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Restoring the rosters: No. 22 – Detroit

Aug 17, 2009, 4:43 PM EDT

This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
22nd may not seem like much, but this is a big step forward from where the Tigers would have ranked a few years ago. Prior to 2005, the team had finished under .500 in 12 straight seasons. What little talent the team produced during that span mostly went to Texas in return for Juan Gonzalez in 1999.
Rotation
Justin Verlander
Jair Jurrjens
Rick Porcello
John Smoltz
Luke French
Bullpen
Francisco Cordero
Jason Frasor
Fernando Rodney
Joel Zumaya
Ryan Perry
Trever Miller
Jeff Weaver
With two top-of-the-rotation starters and three fine late-game relievers, the Tigers have more to offer in the pitching department than most of the other teams in the bottom half of the rankings. Depth is an issue, though. Porcello isn’t a legitimate No. 3 at this point, and I may be in the minority in that I’d still take Smoltz over Brian Moehler, Weaver and Andrew Miller. If Porcello develops as expected, Andrew Miller comes along and Zumaya gets healthy, this could be a legitimate top-five staff in a couple of years.
Lineup
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Omar Infante
1B Frank Catalanotto
3B Brandon Inge
RF Matt Joyce
LF Cody Ross
DH Jeff Larish
SS Ramon Santiago
C Alex Avila
Bench
OF Cameron Maybin
INF-OF Ryan Raburn
INF Anderson Hernandez
C Dusty Ryan
It’s not a lineup that’s going to scare anyone, but at least the Tigers can boast legitimate options at every position, which is an improvement over most of the teams below them. Infante, Ross, Santiago and Raburn are all underappreciated players, and Joyce and Larish still figure to produce if given the opportunity. The Tigers even have some useful players who didn’t make the team, like Clete Thomas, Jack Hannahan and Gabe Kapler.
As is, the pieces fit quite well. Lefties and righties can be alternated throughout the lineup against right-handed starters. Versus lefties, Maybin can replace Joyce, Raburn can start over Catalanotto or Larish and Ryan can alternate with Avila. Maybe no one on the team besides Granderson will boast much more than an 800 OPS, but there are no real liabilities.
Summary
The Tigers drafted about as poorly as any team in the 1990s, but things have turned around since Dave Dombrowski took over in 2002, and while no one has ever accused the Tigers farm system of being deep, it’s churned out some excellent players lately. Most of the key players above are still capable of getting better, and if I redo these rankings in a couple of years, I’ll fully expect the Tigers to crack the top 15.

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