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Detroit Tigers player preview: Anthony Gose could flourish in the leadoff position

Anthony Gose could be the Tigers' leadoff hitter and should be starting in center field for most games.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

When the Detroit Tigers acquired Anthony Gose from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Devon Travis -- who was ranked as the team's No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America -- Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski immediately declared that Gose was acquired to be the club's centerfielder for most games during the 2015 season. BYB had this profile of Gose when the trade was consummated.

Not only is Gose slated to start most games, he currently stands as the front-runner to bat leadoff against right-handed pitchers. He posted an on-base percentage of .329 against righthanders in 2014, and with his speed on the bases -- and a very strong performance offensively in the spring -- appears to be penciled in at the top of the batting order until further notice. The Tigers are excited about Gose's potential for a breakout season at the plate.

Gose is a speedy, 24-year-old left-handed hitting centerfielder who was drafted in the second round of the 2008 amateur player draft by the Philadelphia Phillies out of Bellflower High School, in Bellflower, California. He is known for his speed and defense much more than for his bat. He has been a plus defender in the outfield, posting a UZR of 9.2 last season with +2 defensive runs saved (DRS). He has a strong arm, being a former high school pitcher who featured a fastball in the low 90s.

In parts of seven seasons in the minor leagues, Gose hit .259/.334/.381 with 37 home runs and 271 stolen bases. He stole 76 bases in his first full season at Single-A Lakewood. The Phillies traded Gose to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline in 2010, but he was quickly flipped to the Toronto Blue Jays. The series of deals sent J.A. Happ to the Astros with Roy Oswalt going to the Phillies. Gose hit 16 home runs and stole 70 bases at Double-A New Hampshire in 2011.

Gose made his major league debut with the Blue Jays in July 2012. In parts of three seasons with Toronto, he has hit .234/.301/.332 with 34 stolen bases in 616 plate appearances. In 2014, he played 65 games in center field, 14 in right field, and 11 games in left field for the Jays. When not in the starting lineup, both Gose and Davis will give the Tigers a quality pinch runner on the bench.

Logic would dictate that Gose should be in the starting lineup against all right-handed pitchers, and Davis against all left-handed pitchers. The platoon splits are dramatic enough to justify using them in a straight platoon, and even using Gose as a defensive replacement when the team has a lead in the late innings. Gose is that much better than Davis in the outfield, as well. During the 2014 season, the Tigers made 72.9 percent of their plate appearances against right-handed pitchers.

Here are the career platoon splits for Davis and Gose against right-handed pitchers:

Player PA Avg OBP Slg OPS wOBA wRC+* UZR/150**
Davis 2095 .254 .296 .349 .645 .286 74 0.0 (CF)
Gose 483 .241 .316 .350 .666 .299 85 +13.6

Davis's wRC of 73 in 2014 is in-line with his career numbers, and was the lowest in the American League among all outfielders with at least 300 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. The league average is 100. Interestingly, Davis and former Tiger Austin Jackson tied for the lowest wOBA against righthanders at just .277, so there is potential for significant improvement at the center field position by deploying a straight platoon.

The splits against lefthanders tell the opposite story.

Player PA Avg OBP Slg OPS wOBA wRC+* UZR/150**
Davis 1039 .304 .358 .408 .727 .353 120 0.0 (CF)
Gose 133 .208 .246 .267 .513 .230 38 +13.6

Contract Status:

With one year and 82 days of major league service time, Gose has two more seasons before he will be eligible for arbitration, and five more seasons before he will be eligible for free agency.  He will earn just above the major league minimum salary in 2015. He has two options remaining.

Stats and Projections:

Year PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA
2014 274 2 31 13 15 .226 .311 .311 .279
Steamer 374 5 39 33 19 .235 .296 .296 .286
ZiPS 575 6 66 44 34 .254 .314 .314 .298

Davis crushes left-handed pitchers, and is sure to be the leadoff hitter when opponents send a southpaw to the mound. He also gives manager Brad Ausmus a valuable pinch runner or a pinch hitter against left-handed pitchers, but he provides little value against righthanders. Gose is exactly the opposite, making for a perfect straight platoon.

But if Gose can provide solid offense, particularly in the leadoff position, expect him to get most of the starts at center field in 2015, even with Davis' speed and ability to pepper the ball against left-handed pitching.

* Weighted runs created plus (wRC+) measures the weighted run production of a player calibrated to a scale where 100 is league average.

** Ultimate Zone rating per 150 games projects the number of runs that a player will save or cost his team vs the average defensive player at his position over the course of 150 games played. Only center field numbers are used for Rajai Davis.