Surveying the Tiger Farm: First Base

Let's be honest. If there's a position where we shouldn't be alarmed that the Tigers don't have a lot of depth, it's first base. As long as Miggy stays healthy, the job is his. That fact has already caused guys like Ryan Strieby and Jeff Larish to move off the position. So does the farm have anybody who looks like a possible understudy in case Cabrera gets hurt or when he's ready to shift to DH? Let's take a look.

Toledo

Jeff Frazier, .256/.306/.493, 516 PA, 32 BB, 89 K: Frazier technically shouldn't be on this list since he played a tad more outfield than first base. However, he was the Hens' most common first baseman, so here he is. He was able to parlay his best season as a pro into a major league debut and a brief run in Detroit (.217/.250/.261 in 24 PA). 2011 Outlook: Ask a Nats blogger. Frazier became a free agent after the season and signed with Washington.

 

Erie

Mike Bertram, .256/.311/.416, 392 PA, 25 BB, 97 K: Bertram didn't have a great season at the plate, especially considering he's primarily a first baseman after spending his early career at the hot corner. He did, however, get an opportunity to try to show what he could do in Toledo when the Hens kept losing first basemen. It could have went better (.231/.293/.385 in 116 PA). 2011 Outlook: His role is starting to get shaky as he could be out of a job in Erie and not a good enough hitter to play first base at Triple A.

Rawley Bishop, .252/.337/.407, 286 PA, 28 BB, 65 K: Bishop played just a hair more in Erie than Lakeland. As you'd expect, he was much more successful in Hi A ball (.301/.385/.462 in 274 PA). He seems to have decent power and patience, but those Erie numbers won't play at first base. Not only that, strikeouts are an issue, he's already 25, bats right-handed, and is a first baseman in the Tigers' system. 2011 Outlook: I'd assume he'll be back at first for the SeaWolves.

Lakeland

Billy Nowlin, .262/.344/.389, 337 PA, 32 BB, 59 K: Nowlin is only going to go as far as his bat takes him. He's spent most of his time as a pro DHing and I only stuck him in with the first baseman because I'm not doing a post about prospects who are primarily DHs. He started slowly in Lakeland, but eventually adapted and started hitting well. He eventually landed in Erie for about the last six weeks of the season. He has a good stick, just unlikely good enough to earn him a big league DH gig. 2011 Outlook: Back in Erie, DHing and trying to take advantage of a hitter friendly league.

West Michigan

Jordan Lennerton, .290/.386/.402, 249 PA, 31 BB, 65 K: Lennerton received a midseason promotion that had him split the season pretty evenly between the Caps and Lakeland. He was actually better in Lakeland (.301/.393/.505, 30 BB, 54 K in 239 PA) where he cranked up the power a bit. That's encouraging but he'll be 25 next year and his career numbers suggest the bat may top out in the high minors. 2011 Outlook: Assignment announcements could be a little anxious for him, but he'll probably land wherever the Tigers feel they need him between Lakeland and Erie.

Clay Jones, .270/.346/.354, 214 PA, 17 BB, 31 K: The Tigers' 32nd pick in the draft came into the Caps' lineup and helped them in their second half playoff push. Unfortunately for this role as a prospect, most of that time came as the DH. Fifth Third is hard on right-handed bats, but he looks to me like another organizational player. 2011 Outlook: I don't know if there will be room for him in Lakeland, so that would leave him either back in Grand Rapids or looking to catch on somewhere else.

Anthony Plagman, .272/.337/.436, 273 PA, 22 BB, 47 K: Ninth round pick jumped right into role as starting first baseman and middle of the order bat. He showed good power in the Midwest League, as 27 of his 66 hits went for extra bases. I suspect, though, that the bigger question for him will be what level his talent tops out at rather than whether he'll be a factor for the big league club. 2011 Outlook: He'd seem like a good bet to be promoted to Lakeland.

Connecticut

James Robbins, .251/.293/.351, 276 PA, 12 BB, 91 K: It's pretty easy to see this August 15th signing from a couple of years back has some things to work on. That K-to-BB ratio is jaw-dropping and he didn't display much in-game power. He's still just 20 at a position where the Tigers lack talent, though, so he has time to work on things. 2011 Outlook: I'd look for him to stay in extended spring training for a while and then pop up with either Connecticut or West Michigan later in the season.

GCL Tigers

Juaner Aguasvivas, .226/.268/.382, 198 PA, 8 BB, 66 K: Aguasvivas looks like the type of player who needs time to develop, but it's been slow in coming. He spent three years in the DSL and then struck out more than eight times per walk as a 20-year-old in the GCL. There's power in the bat, but he'll either need to flash more of it or improve other skills. 2011 Outlook: Tough call, as I could see the Tigers challenging him in West Michigan or keeping him in extended spring training until he's needed or the short season teams start.

Positional Outlook: I'm curious to see where Bishop and Plagman's talents will take them and Robbins and Aguasvivas have time to develop. Realistically, though, you might have a hard time getting the over/under of players on this list with big league futures as high as one. The Tigers haven't put a lot of resources into developing first basemen - with good reason, obviously - and it shows. With Larish being traded and Strieby (not listed, but he's a first baseman realistically) having continued injury problems, I think the position took a step backward in 2010.

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