Detroit Tigers 2016: Position Player Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures

Somewhat recently, Know Hitter looked at the pitchers that are locks, uncertainties, or likely departures ahead of next season.

Now it’s time to look at the hitters, where there are much fewer uncertainties. This doesn’t mean changes won’t come about for Detroit, but most of the offense is expected to stay put.

Locks

James McCann

McCann was extremely impressive as a rookie. The young backstop hit .264, while also committing zero errors in 114 games. He looks like he’ll be in the Motor City for the next decade. He may not have the offensive acumen of Ivan Rodriguez or Alex Avila (before injuries took their toll), but if he can continue to gradually improve upon his .264 batting average, he has a chance to be special. McCann also hit five triples, a pretty spectacular number for a catcher.

Miguel Cabrera

Come on, too easy.

Ian Kinsler

The former Texas Ranger has quickly become one of Detroit’s most indispensable players. He’s provided elite defense (2.9 and 2.5 dWAR in his two seasons in Motown) while at times carrying the team offensively. Kinsler managed to drive in 73 runs despite an early power outage that saw him hit only three home runs through June. You can make the case that with the exception of J.D. Martinez, Kinsler was the Tigers’ MVP last season.

Jose Iglesias

If a guy can do all this (see video below) and hit .296, you’ve got a keeper for the next decade.


Nick Castellanos

At only 23-years-old, Castellanos has already driven in 139 runs in the big leagues. Some prospects don’t even reach the Majors at that age. While a .255 batting average is nothing to write home about, Castellanos showed flashes of brilliance and greatly improved defensively. He also managed to increase his total number of hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and walks. Kid’s got a bright future.

J.D. Martinez

Maybe we’ll call the Tigers’ MVP award race a tie and hand it to both Kinsler and Martinez. For his part, Martinez proved that 2014 was no fluke. The former Houston Astro snagged a spot on the All-Star team in addition to a .282 batting average, 38 home runs and 102 RBI. Like McCann, Iglesias and Castellanos, you can plug him into the Detroit lineup for the better part of the next decade.

Anthony Gose

Gose only hit .254 for the Tigers, but provided solid defense while stealing 23 bases. He platooned with Rajai Davis in center field last year, expect a similar platoon predicament for Gose next season. The speedy outfielder will likely serve as the team’s primary source of speed.

Victor Martinez

V-Mart struggled last year, hitting .245 in 120 games. The designated hitter’s power numbers were down as well with only 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 64 RBI in those contests. With his massive contract, Martinez isn’t going anywhere. Despite the struggles, look for the Tigers’ DH to bounce back next season.

Andrew Romine

Romine seems a solid bet to make the roster thanks to his ability to play around the infield. He also adds a bit of speed (10 stolen bases) off the bench.

Tyler Collins

Even if it’s as a bench bat, Collins has proved he belongs on the team next season. The outfielder hit .266 with a .732 OPS in 60 games. As it stands, he may be the best bench bat the Tigers employ.

Uncertainties

Dixon Machado

Even if Romine makes the team, fellow infielder Machado stands a good chance of making it as well. The middle infielder’s defense has been big-league ready for years, and he showed promise in limited cup of coffee.

Rajai Davis

Davis would certainly make sense as a bench bat/pinch runner, but another team offering more cash and playing time may come calling. Additionally, the Tigers may opt for a different alternative to Gose in center. The fact remains that Davis is still a fit for the club if the stars align. It would shock no one if Davis is once again wearing an Old English “D” in 2016.

Steven Moya

Moya has all kinds of potential thanks to his famous power. He needs to work on his plate discipline however, and may be better suited at Triple-A Toledo for a season before joining the Tigers for good in 2017. If he shows well in the minors, a mid-season call up certainly isn’t out of the question.

Bryan Holaday

Whether Holaday makes the team or not is probably entirely dependent on whether new general manager Al Avila signs another catcher to backup McCann. If no other backstops are brought in, expect Holaday to serve as McCann’s deputy in 2016.

Jefry Marte

Another young player who showed flashes of potential, Marte may find himself in Triple-A. His power would certainly help the Detroit bench, but with Romine able to handle both of the positions that Marte plays, the former Oakland Athletics farm hand could be with Toledo. Still, if Marte tears it up in Spring Training, the Tigers will have a tough decision on their hands.

Likely Departures/ Departures

Alex Avila

Avila’s father/Tigers GM Al Avila has already stated that he doesn’t see resigning Alex “as a priority.” In other words, it appears that the younger Avila has played his final game with Detroit. He’ll likely sign elsewhere in search of more playing time.

Josh Wilson

Wilson was outrighted by the Tigers and elected free agency as opposed to staying in the organization. The infielder hit /316 in a 21 game cameo for the Tigers, driving in five runs in the process.

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

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Texas Rangers 8/21/15

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Tigers Catching Options Without Bryan Holaday

Any plans for the Tigers to call up catcher Bryan Holaday when rosters expand in September have been sufficiently dashed. The catcher recently injured his thumb during a game in with Triple-A Toledo and will likely miss the rest of the season.

The news comes as a blow to the Tigers given Holaday’s status as the team’s third catcher. Third-string catchers are generally locks to be called up during September when rosters expand simply based on the beating catchers take. In other words, more depth is always nice.

Detroit will have to find different depth, at least for this season.

Holaday was hitting .205 in 46 Triple-A games, but put up much better numbers at the big-league level. The 27-year-old produced a .271 batting average and 12 RBI in only 16 games. The catcher spent last season as Alex Avila’s primary backup, but was sent to Toledo this time around thanks to James McCann’s emergence. It’s widely thought that Holaday has the inside track in terms of being McCann’s backup next season should Avila depart via free agency in the offseason.

Given that McCann, Avila and Holaday are the only catchers on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, a move will have to be made to add another. There is an open spot on the 40-man roster, but that spot is likely going to Kyle Lobstein, who is nearing a return from an injury of his own.

Regardless of who vacates a 40-man roster slot, Detroit will likely be in the market for a new catcher. There are a few in-house options, as well as the possibility that a number of players could hit the waiver wire once teams start expanding their rosters come September.

In terms of in-house options, Detroit already has both Manny Pina and Miguel Gonzalez in Toledo, but their respective numbers don’t inspire much confidence.

The 28-year-old Pina is a career .188 hitter in the majors. His Triple-A batting average (.239) isn’t much better.

Gonzalez has minimal big-league experience, but did collect two hits in nine plate appearances with the White Sox two years ago. However, he did strike out (three) more times than he did reach base. Gonzalez has hit an underwhelming .195 in 28 games with Toledo.

All told, the Pina/Gonzalez duo has ten games of major league experience.

If Pina or Gonzalez isn’t handed the role of third-string catcher, let’s be clear, Detroit isn’t going to give up much more than a PTNBL/cash for a catcher who likely will have to beat Holaday for a job next spring training.

That being said, there are players cut all the time. Both Eric Fryer and Taylor Teagarden were recently designated for assignment, and while neither is a world-beater, they are solid third-choice catchers.

Reserve catchers can become available at the drop of a hat given other team’s personnel decisions. When one becomes available in the coming months, don’t be surprised to see the Tigers pounce on one.

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

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Should the Tigers Take a Flier on Garrett Jones?

The New York Yankees recently designated first baseman/corner outfielder/pinch-hitter extraordinaire Garrett Jones for assignment. Should the Tigers take a chance on the one-time Minnesota Twin?

The book on Jones is pretty straight forward. He mashes right-handed pitching (.265 career batting average .473 career slugging percentage and .803 career OPS) and plays first base as well as both corner outfield spots. His defense isn’t anything to write home about, but his offense is what keeps him around.

Detroit could have used him when Miguel Cabrera was out injured, but with Cabrera set to return to the lineup on Friday, the team’s need isn’t as dire. Still, Jones could provide the Tigers with a feared bench bat that has been missing in Detroit for a number of years.

Jones would likely be used in a timeshare with Tyler Collins and Rajai Davis in left field, but mainly as a pinch hitter.

One thing that stood out, among others, during last season’s American League Division Series sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles was the team’s lack of bench depth. After Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez brought the Tigers within a run thanks to back-to-back doubles, the team sent Bryan Holaday, Nick Castellanos and Hernan Perez to the plate. Holaday struck out, Castellanos was walked and Perez promptly grounded into a double play.

With the season on the line, the team sent Hernan Perez to the plate. Hernan Perez! Now, Perez has some potential, but he isn’t with the team any more.

We’ve seen a number of baseball teams (looking at you Kansas City) build deep benches that help them succeed in October. Adding Jones would give Tigers a somewhat deep bench. The team would have their go-to pinch-hitter in Jones, a go-to pinch-runner in Davis, as well as a super utility option in Andrew Romine.

Jefry Marte has hit well for the Tigers while filling in for Cabrera at first (.271 batting average, seven extra-base-hits and seven RBI in 19 games), but if he isn’t playing full-time, you might as well send him to Triple-A Toledo to receive some at-bats and then recall him when rosters expand in a few weeks.

There’s also the fact that Cabrera won’t be completely ready to play full-time when he returns, so Brad Ausmus will have to spell him at first base on occasion. While Jones isn’t a Gold Glove winner at first, he has played 489 games at the position in the big leagues and can be considered a first baseman by trade. The same cannot be said of the Cabrera’s injury replacements Marte (naturally a third baseman), Romine (utility infielder, better suited for the other three infield positions) and Alex Avila (a catcher).

Throw in Jones’ .306 batting average at Comerica Park (also seven extra-base hits and two stolen bases in 11 games) and you have a solid bench option for the Tigers. He’s at least worth a look.

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

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Detroit Tigers: Time for Dave Dombrowski to Pull His Usual Trade Deadline Magic

With the news that the Detroit Tigers are in fact not going to be sellers, its once again time for general manager Dave Dombrowski to pull is standard trade deadline magic.

The Tigers need the help, and thankfully, Dombrowski is adept at providing it.

Dombrowski has a long history of winning trades. He fleeced the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, turned Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson into Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke as well as acquiring Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson (plus a prospect) for Rick Porcello.

While those trades are wonderfully lopsided (at least in the Tigers’ favor), some of the Tigers GM’s best work has come at the trade deadline. He convinced the Mariners into parting with Doug Fister essentially for a singular reliever while acquiring Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante for what has amounted to a couple of A-ball pitchers.

However, the most impressive trade on Dombrowski’s resume may have been dealing for David Price. The Tigers dealt Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly and Willy Adames (a top shortstop prospect, but not one that was going to unseat Jose Iglesias as the team’s long-term starter) in order to acquire their current ace.

It’s time for Dombrowski to work that same magic.

There’s probably skepticism in the Tigers adding at the trade deadline. If you made a dollar for every time someone lambasted Detroit’s “lack of a farm system,” you’d have more cash than Bill Gates. Still, Dombrowski acquired Price without surrendering a hoard of top prospects, and did the same with both Fister and Sanchez.

It would not be surprising to see Dombrowski dip into the Tigers’ farm system and deal for talent. The reality is that Detroit’s system isn’t nearly as bad as people think. Two of the team’s top prospects last year (Detroit was again critiqued for having a bad farm system), now rank as two of Baseball America’s top 50 prospects in. Both were traded at the deadline, but it just goes to show that the prospects in the Tigers’ system may get a bad rap.

Additionally, the system has produced notable, young big leaguers such as Devon Travis, Smyly, Avisail Garcia, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Castellanos and James McCann.

Travis is hitting .302 in his rookie year in Toronto. Smyly has been injured a good deal since heading to Tampa Bay, but owns a stellar 1.96 ERA as a member of the Rays. Like Travis, Suarez has been a force at the plate for his new team, hitting .315 with five home runs and 18 RBI in only 35 games. Garcia is a cornerstone player for the White Sox, while Castellanos is finally showing signs of being the hitter the Tigers envisioned when they drafted him. McCann has quickly established himself as one of the premier young backstops in the league, making Alex Avila and his comparatively massive salary expandable.

If anything, the trade for Price, with Adames and Smyly going the other way, has proven that Detroit’s system is underrated. While it is unlikely that consensus top prospect Steven Moya is moved, the team has a glut of minor league catchers and relievers that may interest teams. The Tigers are set behind the plate with McCann and have Bryan Holaday in Triple-A. They could deal Avila, or top catching prospects Grayson Grenier, Shane Zeile or Arvicent Perez. Infield prospect Javier Betancourt (Adames’ former double-play partner) could also be dealt in the right trade given not only Iglesias and Ian Kinsler’s presences, but also the presence of two-way infield prospect Dixon Machado.

Regardless of who is traded, it’s time for Dombrowski to slightly rejig the team in an attempt to claim the World Series. The Tigers have the offense to succeed in October, and can look to their division-rival Royals as an example of a team that (last year) made a second-half run all the way to Game Seven.

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

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Players the Detroit Tigers Could Move at the Trade Deadline

Even with all the evidence pointing towards selling, the Detroit Tigers will more than likely be a buyer at the upcoming trade deadline. Most of the reasoning behind selling has to do not only with the team’s .500 record, but also the lack of a supposed farm system.

Look, Detroit’s system isn’t the best in the league, but it may get a bad rap. Two former Tigers prospects are ranked in Baseball America’s top 50 mid-season prospects, while the system has produced other talent in recent years such as Devon Travis, Drew Smyly, Avisail Garcia, Nick Castellanos, James McCann, Eugenio Suarez and Bruce Rondon. Detroit also has two exciting outfield prospects in prolific slugger Steven Moya (prolific is probably an understatement. Dude’s got power like you wouldn’t believe) and speed demon Derek Hill.

Detroit’s system may not be the greatest, but don’t underestimate it. Dave Dombrowski has pulled off some stellar trades for the team before, dealing prospects from a supposed “awful system” for impact players.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the players Dombrowski and the Tigers could deal in order to improve the team at the trade deadline.

Angel Nesbitt

The Tigers don’t have a ton of relievers who are close to major-league ready, so dealing one of the few away could be problematic. Still, if the right trade comes along, Dombrowski and company shouldn’t think twice.

The young reliever’s best pitch is his heater, and that will likely be his calling card in the big leagues. Teams with more pitcher-friendly parks could find him especially useful given that he isn’t a finished product and would have more room for error as he develops.

If Neftali Feliz’ signing has taught us anything it’s that quality relievers go on the market all the time, and if the Tigers feel they need depth in Triple-A, there’s always the waiver wire.

(RELATED: Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers)

Javier Betancourt

Who is Javier Betancourt you ask? Betancourt is (according to MLB.com) the Tigers’ eighth best prospect and plays both middle infield positions. He’s estimated to arrive in the big-leagues in 2017. He has two-way potential, and may be Ian Kinsler’s long-term replacement, but the Tigers have already dealt one second baseman (Travis), so the team may not have found Kinsler’s heir-apparent yet.

Plus-plus defender/ middle infielder Dixon Machado is only three years older and was an All-Star in Triple-A this year thanks to a .272 batting average, 19 extra-base hits, 12 steals and 36 RBI. He was recently called up to the Tigers’ roster and may be better suited in Andrew Romine’s super-utility role until Detroit is ready to move on from Kinsler.

MLB.com calls Betancourt “an above average defender” at second base and is “an advanced offensive player for his age”. If you remember, the “advanced for his age” tag was one given to Betancourt’s former double-play partner (and centerpiece of the David Price trade) Willy Adames. If Betancourt is comparable to Adames (a top 50 prospect), Detroit should sell high in search of starting pitching help.

Grayson Greiner

Catching prospect Grayson Greiner is another prospect at a position of surplus who the Tigers could move. While he’s struggled in the minors, he remains the top catching prospect in the Tigers system. MLB.com ranks him ahead of minor leaguers standouts like Betancourt and Machado and Tigers’ Futures Game representative Joe Jimenez.

Detroit already has James McCann and Alex Avila behind the dish, as well as Bryan Holaday in Triple-A. Catcher is one position (like middle infield) where the Tigers have depth to play with. Given Greiner’s upside and age, he could entice a rebuilding team in a swap, or be packaged along with someone like Betancourt in a larger deal.

Marc Krauss

The Tigers just acquired him, and while he did well to homer in his first game for Detroit, he’ only has one hit since. Hitting .111 in Motown. Platoon mate Jefry Marte has shown better (albeit in limited playing time) and strikes out less often than the swing happy Krauss. Marte also provides manager Brad Ausmus with more defensive flexibility as the rookie can play both first and third base

Krauss won’t bring much in return, but he’d be one of the first hitters jettisoned if a different alternative to Miguel Cabrera is found.

Alex Avila

This one will be tough to swallow. Not only is Avila one of the longest tenured Tigers, but his dad works in the front office. However, McCann is the Tigers’ future behind the dish and is outperforming Avila on a number of levels this season. McCann rates out much better defensively and has trumped Avila offensively. McCann’s batting average and OPS are both nearly 100 points higher than Avila’s number. Additionally, McCann has scored the same number of runs as Avila has hits. Dealing an impending free agent like Avila to a team in search of help behind the plate (like Seattle) for pitching would make sense.

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

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 2-1 Loss to the St. Louis Cardinals

  • Two

The number of Detroit Tigers with more than one hit. Ian Kinsler and James McCann each had two base hits.

  • Five

The number of Tigers to reach base during the game. Kinsler and McCann combined for four hits while Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias all had a single hit. Kinsler and Cabrera also drew singular walks.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by the Tigers bullpen. Another strong showing for the pen as Alex Wilson and Tom Gorzelanny combined to throw two scoreless frames. They allowed three hits.

  • One

The number of baserunners thrown out by catcher James McCann. Alex Avila’s replacement threw out Kolten Wong as the second baseman tried to steal second base. In addition to showing promise defensively, McCann is hitting as well, he owns a .292 batting average and six extra-base hits in 22 games this season.

  • Six

The number of Tigers starters after the game with a batting average of .280 or higher. Jose Iglesias leads the way at .346 while Yoenis Cespedes sits at the other end of the spectrum with a respectable .282 batting average.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 7-6 Loss to the Chicago White Sox

  • Four

The number of RBI by designated hitter Victor Martinez. V-Mart only had nine RBI on the season entering the game, and had only totaled more than a single RBI once. Wednesday’s showing was an encouraging sign for Martinez as he showed signs of breaking out of his slump at the dish.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny and Angel Nesbitt in a combined two innings of work. The trio seem to be among manager’s Brad Ausmus’ preferred pitchers out of the bullpen.

  • Six

The number of hits allowed in 0.2 innings pitched by Joba Chamberlain. The former Yankee took the loss while allowing four runs (all earned).

  • One

The number of home runs by Victor Martinez—yet another positive sign for the Detroit DH.

  • Three

The number of hits by Tigers catcher James McCann. McCann went three-for-five with two strikeouts on the day. If he continues to turn in displays like this, he’ll start to take more at-bats away from Alex Avila.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers’ 5-2 Loss vs the Chicago White Sox

  • Zero

The number of combined hits by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes. The heart of the Tigers order only reached base once (a walk by Cespedes) and struck out four times.

  • Three

The number of Tigers with multiple hits. Anthony Gose, Ian Kinsler and Alex Avila accounted for two hits each. The trio accounted for both runs in terms of RBI and runs scored.

  • One

The number of hits allowed by Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy and Angel Nesbitt in 5.1 innings of relief. The trio of relievers replaced the struggling Shane Greene and pitched well. They collectively struck out two while allowing a singular walk.

  • Four

The number of walks by Greene. The former Yankee only struck out one batter and generally had a start to forget.

  • Five

The number of hits and runs allowed by Greene. Each one of his five runs allowed were earned. His ERA on the season sits at 5.56. He’s struggled mightily since a strong start.

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5 Stats to Know from the Detroit Tigers 6-4 Win vs the Kansas City Royals

  • 11

The number of hits collected by the Tigers as a team. They easily out-hit the Royals, who managed a comparatively paltry six hits.

  • 15

The number of pitches needed by Detroit closer, and former Royal, Joakim Soria to pitch a perfect ninth inning. It was his tenth save.

  • Three

The number of runs allowed by Anibal Sanchez in 7.1 innings pitched. He struck out four, allowed four hits and only surrendered one walk.

  • Two

The number of Tigers with RBI on the day. Miguel Cabrera continued his torrid start with three hits in only four at bats. He went yard and drove in two while scoring one run. Alex Avila drove in three runs on a day when he went two-for-four at the plate.

  • One

The difference between Avila’s RBI output in the win on Sunday and his RBI total entering the game. The catcher now has seven on the season. His three RBI in one game nearly equaled his total from the entire month of April (four).

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