There’s no way to analyze the Mud Hens’ potential roster for 2013 without looking at the Tigers’ roster for the coming season. So here’s a look at who might begin next season in Detroit and in Toledo …
PLAYERS LOST, DETROIT: Brennan Boesch, .240-12-54 in 132 games; Ryan Raburn, .171-1-12 in 66 games; Delmon Young, .267-18-74 in 151 games.
PLAYERS LOST, TOLEDO: Jerad Head, .268-12-38 in 85 games; Justin Henry, .300-1-38 in 131 games.
IN DETROIT FOR SURE: One sure thing is in the middle of the outfield, where Austin Jackson will return to CF. One of baseball’s best defensive outfielders, Jackson hit .300-16-66 in 137 games for the Tigers in 2012. … Another sure thing is in rightfielder, where Detroit signed free agent Torii Hunter. Last season he batted .313-16-92, although he will turn 38 years old in July. … Andy Dirks has the inside position on the job in left. Last season he hit .322-8-35 in 88 games. But the Tigers are expected to platoon Dirks with a right-handed hitter – the question is, whom?
IN DETROIT OR IN TOLEDO? The player who has the inside track on being the right-handed portion of the left-field platoon is Matt Tuiasosopo. Last year the versatile 26-year-old hit .242-12-57 in 131 games with the Mets’ Triple-A team in Buffalo while playing all four infield positions as well as centerfield. … Avisail Garcia rocketed through the Tigers’ system last season. He hit well for Hi-A Lakeland (.289-8-36 in 67 games) and Double-A Erie (.312-6-22 in 55 games) to earn a late-season promotion to Detroit, where he hit .319-0-3 in 23 regular-season games. A bruised heel has limited him in spring training and means he likely will start the season in Toledo -- unless the Tigers place him on the disabled list. … Quintin Berry began last season in Toledo, hitting .270-0-11 in 39 games (with 19 steals) to earn a promotion to Detroit. He hit .258-2-29 in 94 games with the Tigers and stole 21 bases without being caught. … Don Kelly spent most of last year in Detroit and hit .186-1-7 in 75 games. Late in the season he was sent to Toledo, where he batted .233-1-12 in 20 games. His versatility – in the past two seasons he has played every position but shortstop for the Tigers – adds to his value.
OTHER TOLEDO OPTIONS: One of the Tigers biggest prospects, Nick Castellanos, will begin the season with the Mud Hens. Originally a third baseman, Castellanos hit .405-3-32 in 55 games with Lakeland last year, then shifted to the outfield at Erie and batted .264-7-25 in 79 games with the SeaWolves. … Ben Guez has split time between Erie and Toledo in each of the last two seasons. Last year he batted .308-3-11 in 26 games with the SeaWolves and .284-6-37 in 82 Mud Hens contests.
POTENTIAL HELP FROM ERIE: CF Jamie Johnson is the most intriguing possibility, having hit .281-2-37 with 11 steals for Erie last season. He also drew more walks (55) than strikeouts (48) but batted .222 in a 10-game cameo with Toledo. … One intriguing prospect expected to begin the season with the SeaWolves is Tyler Collins. Just 22 years old, Collins hit .290-7-66 in 126 games in Lakeland and made an impression in spring training with his bat. … Another intriguing prospect is CF Daniel Fields. Also just 22, Fields hit .266-1-26 in Lakeland and was promoted to Erie, where he batted .264-2-7 in 29 contests.
THE LAST WORD: In Detroit, the sure things are Jackson in CF and Hunter in right. The question mark is in left, where Dirks is the front-runner. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers make a move at the end of spring training to add a right-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with Dirks. … In Toledo, the Hens should have a pair of exciting outfield prospects in Castellanos and Garcia on the corners. Both are young and need playing time to develop, so Toledo fans should get plenty of opportunities to see them in action. In center, Berry looks like the probable choice, with Guez providing depth. … As for Erie, the SeaWolves also have prospects in Collins and Fields, with veteran Michael Hernandez added to the roster for leadership.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27: A look at the infielders in Detroit, Toledo and Erie.