I don’t know if you have been paying attention, but this is my last installment of the Monday Links before real baseball begins. At this time next week, it will be Opening Day. We will have suffered through another hard winter and a spring of speculation, which will leave us staring at the finished product that is your 2017 Opening Day roster. Quite a bit has happened in the last few days to shape that. Let’s take a look at it.
We’re focused on two major things: the fifth rotation spot, and who is going to play in center field. On Saturday, Anibal Sanchez kept his hope alive with yet another performance that is making the decision on the fifth starter spot a difficult one. Sanchez hurled six no-hit innings to extend a 14 inning scoreless streak since making some mechanical tweaks to his delivery. He is making the Tigers think hard about what his role with the team will be. Matt Boyd continues to bring the heat as well, and it looks like we have ourselves a bonafide battle for the last spot in the rotation. If you had asked me a week ago, I would have told you it was Boyd’s spot. But, Sanchez has given the organization 14 innings to go with the 16.8 million other reasons to keep him in the rotation.
On Sunday, the Tigers dropped one to the Toronto Blue Jays after closer Francisco Rodriquez came in and did the opposite of what one would want their closer to do. One bright spot for the game — aside from the presence of first baseman Miguel Cabrera who had been out with a balky back — was third baseman Nick Castellanos. He crushed his fourth home run of the spring and continues to rake. It looks like he could find himself a very comfy niche in that number two batting spot. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports has him on his list of 30 potential breakout players for 2017. Considering what 2016 looked like for Nick, a breakout this season could equal quite the year.
I don’t know if the deep v-neck has unlocked some sort of secret power source, but if that’s the case, I say he should open that bad boy up. Go full Gibb brother this season, Nick, and win yourself an MVP.
The first cut is the deepest
Getting this close to the start of the regular season means we’re also seeing the beginning of roster cuts that actually mean something. This weekend saw a few telling moves. First, the team washed its hands of reliever Mark Lowe with his release. Lowe was the latest in the list of bad bullpen signings for the team. While I am pleased the organization came to the decision to cut him loose, I can’t help but think of how the $5.5 million they still owe him could have been put to better use.
Speaking of how to use $5.5 million, let’s move on over to the center field situation. With Anthony Gose being sent to Triple-A Toledo to work on the reverse Rick Ankiel and possibly find new life for his career on the mound, the competition to patrol the vast expanse of the middle outfield of Comerica park is down to Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins and JaCoby Jones. None of the three are inspiring a great amount of confidence.
In a recent article about positional battles, John Perrotto at FanRag Sports described the center field competition in Detroit.
A scout from an American League team, who has watched all three play often this spring, drew this unflattering conclusion: “I wouldn’t want any of the three as my starter if I planned on contending. I’d start scouring the waiver wire.”
In their recent positional rankings, FanGraphs has the Tigers not quite dead-last at center. How any team could be in a worse position than Detroit was surprising to me. Congratulations, Chicago White Sox, you managed to make the disappointing dance of mediocrity in the Detroit system look more favorable than whatever it is you’re currently doing. I can only assume that the Pale Hose have stacked three small children on top of one other, concealed them under a trench coat, and placed them in center field. The big difference between the Tigers and the White Sox is that Detroit is trying to contend. Dave Cameron offers this piece of advice:
There are a bunch of guys in other cities that don’t have starting jobs but are better than anyone here. Make a trade, Detroit. Get a better center fielder. Don’t miss the playoffs because you rolled with Mikie Mahtook too long.
Preach, Dave. Preach.
The name is Franc, Lis Franc
On Friday the team announced that right fielder J.D. Martinez would miss three to four weeks with a Lisfranc sprain in his right foot. An injury to the most French part of his body — and one just two little letters away from really trippy Tiger-focused artwork — leaves an opening in right field that some folks feel will be temporarily filled by Alex Presley, who has had a pretty impressive spring thus far. Whoever it is filling the position, I just hope it’s really only three or four weeks.
For Your Spare Time
Emily Waldon spent a little time in Lakeland and has a pretty detailed rundown of what’s going on in the Detroit minor league system. Here is one of many looks at how the American League Central might shake out this year. Dave Dombrowski and his bad luck with the bullpen. How Major League Baseball came to officially speak Spanish. Mike Trout for commissioner.