yellow, mostly on the depth that the Tigers have that will keep Guillen's playing time down. Will Rhymes will start the season and it wouldn't surprise me to see him end it either.

3B Brandon Inge
Inge isn't young anymore and he's not a catcher anymore, so he's not that valuable. Worse, he's getting the dings that someone with his career can't handle many more of. He'd be better off in a platoon of some sort or at least a timeshare. There are options here.

LF Ryan Raburn
Raburn's oddly shaped season makes The System think he's not durable. That's not really true or at least it's an unknown. He's never been able to test the theory and with the depth in Detroit, might be better off not doing so anyway.

RF Magglio Ordonez
It seems a long time ago when the Tigers took a calculated risk on Magglio Ordonez and his knees. He was coming off an experimental procedure on his knee (not microfracture, as many think) but it's been a good gamble. With Brennan Boesch available, Ordonez shouldn't be overtaxed.

SP Rick Porcello
Oddly, Porcello's "down" season looked about like his nice rookie campaign once all was said and done. Prior to that, there was much wringing of hands as Tigers fans worried they were seeing Jeremy Bonderman, Part II. He'll need to be more efficient if he's going to make it past the injury nexus.
 
RED LIGHT
SP Brad Penny
Penny should be able to get plenty of attention with the relative health around him. If there's any one good note here, it's that many pitchers, including Ben Sheets, have been able to come back from lat strains. That said, it's usually a sign of some deep mechanical issue that usually leads to other problems. Penny tends to fade anyway, so a good first half would likely be worth what they're giving him. The only real downside is the relative lack of pitching depth behind him if/when something does go wrong.
 
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