Detroit Tigers: Internal Replacements for Victor Martinez

The latest from the Detroit Tigers is that designated hitter Victor Martinez has a torn meniscus and will undergo surgery next week.

V-Mart won’t miss the entire season due to the injury, but it could leave him out for an extended amount of time. According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, players have returned from the surgery in one or two months. Knowing this, it’s likely Martinez will miss Spring Training.  

The recently released Dayan Viciedo represents one of the few free agent alternatives, other options on the market include the likes of Jason Kubel, Ryan Doumit and Nate Schierholtz. This list could change once teams start making cuts in Spring Training, but it’s what the Tigers have to work with at present.

Detroit may fancy their chances finding another J.D. Martinez in the early months of the season to provide cover, but the team may look to fill the gap internally, here are few options for the team.

James McCann

While not a candidate to be used every day as a V-Mart placeholder, McCann can provide the Tigers with value stepping in every now and again. The young catcher wouldn’t be a direct replacement in terms of being the DH, but he would allow manager Brad Ausmus to shift the team around.

McCann would start behind the dish in most scenarios, the catcher is one of Detroit’s better position player prospects and brings a defensive-minded mentality to the game. Additionally, he hit .295 at Triple-A, showing some potential as a two-way contributor at the big league level.

Starting McCann would allow the team to slide Alex Avila to first base, something that has been brought up before. When you also consider Avila’s health issues and the toll they’ve taken on his offensive numbers, some time spent at first makes sense.

Like Martinez, Miguel Cabrera is a question mark to start the season on the active roster. Avila could provide cover at first base while the former MVP recovers. Even if Cabrera is ready to go, they’ll likely be cautious with him—which means taking a good portion of the designated hitter at-bats that V-Mart is potentially vacating.

Starting McCann at catcher would be a win-win situation in the sense that Avila and Cabrera’s health would be preserved so that they can be their best offensively.

Corner Outfielder A, B or C

As of right now, Detroit has three quality corner outfielders on their roster. Three outfielders who would start for most teams—Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis. With the DH spot open, Ausmus and the Tigers could rotate the three between starting in the field and being designated hitter so they stay fresh.

With the return of Jose Iglesias and the arrival of Cespedes and Anthony Gose, it’s clear that Detroit will be a much improved defensive unit in 2015. Knowing this, the Tigers could start their strongest defensive duo in the outfield and not have to worry about losing the third’s bat as the remaining outfielder can slot in at DH. The situation also allows the flexibility for the outfielders to be utilized in situations where they thrive, like Davis who should probably start against left-handed pitching after mashing .356 against southpaws in 2014.

The Prospects

For all the unfair grief Detroit’s minor league system has gotten recently, they have some quality depth in the outfield.

The 6’6” slugging outfielder known as Steven Moya possesses phenomenal raw power that could translate into big home run numbers once he reaches Motown. In addition to him, the team will also be able to call on Tyler Collins, a more all-around type who is solid in most aspects of the game on both sides of the ball.

Both Moya and Collins got limited playing time in Detroit last season, but the two wild cards may be outfielders who have never worn the Old English “D” in a game. Daniel Fields has long been considered a solid prospect, but was hit with the injury bug in 2014. Because of this, former sixth-round pick was never able to establish himself at Triple-A Toledo last season and as a result wasn’t able to help the Tigers in any capacity. If he’s healthy this season, he may find himself in Detroit sooner rather than later.

The other wild card is Wynton Bernard, a former San Diego farmhand who dominated at Single-A Western Michigan last year. He put up an impressive .323 batting average and was added to the Tigers 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He may not be the top name on the list, but the fact that he was added to the 40-man roster suggests the Tigers think highly of him. It at least gives him an outside shot.

Conclusion

The likely scenario is that Ausmus rotates his outfielders. With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez both question marks to be 100% to start on Opening Day, the team will need all the offense it can get. Utilizing all three corner outfielders is the best way to go about that. It would be surprising to see the McCann scenario deployed, or to see Collins or Moya make the roster and receive some at bats, but as it stands, the outfield provides the Tigers with the best source of offense at this point in time.

What do you think?

Which situation do you think is best way to go about replacing V-Mart? Is it one of the above or is it yet another alternate situation? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter either here or here.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

7 thoughts on “Detroit Tigers: Internal Replacements for Victor Martinez

  1. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Sanchez, Orioles, Pineda – MLB Trade Rumors

    • Hessman has definitely paid his dues in the minors with 417 minor league home runs. I agree that he’d be a solid temporary replacement for Martinez. Plus, he also provides defensive flexibility– Hessman can play first and allow Miguel Cabrera to be rested some days as the DH, or he can fill in occasionally at third base.

  2. Tyler Collins will be given every chance to make the roster this spring. It is hard to imagine him not making it. Right now I would say it would take an injury situation for Moya to break camp with the team. He will spend most of this year at least at Toledo. The only way I see the Tigers not filling this from within is if Hessman, Collins, and the rest fail miserably. Keeping both Romine and Perez on the roster is a possibility. Hopefully Miggy and V-Mart will not need time on the DL and this is all moot talk.

    • I agree about Collins. If he makes the team, it will be interesting to see the kind of production he’ll put up in extended at-bats. He’s certainly got the talent to be a solid big league player, plus he has a solid, all-around game that should benefit the Tigers.

  3. I saw Bernard play in West Michigan last season, and he is a solid player. He’ll probably start the season in Lakeland or Erie, but look for him to move up quickly. I believe he was the Midwest League MVP, also.
    If both Miggy and V-Mart are out of opening day, then it will be a rough start in Detroit.
    -Mike

    • You are spot on about the Midwest League MVP Mike, I agree that he’s a solid player. If he continues to hit, he’ll end up being another minor-league gem uncovered by Dave Dombrowski similar to Al Alburquerque, Blaine Hardy and Quintin Berry. Personally, I don’t think it will be as rough of a start as people think for the Tigers. Both Cabrera and Martinez are expected back around Opening Day per the Tigers website. V-Mart is expected back late Spring Training while Miggy will supposedly be back “on or near Opening Day”. Even if the duo miss a game or two early, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes can carry the team offensively for a series or two.

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