Five Players to Watch: 2013 Detroit Tigers

Things are not hunky dory in Foxtown. Owner Mike Ilitch (Pizza, pizza) has gone all-in on the Tigers and they’ve failed to make good on the investment. In two World Series appearances over the last six years, the Detroit Tigers have gone 1-8. This is like being sick on a week-long Caribbean cruise. All the anticipation, all the excitement, and…

The calendar has turned to 2013, and the Tigers have far fewer question marks than they did during 2012 spring training. The Detroit lineup is strong, the pitching rotation too. The outfield is fixed with the addition of Torii Hunter. There are some question marks, though, and these mysterians make up the better portion of my five players to watch.

Bruce Rondon (RP/CL) According to GM Dave Dombrowski, the 20 year old, flame-throwing reliever will be given every chance to win the closer’s job in spring training. But it also sounds like the Tigers don’t have a closer and even if Rondon is terrible in March, he will be the closer. He is one of my players to watch simply because his success will be a large part of the Tigers’ fate.

June 15, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Al Alburquerque (62) pitches during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
June 15 2011 Detroit MI USA Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Al Alburquerque 62 pitches during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports

Al Alburquerque (RP) In 2011, Alburquerque came out of nowhere. He pitched 43.1 innings and racked up 67 Ks, 13.9 per nine innings. He mixed different types of sliders with a slightly floating fastball and made perennial All-Stars look like Carlos Pena when Carlos Pena isn’t hitting a home run. Batters hit .142 against him in ’11, but last year he got bonked on the head by a line-drive and spent most of his time re-conditioning, even though he pitched 13.1 innings and only gave up one run. If Alburquerque can get health on his side, prepare to be dazzled by magnificent sliders.

Quintin Berry (OF) This MiLB journeyman is pure entertainment, except when he’s striking out. He broke out in May when CF Austin Jackson was injured, and was an instant fan-favorite. He claps after getting a single, points emphatically towards the heavens and bellows victory like an MMA fighter. He brings life to a mostly non-flashy Tigers lineup. But, he isn’t that great. After his .299 first half BA, he fell back to earth, and back to the bench when Jackson returned. Keep an eye on him if you love a feel-good story.

Austin Jackson (CF) I’m serious this time. Jackson is improving each year in strikeouts, home runs, and last year he batted .300, his career best. Keep in mind, he’s only 26. Without the buoy Delmon Young in left field, and Torii Hunter in right field every day, Jackson should have an easier time managing his position. He will be overshadowed by Cabrera, Fielder, Verlander and others, unless he has a breakout season, which I believe he will.

Andy Dirks (OF): Dirks batted .322 last year, with over 300 at-bats. He was not Miguel Cabrera, nor was he Prince Fielder or Justin Verlander; these being the key reasons he went unnoticed. Dirks is a third-year player, and will be in left field to start the season. If he comes anywhere close to his 2012 batting average, he might get some limelight.

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Tomas Laverty
Tomas Laverty, frequent contributor to the MLB section, runs a Detroit web design company called Detroit Spaces.