Is it just me, or does Cameron Maybin need at least one more full season in the Minors? He seems to have all the tools, but not the understanding of how to use them. Any more problems at the Major League level could hurt his confidence.
-- Brent S., Toledo
The Tigers aren't necessarily big believers that Major League struggles can always hurt a young player's confidence, but they also know that Maybin clearly isn't ready. Barring injury or something not working out in the outfield, Maybin probably will be in the Minors until a possible September callup.
Barring an out-of-this-world performance in Spring Training, it seems Maybin will return to the Minor Leagues to start next season. Do you think the Tigers will send Maybin back to Double-A, where he only played one week, or will he begin the year in Triple-A Toledo? Where you would put him, and why?
-- John W., Toledo
The plan is to probably have him go back to Double-A Erie. It's not just the fact that he only played a week there. There's a general belief that Double-A is just that important of a level for a young player. The pitching improves quite a bit, the overall talent level goes up, and the ballparks are different than, say, the Florida State League.
The Tigers have several prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League and the Hawaii Winter League. How do they decide which league to send the player to? Is one league better than the other?
-- John R., Redford Township
The Arizona Fall League is the more advanced of the offseason leagues. That league is usually reserved for mid- to upper-level prospects, both in terms of talent and developmental stage. The Hawaiian League is for younger players. Both leagues are meant to give players more at-bats or innings, more repetitions to work on something, but Arizona tends to be more specific.
I'm both aware and excited that Ivan Rodriguez will be back. However, my concern revolves around who his backup will be. How is Vance Wilson doing medically? If Wilson isn't physically ready, will the Tigers go with Mike Rabelo again, or will they be looking for a guy with more experience?
-- Stan K., Albuquerque, N.M.
It's still early in the offseason, and Wilson hasn't stepped up his training program yet, but he has said that he'd be disappointed if he wasn't ready for the start of the season. Having said that, nobody can say for certain what his arm strength or velocity will be coming off Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, though everything so far has been encouraging. If Wilson's healthy and his arm is strong, he'll be the backup, likely sending Rabelo back to the Minors.
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If Wilson somehow can't come back, Rabelo would certainly have an inside track, since he has experience working with the young pitchers. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Tigers bring him another veteran backup on a Minor League contract in case.
If Todd Jones decides to sign with another team in the offseason, what will be the answer at closer? Move Joel Zumaya or Fernando Rodney in, or look elsewhere?
-- Mario G., Archbold, Ohio
It's an intriguing question the Tigers face if Jones leaves. Even if Jones comes back, the belief is that Zumaya would be groomed to take over at closer eventually -- in 2009, if not by the end of 2008. Without Jones, they might have to move up that timetable, but they'd almost certainly sign a veteran reliever of some sort -- closer, setup, something -- to bring him along. I don't see the Tigers signing someone with a long-term contract to be the closer for several years unless they later decide to keep Zumaya at setup.
Everything that I've read about Michael Hollimon reminds me of Curtis Granderson. Great character and someone not viewed as a super prospect, but just steadily kept improving and never leveling off. Would he be good enough defensively to be considered for the Tigers' open shortstop position?
-- James S., Manchester
Hollimon is definitely on the Tigers' radar as an infield prospect, but unless something goes wrong in Detroit, he won't be fighting for a big league job at short next spring. He still has some development to go, and he played most of his games at second base last season. So far, however, most of his playing time in the Arizona Fall League has been at short.
Do you think the Tigers could get Carlos Pena back now that he seems finally to have turned the corner? He's a left-handed hitter who plays solid defense, and those 46 homers sure would have done the Tigers some good.
-- Joe B., Buffalo, N.Y.
The Devil Rays aren't parting with Pena, and the Tigers probably wouldn't grab him if they could. All those home runs would help, but the feeling when the Tigers released him is that he needed a change of scenery to reach anything near his potential. He didn't do it with the Tigers, Yankees or Red Sox. He was pressing too much.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.