Jose Iglesias is out for ... well, we don't really know. He's out for Opening Day, already destined to begin the season on the disabled list according to the Tigers. He may be out longer than that: Reports began to circulate Saturday night that Iglesias will miss the first half of the year, or possibly "most of 2014." These reports presumably came out of Fenway South, as the dateline was Ft. Myers and at least one named an anonymous former teammate of Iglesias as the source.
Originally slated to miss about a week near the start of Grapefruit League competition, Iglesias has since missed more than two weeks and the news seldom takes a positive spin. He has already seen two specialists, the most recent this weekend. He is set to see a third specialist, a foot and ankle doctor in Colorado. He has tried orthotics in his shoes, which appeared to help as he resumed baseball activities. That is, he hit in the batting cage and did some fielding and running. However the injury lingered, causing significant pain when he decelerates, keeping Iglesias from getting any real action and causing Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to gradually admit he may not be ready for the regular season. "Anything beyond that is speculation," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said.
That leaves us where we are not. Iglesias is out for an undetermined amount of time, so they'll need to deal with it. Internally the three names that keep coming up belong to Eugenio Suarez, Hernan Perez and Danny Worth. When Dombrowski talks about trying to find an internal solution, that's what he means. If none of those solutions work, then -- and seemingly only then -- would the team turn to an exterior solution, possibly Stephen Drew.
(Expect Steve Lombardozzi to see playing time at short, too, but this injury opens one additional spot in on the active roster, certainly bound to an infielder.)
So just who are these guys?
In our earlier profile we noted Suarez seemed bound for the minors in 2014 unless Iglesias suffered an injury. So, here we are. "With Eugenio, the keys are not as much what he needs to do as what he needs to not do. The Tigers need to resist rushing him to the majors." Uh oh.
Suarez has a reputation for fielding the position just fine. He's a clear step down from Iglesias, as pretty much any shortstop in baseball would be, but he isn't a player who you'll worry about in the field. ""I'm not really concerned whether he can handle it defensively," Ausmus told media before the game.
The bat, however ... . Suarez hit .253 with .332 on-base percentage and .387 slugging with Double-A Erie last season. Not exactly numbers to be excited about. Entering play Sunday, Suarez was batting .273/.292/.318 in the Grapefruit League. Also numbers not to get excited about. He has a few steals, 11, 21 and 11 in 2011-2013, respectively, but it hasn't appeared to be a big component of his game.
Although the Tigers have said defense is the priority, it's hard to see Suarez holding down the job full time if his numbers slide even worse when he's facing major league pitching every day.
Minor League Stats
Unlike Suarez, Perez has experience in the major leagues, although not a lot: 73 plate appearances. He also made two plate appearance in the 2013 postseason. Almost all of his playing time has come at second base, both in his majors appearances and in his minor-league seasons since 2011. However, he appeared to be fine at short in games earlier in spring training. "He looks like a baseball player," Ausmus told the media earlier this month. "He's looked really good. I've been impressed with him."
Perez hasn't had a lot of major league success at the plate, but as a minor league he hit near .300 in 2013 with more doubles. He has also shown activity on the base paths, stealing 23, 27 and 28 bases 2011-2013.
There was a blog called Take 75 North. It was naturally about the minor leagues. Its author is undoubtedly beaming with pride as he reads his former blog's name. Danny Worth would have been the mascot, so often has he been up and down between Triple-A Toledo and the parent-club Tigers.
Worth is a non-roster invitee this year, which doesn't necessarily mean much. The Tigers can undoubtedly find a spot on the roster for him if they need to. Entering camp, he appeared to have the issue of overcoming utilitymen Don Kelly and Steve Lombardozzi, who arrived as part of the four-player Doug Fister trade with the Nationals.
Worth's strongest asset is his ability to play every position in the infield. A look at his stats will tell you his weakest asset: his bat. He's batted .242 with .307 OBP and .315 slugging in 246 MLB appearances. His career .248/.323/.358 line in the minors doesn't indicate a guy suffering from bad luck in the big leagues. However he is having a good spring,batting .276/.341/.448 in 14 games of action.
Going against him in the competition: although he can play shortstop, and a plurality of his minor league games have been spent there, he's probably not your first pick. However, couple his experience, his bat this spring and his ability to play the position, and you can see an argument for Worth making the club.
So who's the favorite? Suarez seems to be talked up as the guy right now, and he started at shortstop during the Tigers' game Sunday, but it's hard to name any one of the internal candidates as the guy right now. You could make an argument for any of the trio. Worth's spring plus his flexibility may actually make him the most favorable of the trio while the other two players return to the minors to continue to work.
Who do you think the favorite should be?