By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
The elephant in the room is that the Tigers will start off with a full 180 days on the books. Victor Martinez tore his ACL during the offseason, an accident that has nothing to do with the Tigers medical staff, yet because of it, they're likely out of the running for a Dick Martin Award. It's not "fair", but baseball is a match-sum game. Every hit a player gets is one a pitcher gave up. That means everyday lost, for whatever reason, goes against a team's medical staff. Kevin Rand and his staff have long been Dave Dombrowski's secret weapon, allowing him to take on big risks and keeping them on the field. Whether it's a risk like Magglio Ordonez or a long-term commitment to Prince Fielder, it's something that really can make a difference. Where the Tigers have failed -- or rather, done about as well as anyone else -- is with young pitchers. Jeremy Bonderman and Rick Porcello seem to be on the same path, and while one out of three means Justin Verlander is just special somehow, it's hardly something to be proud of for the Tigers or baseball. It's also going to be key to this team's long-term success. Verlander can't do this alone.

Health Keys: Keep the young pitchers healthy through the injury nexus while maintaining the well-paid and risky stars.

(HEAD TRAINER: Kevin Rand; FIVE YEAR RANK: 15; 2011 RANK: 4)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
1B Prince Fielder
At some point in the future, Fielder might be risky. At this stage, he's as durable as they come, more athletic than he's given credit for, and a huge addition to this franchise. The worst-case scenario is that he turns into David Ortiz in five years.

SS Jhonny Peralta
Peralta is one point under the yellow threshold. He seems more comfortable at SS than 3B, though the position is higher on the injury/position spectrum. Comfort counts.

3B Miguel Cabrera
Every year, someone questions Cabrera's green rating and I point to his remarkable durability. Even last year's tumultuous offseason didn't throw Cabrera off a bit, keeping his streak of 150-plus game seasons going. He's dropped some weight and the move to 3B is cushioned by the availability of the DH slot and even the outfield. Yes, he's green and yes, you have to consider him at the No. 1 spot overall.

SP Justin Verlander
I suggested last year that Verlander's 2010 level would suit the Tigers just fine. He took it to a new level in 2011, but the Tigers would still be happy with a '10 level season. The 251 innings was a bit high, but Verlander looked like he was toying with hitters in September and could probably go more. Actually, this rotation could go four-man pretty easily, which could make Verlander the MVP again.

SP Max Scherzer
Scherzer held his level at 190-plus innings, a very good sign. At 27, he's probably found his level, though he's smart enough to constantly adjust and healthy enough to do it.

Also Green:
SP Doug Fister
RP Octavio Dotel
CL Jose Valverde
CF Austin Jackson
C Alex Avila
The nepotism charges are gone after Avila proved to be one of the top catchers in the league last year. The worry is that Avila was asked to do a bit too much behind the plate last season, and by the end of the year his knees were paying the price. The Tigers have brought Gerald Laird back, so keeping Avila around 120 games would be a much better level for everyone.

2B Ryan Rayburn
Jim Leyland would love to lock his super-sub in as his more-or-less everyday 2B, but Rayburn is probably overexposed as that and is more valuable moving around. The risk is a bit overplayed since The System is treating 2B as a "new" position for Rayburn.

RF Brennan Boesch
Boesch is a physical specimen, but that doesn't always translate into a great ballplayer. He's good enough to play the secondary role on a team with a top-heavy payroll. As long as he comes back full-strength from his sprained thumb -- and he should -- he'll be a solid player at the back of the Tigers lineup, perhaps even a bit of a sleeper.

DH Delmon Young
The more Young is at DH, the less damage he can do -- to himself and to the team.

LF Andy Dirks
This is a flat-out fluke red. No one on the roster projects to get much time in LF because of that four-man mix. Dirks slots in with the most time and while he's not without risk, he's not really red either.

SP Rick Porcello
The Tigers have three-fifths of a great rotation and if they'd tandem Porcello and Jacob Turner, they'd have four-fourths. Porcello is still just 23, has avoided major arm problems, and only lacks the ability to make hitters miss. The Tigers have done well with him overall, but he's on a razor's edge, which is better than a scalpel.

SP Jacob Turner
Turner is just 20 and perhaps the most sought after prospect in the game. The Tigers have held onto him, and doing that is part of why they spent on Fielder instead of dealing for a slugger. Turner is going to have to be handled properly, but the experience with Porcello gives some hope. Taking him beyond 150 innings is risky, and like Michael Pineda, whom he profiles close to, he'll hit a wall there.

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