Brad Ausmus has had a week to settle into the position as manager of the Detroit Tigers. He is familiar with the composition of the team and as a Dartmouth man surely did some homework before interviewing with Dave Dombrowski. He was hired in time to join team meetings last week, and I imagine they walked through the 40 man roster to get Brad up to speed.
The 40 man roster currently has 32 players, with free agents such as Omar Infante and Joaquin Benoit not occupying spots. But Ausmus is not too concerned with who is gone, he needs to know whom he has. His eyes scan down to catchers, the position where he recorded the third most putouts in history.
Alex Avila is a familiar name, but Bryan Holaday and Ramon Cabrera also show up as catchers. Dombrowski is quick to tell Brad that he will like Bryan, as he is a right-handed hitting defense-first catcher with a college background. In 2013 Holaday threw out 41% of would-be base stealers in Triple-A, and slashed .290 / .342 / .435 (batting average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage) in 79 plate appearances against lefties. The sample size is small, but Ausmus would be thrilled with .250 / .310 / .390 from Avila's caddy.
But who is this Ramon Cabrera? Not so much a catch-and-throw guy, only nabbing 22% of base thieves in his minor league career. But the switch-hitter slashed .318 / .370 / .402 in 147 plate appearances in the minors against lefties in 2013. Between Holaday and Cabrera, one with a strength on offense, and one on defense, there are two options for a backup. Victor Martinez is listed as a designated hitter, but could be used in an emergency as well.
First base shows Prince Fielder. Dave explains that Victor Martinez can play first as well, and is probably better defensively. Miguel Cabrera has first base experience as well. Those are three big names, so our brain trust moves on to second base.
Danny Worth has the most experience, 28 years old and a veteran of seven minor league seasons. He has played 159 games at second base in the minors, but is not likely to survive the winter with a spot on the roster. Hernan Perez, only 22 years old, filled in when Omar Infante was injured this year. He had an impressive season at Double-A Erie, and has stolen over 20 bases for three years in a row. The youth and speed add the lacking dimension to the team, but performance at the major league level in 2014 is a big question mark. So second base is one reasonably exciting prospect with a taste of big league experience, and no backup plan.
Jose Iglesias jumps out at shortstop. Articulate, young, handsome, and a great glove; Ausmus may experience a man-crush. Dixon Machado is also on the roster, and has five minor league seasons under his belt, but has never played even Double-A ball. Hernan Perez has nearly 300 games at shortstop, so is a possible backup plan.
Miguel Cabrera has the hot corner locked up. Francisco Martinez is on the roster, a Dixon Machado for third base but a year older and also never having played above Advanced-A. Oddly there have been eleven players named Francisco Martinez who have played in the minors, and not one has appeared in the major leagues. Jim Leyland points out that Don Kelly is still on the roster and can play third. Dave waits for Jim to step outside for a smoke break, and then explains the situation to Brad. Dave agrees to be on the lookout for a minor league free agent to play third base in Toledo.
The outfield shows Austin Jackson in center and Torii Hunter in right. That leaves Nick Castellanos and Andy Dirks for left field. Castellanos is the hot prospect who slashed .276 / .343 / .450 in Toledo, and Andy Dirks could slide comfortably into the fourth outfielder spot.
Our management team breaks for lunch before looking at the pitching staff. Ausmus is feeling good about his chances. He could make a competitive lineup out today, though the bench would be extremely thin. With eight spots open on the 40 man roster for free agents and to protect minor league veterans, and other openings expected, there is plenty of room to plug some holes.
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