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Healthy Miggy key to Tigers' projected lineup

Despite departures, productive Cabrera, V-Mart could be batting order anchors
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- This used to be the time of year when Tigers managers would start brainstorming lineup ideas, look at the list of formidable hitters at their disposal and marvel at the riches. As Ron Gardenhire surveys his roster and fills out a starting nine, he's going to have to get creative.

Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Alex Avila are gone. Aside from Jeimer Candelario, any position-playing prospects are still well away from fighting for a spot in the lineup. A healthy Miguel Cabrera is a good place to start, though.

DETROIT -- This used to be the time of year when Tigers managers would start brainstorming lineup ideas, look at the list of formidable hitters at their disposal and marvel at the riches. As Ron Gardenhire surveys his roster and fills out a starting nine, he's going to have to get creative.

Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Alex Avila are gone. Aside from Jeimer Candelario, any position-playing prospects are still well away from fighting for a spot in the lineup. A healthy Miguel Cabrera is a good place to start, though.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineup of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Tigers might stack up:

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Leonys Martin, CF
Mikie Mahtook, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Nicholas Castellanos, RF
Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Victor Martinez, DH
James McCann, C
Dixon Machado, 2B
Jose Iglesias, SS

Video: Miguel Cabrera's 2017 highlights

STRENGTH
Despite so much turnover, the middle of the order still looks formidable if Cabrera gets his back in order and regains anything close to his 2016 form. Castellanos stepped up in September after all the trades and had the most productive month of his career, and he had enough hard contact all year to believe he can break out for a full season. Candelario hit .330 (31-for-94) with 13 RBIs as a September callup last year. A semblance of productivity from Martinez would round out the group and ensure this team can score runs.

Video: CWS@DET: Candelario's three-run shot to center

QUESTION MARK
Of all the areas where the Tigers will miss Kinsler, the leadoff spot might be the biggest. Beyond his on-base capabilities, aggressive instincts and baserunning skills, his experience at the top of the order was vital in setting the table for the hitters behind him. Nobody on Detroit's current roster has more than sporadic experience at leadoff, though Martin hit there for stretches in Texas and Seattle. Martin has the speed to create runs, but a .300 career on-base percentage brings into question how often he can get on to make the most of his speed. Mahtook could also slot up top, though he has just seven career starts at leadoff.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
The Tigers are still rebuilding and looking to trade veteran players for prospects. As unlikely as that seems between now and Opening Day, Detroit has gauged interest in Catellanos and Iglesias. Trading either would create a void the Tigers would likely have to add a player to fill, though Machado is the heir apparent to Iglesias at short.

Video: DET@CWS: Machado plates Kinsler with knock to left

Then there's the injury factor, most prominently with Martinez. He's working out and expected to be ready for camp after undergoing a procedure to address an accelerated heart rate last year, but he's also a 39-year-old DH entering the final year of his contract who struggled when he was in the lineup in 2017. The Tigers want to see how he looks and hits in Spring Training before making any statements about his season. A recurrence of Cabrera's back issues would be even tougher on the Tigers.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera