After reading a recent article in ESPN the magazine's "Analytics Issue" (which... . oxymoron?) titled Designated Hackers, I was prompted to think beyond their obvious recommendation of moving Miggy to DH. The premise, for those without an insider account or the patience to listen to ESPN dribble on and on, is that the DH has become a dead spot in the order, with only one DH hitting more than 20 HR (David Ortiz) and four (!!) with slugging percentages below .400 in 2011. My expanded thoughts after the jump...What if the real opportunity to create a useful DH did not fall to someone we currently have on the roster? The local media's dead horse this offseason is related to Brandon Inge, as to validate the move as: "x is better than y in the field, so move y to DH, an 'open' spot". The plotline that has formed with the usual spring training prospect love-fest (rightfully so, I will add) is focused on Nick Castellanos and the position he will ultimately end up at - 3B? LF? RF? What if the spot that best serves Nick is in fact DH? We have Victor Martinez until the end of 2013, and that fits a timeline that is best for Nick's development.
Let's put this simply: the best tool Nick has is his bat. Why try to pigeon-hole another average defender into an everyday fielding position? The first time I saw clips of Nick swinging, my immediate thought was: "Wow - that swing reminds me of Edgar Martinez". Edgar was one of the best DH's of all time, and in his prime (considering this 1995-2001) averaged a WAR of 5.84 (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/martied01.shtml) averaging between .306 and .356/, with OBP% between .423 and .479, slugging between .523 and .628, and OPS between .966 and 1.107. Ironically, Edgar was scouted in a similar way to Nick, a 3B with great bat skills and questionable speed/ defensive ability. While this production is not the norm, and Edgar will likely be the first DH (if any are ever admitted) to the Hall of Fame, a DH that hits with power and average on a consistent basis would be a huge boost to any lineup, so why not the Tigers?
My counterpoint to myself is: how many position players come along (especially in the Tiger's SP-heavy farm system) with the skills that Nick does? To steal from another sport's recent analogy, I don't think you displace (or release, Jim Irsay) Peyton Manning to draft Andrew Luck. We have Miggy, and assuming he is even "tolerable" at 3B, I don't think you look to move him again until age requires it.
The point I am sure you are all thinking is well - sure - but why not make this same argument to Miggy or Prince? My position would be this: you can groom Nick to be a DH, Miggy has already shown a poor track record at DH, and Prince made it explicitly clear he wanted to be a 1B.
I would imagine there are counter-arguments to most points made in the primary article, and I welcome them all. However, I would implore you all to think about how awful the decision is by the White Sox to DH Mark Kotsay (.683 OPS) and Adam Dunn (.159 avg in 346 PAs) or the Mariners use of DH's who averaged .213, .215 and .214 over the past 3 years. You cannot afford a lack of hitting from a position that is focused solely on hitting, and perhaps this is Nick's best chance with our beloved Tigers.
BTW glad to be back after nearly a year hiatus. Good stuff as always on the site, and hopefully I can contribute on occasion from here on out.