Brennan Boesch is gone to New York. Jeff Kobernus has gone back to the Nationals. Nick Castellanos has been sent back to minor league camp. There are essentially two roster spots left for position players with just a week until opening day. Which players are likely to claim those spots?
Brayan Pena and Ramon Santiago, for purposes of this discussion, are on the team. Although he had a poor season in 2012, Santiago is the veteran with the contract that pays him a $2.1 million salary for the 2013 season, and no options remaining. We will assume that two of the four bench spots are given to these two lads.
The last two spots will include at least one outfielder, or at least a player who can play the outfield. Tiger brass have stated their preference to have a right handed hitter to share time in left field with Andy Dirks. For the last spot, they could add a fifth outfielder, or another infielder. Maybe one that can cover the corner infield positions, which aren’t Santiago’s sneaky strengths in the field.
Quintin Berry was the surprise player last year and made a fine contribution in 2012. He filled in adequately for Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks when they were injured, led the team in stolen bases, and in fact set a major league record for consecutive steals without being caught. Injuries this spring haven't helped Berry's already small chance of making the team. It seemed that, with Jeff Kobernus in line for a roster spot, that Berry’s skills would be redundant. With Kobernus gone, Berry’s speed again becomes an asset, though his bat and his glove leave something to be desired.
Don Kelly was sent to the minors last August when the Tigers acquired Jeff Baker, but then recalled and found his way onto the playoff roster. He was released after the season, and found his way back to spring training. He has an opt out clause that permits him to become a free agent if he doesn’t make the opening day roster.
Many believe that Kelly is a favorite to win the last roster spot. But why? If Tuiasosopo is the right handed hitting outfielder, what value does Kelly bring to the team? Berry is a better runner, Worth is a better, more versatile infielder and also a better runner, and Kelly would be the fifth outfielder on the team.
Avisail Garcia has not yet formally been optioned, quite possibly because of his bruised heel. Leyland has all but ruled out Garcia making the opening day roster, although he was the flavor of the month last September when Boesch went in the tank, and he hit .300, taking a place on the post season roster. Garcia has major league playing time in his future, but apparently not by opening day.
Matt Tuiasosopo was profiled here, and for the reasons stated in his profile, appears to have the inside track on a roster spot, by process of elimination, being the only healthy right handed hitter left who can play the outfield. He plays first base, third base, and the outfield. He bats right and posted some good numbers in the minors with a .267 avg, .355 OBP, and .756 OPS. He made the opening day roster twice in Seattle and barring a trade, appears to be in line for a roster spot in Detroit to open the season.
Kevin Russo is a longshot to make the team, at least at this point, but G Wilson extolled his virtues with this comment.
Kevin has produced a .336/.407/.433 line in 280 PAs against left-handed pitching over the last two seasons at AAA. For calibration, Rod Carew’s career ML line is slightly lower at .328/.393/.429. Russo has continued to destroy LHP this spring with a 5-for-11 performance that includes an .818 slugging percentage. In today’s showdown with the Yankees, KR showed what he can do against a quality right hander by taking Shawn Kelly deep for a critical add-on run that provided margin for error for the shaky Detroit bullpen. Kelly struck out 45 batters in 44.1 big league innings last year with an extraordinary K/NIBB ratio of 5.0.
Danny Worth appears to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the group once again. Although he has been sent to the minors ten times in the past three seasons, he still has an option remaining, and that leaves the club with the option of sending him down. He can play at least three infield positions, maybe four as he has played first base also this spring, and has been used as a pinch runner. His defense is as good as anyone in the group, and he’s been used as a pinch runner, though he’s not a base runner in the class of Berry.
Trade, anyone? In case you're thinking that the Tigers will make a last minute trade (enter Casper Wells fans), that is certainly a possibility, but as we demonstrated in the Casper Wells story, those trades are few and far between at this time of the year
If I had my druthers,
I’d trade the whole freaking lot for Casper Wells I would go with Tuiasosopo and Worth, but that’s just me. Who do you think the Tigers should take with them on opening day?