The Tigers are coming off one of their better seasons, winning 95 games and making it to post-season play. Their offense and pitching were above league average, but not quite good enough to go far in the playoffs. The pitching was headlined by MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, while the offense was headlined by Miguel Cabrera.
Miguel Cabrera had a career year, his .344/.448,.586 (177) line was the best of his career, as was his 7.3 WAR. He cut down his K% by 2%, and increased his BB%% by 2%, thus accounting for the increase in OBP. He won't be playing 1B this season though, new comer Prince Fielder will play 1B. To start the season Cabrera will be playing 3B, we'll see how long that lasts though. As just mentioned Prince Fielder will be playing 1B. He had an oustanding year himself, posting a .299/.415/.566 (162) line. His walk rate stayed the same, but he saw his k rate increase by 4%. Miller Park is a much easier place to hit home runs then Comiskey, but Fielder has massive power so it shouldn't hurt too much.
Jhonny Peralta had a surprising season, particularly on the defensive side. His UZR was 9.9, compared to his previous best of 2.6 in 2009. His power had a slight increase (.179 ISO to .160 average), but he had a slight drop in his walk rate. Overall he had a 5.2 WAR, he'll regress some so a WAR in the 3-3.5 range could be a good baseline. Ryan Raburn will start the season at second, defensively there isn't much data on him at second, but overall he seems like a poor defender. Offensively he's slightly below average as well, his k rates are the biggest problem he has. Second could be a problem the Tigers try to address all season.
Alex Avila had a breakout year at catcher, posting 5.5 WAR. He showed nice pop in his bat, but his strikeout rate was a little bit of a concern. It was his first full season of playing time so it's hard to say if he'll be a top tier catcher, but he definitely has the potential to be one.
Andy Dirks will take over left, and in limited playing time last season he wasn't very impressive. He showed some power, and a good k rate, but his walk rate wasn't very impressive. He's better suited as a fourth or fifth outfielder. Defensively Austin Jackson is turning into a plus defender, but on offense he's slightly below average. The past two seasons he's had a UZR of 5.2 and 7.9, if he continues to have those UZR numbers he'll be be a 2-3 WAR player. Brennan Boesch will be in right, and can be an above average offensive contributor. His power slightly above average, but his defense may be a liability going forward. He should be better defensively than Delmon Young.
The pitching was led by Justin Verlander who had an outstanding year, posting 8.6 rWAR. His ERA was a ridiculous 2.40, but according to SIERA it probably should have been closer to 2.99, which is still a great number. He struck out over 25% of the batters he faced, while walking only 6%. Going into the season he should be a top contender for the Cy Young award. Max Scherzer is slotted in at the number two spot, and is looking to bounce back to his 2010 numbers. He saw his K% drop slightly, but also had a dip in his walks. His HR/9 had a slight increase, which may cause can for concern. His 3.63 SIERA means that there is a good possibility that he'll bounce back in 2012. Doug Fister came to the Tigers in a mid-season trade with the Mariners, and should be a good third option. His 2.83 ERA is probably a fluke, it's probably closer to the mid 3s. He's not a strikeout pitcher, but has outstanding walk rates. He can be a reliable pitcher for the Tigers if it all works out.
Rick Porcello will pitch in the fourth spot, and ever since he got the call in 2009 he hasn't been as good as people had hoped. He doesn't strike a lot of batters out, but limits walks. He's had a problem with home runs, and his career FIP is in the upper 4s. As it stands right now he's probably a career 2-2.5 WAR pitcher, which isn't bad at all. Jacob Turner is expected to start the season in the majors, and he has the potential to be very good. In the minors he showed plus command, and did a good job at limiting strikeouts. In brief time in the majors he had some struggles, but that was only in three starts. If he can put it all together he could be the future number two pitcher for the Tigers.
Jose Valverde is coming off a season where he was perfect in the saves department, and had a good ERA. His 3.51 SIERA shows that he can expect some significant regression though. Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel are a couple relievers to also keep an eye on.
The Tigers should be able to compete in the AL Central for a good 4-5 years as long as they have Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander. With Cabrera and Fielder alone their offense should be one of the better ones in the league. The further development of Alex Avila will be big for this team as well. The pitching has the potential to be one of the better in the american league if Scherzer can bounce back, and if Fister doesn't suffer significant regression. A repeat in the AL Central seems extremely likely.