We are just over the halfway point of spring training after today's 0-0 tie with the Washington Nationals, so now is as good of a time as any to look back at the Tigers' stats. The team has a 7-12-1 record through 20 games and is in last place in the Grapefruit League. The nice thing about this is that the record is meaningless and will be wiped clean on April 6th.
Instead of focusing on the team's win-loss record, we should look at individual player performances. While spring training stats don't matter that much, these six weeks can have an impact on how a player will be used in 2015. The front office and coaching staff has 24-hour access to the players -- aside from Taco Night, of course -- which gives them a better sense of how these players operate. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can we use [X player] more effectively this season? These questions are partially answered during the spring as the roster takes shape.
We don't expect many surprises with the Tigers. There are only a couple of roster spots up for grabs, and just about everyone already has a set role. However, there are some players that have impressed so far this spring, and some that have not given us much hope for 2015 and beyond.
Fields is the unquestioned "winner" of Tigers camp so far, if such a thing exists. Coming off an injury-limited season in 2014, Fields has made a great impression on Brad Ausmus and the Tigers' staff, hitting .345/.394/.655 with five extra base hits in 33 plate appearances. There is still some swing-and-miss to his game (Fields has struck out eight times), but he has also shown some surprising opposite field power.
"It'd be tough," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said when asked if Fields will be considered for the vacant outfield spot. "Missing last year, he probably needs at-bats, to be frank."
The one question about Gose this offseason is whether he would hit. Spring training caveats aside, he has done everything possible to dispel that apprehension. Gose is hitting a blazing .371/.436/.629 with three doubles and three triples in 35 at-bats. He has gotten plenty of playing time this spring as well, an encouraging sign. Gose won't hit anything close to those numbers during the regular season, but he could still be a valuable player if he keeps his bat afloat against right-handed pitcher. The one downside? Gose has fanned 10 times in those 35 at-bats.
If there was ever a competition between McCann and Bryan Holaday for the backup catcher job this year, it's already over. McCann is hitting everything (including birds), with a scorching .480/.500/.560 slash line in 25 at-bats, and has impressed Ausmus with his work ethic.
"I don't have to worry about him working," manager Brad Ausmus said after Thursday's 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
"I think Mac does an excellent job," Ausmus said. "He is very alert. His head is into the game at all times. He understands that his value is greater on the defensive side of the game than it is when he is standing in the batter's box. That's not to say he doesn't take his hitting seriously."
McCann came into the spring with an advantage over Holaday due to his higher upside, and it would be a complete shock if the 24-year-old backstop isn't in Detroit to start the season.
When someone at this website writes a column that says your career is over, it's safe to say that your stock is about as low as it can go. Nathan's stats aren't pretty, but poor spring training stats alone aren't necessarily a reason to worry. However, add in his awful 2014 numbers and the major concerns about his fastball velocity and command, and you wonder if the Tigers are better off cutting ties with him before they even head back to Michigan. The Tigers will undoubtedly roll with Nathan as their closer at the start of the season, but will he be able to shrug off whatever has plagued him down in Florida? Or is this what we're going to see in April?
Moya was a longshot to make the Tigers' roster at the beginning of spring training, but he has done nothing to help his case. He is hitting .148/.148/.296 with zero walks and nine strikeouts in 27 at-bats. The Tigers have made some changes to his batting stance over the past few days, and are encouraged with the results so far.
"His batting practices the last few days have been much better," Ausmus said. "His swing today was a good one. He got the barrel on the ball."
Whether these changes make a difference in games or not, Moya isn't forcing his way into the majors this spring.
There's bad, and then there is what Joba has done so far this spring. In four outings, the 29-year-old right-hander has allowed seven hits and four runs, resulting in a 7.50 ERA, 2.50 WHIP, and .438 batting average allowed. He has yet to strike a hitter out, and has issued three walks. Joba will still make the Opening Day roster and is a prime candidate to prove that spring stats are meaningless, but his performance has not wowed anyone who was worried about bringing him back in 2015 after last fall's collapse.