While the pitching staff is up in the air, the position players are a little more settled. Fortunately, there is some competition which should help to motivate these guys.
There are 13 spots that are likely to be available for pitchers. Simple math will confirm that there are four bench spots. With Brandon Inge moving to third base, the team will not be able to save a roster spot by having a backup catcher play the infield and outfield as well, so there will likely be two catchers, at least five infielders, a designated hitter, four outfielders, and one other player.
Gerald Laird and Matt Treanor probably have these spots locked up. Dusty Ryan and Dane Sardinha are the other two catchers in camp with major league experience, and are likely headed for Toledo. Jeff Kunkel, Alex Avila, and Max St. Pierre are all in camp as extra catchers to help out with all the pitchers in camp.
Miguel Cabrera, Placido Polanco, Adam Everett, and Brandon Inge are clearly the starters. Ramon Santiago also seems to have a spot locked up at the backup middle infielder. Michael Hollimon is likely to be ready for the start of the season, but his option status and defensive weaknesses likely have him headed to Toledo. Cale Iorg is in big league camp with a chance to impress. He's likely headed to Erie. Scott Sizemore, William Rhymes, and Don Kelly are also in camp. Sizemore is recovering from a wrist injury that wiped out most of last season. He's probably getting a look because Polanco's contract is up after the season and the Tigers want to see if they can fill the void internally. Rhymes and Kelly are longshots as well.
That leaves Jeff Larish, Mike Hessman, and Ryan Raburn. I'll have more on them after the outfielders.
Carlos Guillen, Curtis Granderson, and Magglio Ordonez are the starters. Gary Sheffield is slotted as the DH. Longshots for a spot include Casper Wells, Wilkin Ramirez, and hopefully Alexis Gomez. Brent Clevlen is out of options, but is close to a longshot as well. Clete Thomas is recovering from Tommy John Surgery, and I'm projecting him to start on a DL. Timo Perez is back and projects to head to Toledo. That leaves Marcus Thames, who probably has a spot. That's 24 players on the roster, and we can talk about the last three now.
Jeff Larish played some third last year, and is spending time in the outfield now. Ryan Raburn can play second and third base as well as all three outfield positions, but none of those positions particularly well. Mike Hessman has a reputation as a top defensive third baseman, and his power can't be questioned. Unless Clevlen has a great spring, you'd have to think those three guys are the ones in the hunt for the last spot. With a switch hitter in left field and right handed hitters at third, first, designated hitter, and right field, could the edge be given to Larish? Or could Ryan Raburn get a job giving Jim Leyland a platoon option in center field? I'm going to go with Ryan Raburn in the final spot for now.
Here's the projected position players as of today:
Despite the glowing words for Dontrelle Willis and Macay McBride, I'm going to keep the pitchers the same for now. Toledo's roster will be next.