The 2020 World Series continues Friday night with the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers knotted up at one game apiece at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Tex., as Major League Baseball plays out its final games of the season. For the other 28 teams not in action, things have been pretty slow as they wait for the final out and the beginning of the long winter layoff.
However, the imminent end of the schedule also marks the beginning offseason events, including the the instructional leagues, managerial searches and various awards, such as the Gold Glove.
Tigers have two Gold Glove finalists
Detroit was fielding a team that was pretty fun to watch for a while there early on when they were still above .500 and in contention for the playoffs. However, that luster quickly faded and the fans were left with yet another summer of disappointing baseball as the team quickly took a dive back down to the bottom of the American League East Division.
Speaking of fielding, despite a defense that left a lot to be desired to the eye, two Tigers earned mentions from Rawlings Baseball as finalists for this year’s Gold Glove Award: second baseman Jonathan Schoop and shortstop Niko Goodrum. Interestingly, due to the compressed 2020 season, the award qualifications were amended to rely solely on the SABR Defensive Index, which explains a lot about these two picks.
Starting with Schoop, who managed to play 44 games at the keystone position before his season was cut short by a wrist injury, looked solid in the field but nothing particularly stood out about his performance — though he did manage to sport some mighty lumber. FanGraphs gave him a 3.0 rating on defense (fielding and positional adjustment combined above average) while he earned 0.1 dWAR per Baseball Reference. Combined with his offense, Schoop accumulated 1.4 fWAR in 2020.
We have a correction! There was a tie at AL 2B. Rawlings Gold Glove Award Finalists- AL Second Base: César Hernández, Danny Mendick, Jonathan Schoop, Nicky Lopez #TeamRawlings #RawlingsGoldGloveAwards pic.twitter.com/U0l80dFpUi— Rawlings Baseball (@RawlingsSports) October 22, 2020
Then there is Goodrum, who managed to play in 43 games total — 31 games at shortstop — but lost his starting job later on in the season, who also got a nod for the award. According to FanGraphs’ defensive ratings, Niko received a grade of 4.0 which in contrast to his -8.6 offensive rating earned him 0.3 fWAR overall for 2020. Baseball Reference gave him 0.3 dWAR for his efforts this summer; however, those numbers also include his 11 games at second base.
Nonetheless, the mentions make for some interesting conversation after yet another disappointing year in Detroit. Should one of them actually bring home the trophy, it would simply be the cherry on top of a bizarre summer of baseball.
Bryant Packard moves to first base
The No. 18 player on our Bless You Boys prospect rankings is making moves this offseason... to first base. An outfielder by trade during his three seasons at East Carolina, as well as in his stints at Low-A Connecticut, Single-A West Michigan and High-A Lakeland, the 23-year-old’s transition to the infield dirt was inevitable, but until recently was never acted upon.
Packard’s signature tool is hit hitting ability, which could be good enough alone to carry him to the majors. He played at the first sack in high school, so the position is not completely foreign to him — but it is an easy position to play anyways, right? (Tell ‘em, Wash!) — and he is now getting regular reps in instructional league play.
When asked about his hitting abilities, the prodigious young hitter offered the following.
“I’m very confident in my swing. I know that’s going to take care of itself down the road, even if I’m struggling. No worries there.”
Bryant Packard dropped some weight since last year (‘19 on the left, current on the right). He cites the weight loss for giving him a speed boost leading to an inside-the-park HR today in Dunedin vs the Blue Jays. pic.twitter.com/zCenF3igDC— Detroit Tigers Minor League Tracker (@Tiger_Lifer) October 21, 2020
Manager matchup: Don Kelly vs. Pedro Grifol
Last week, The Athletic covered the pros and cons of Los Angeles Dodgers’ first base coach George Lombard versus former Tiger and New York Yankees’ current hitting coach Marcus Thames, in an interesting dissection of the two managerial candidates for the Detroit Tigers’ open position. This week, Cody Stavenhagen takes a look at beloved former Tiger Don Kelly, currently the bench coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates in comparison to fellow AL Central foe Kansas City Royals’ bench coach Pedro Grifol.
The pros for Kelly are pretty straight-forward, especially given that many envisioned him as a future manager even during his playing days. Adding in the goodwill he built during his tenure with the Tigers along with some of his experience after hanging up his glove makes him an attractive option. However, the one major issue working against him is his lack of managerial experience at any level.
Source tells me Pirates bench coach Don Kelly recently interviewed with Tigers about their open manager job. However, he's not a top candidate due to his lack of big league coaching experience.— RobBiertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) October 19, 2020
Another source says Pirates coaching staff is expected to return intact in 2021.
As for Grifol? When his name was first heard by many across the Tigers fanbase, the most common response was, “Who?” That said, he apparently interviews very well and carries a solid baseball pedigree which includes winning Florida’s high school baseball player of the year in 1988, along with a minor league career as well as experience in scouting and player development. But, much like many other candidates not named Alex Cora or A.J. Hinch, he simply does not bring any managerial experience to the table.
So the search continues for the next Tigers manager and hopefully the franchise leaves no stone unturned in its endeavor.
Around the horn
Should the Chicago Cubs re-sign Jon Lester, the best free-agent signing in Cubs history? MLB’s Astros investigation showed Luhnow’s awareness of sign-stealing. Independent ball, a criminal record and a dream: Rays’ Nick Anderson took ‘crazy path’ to the World Series. Kevin Cash got his Rays team to the World Series, but not without a few barbs from Terry Francona along the way. How valuable is Mookie Betts? Here are 25 ways he has helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win. Why the best is yet to come for the Atlanta Braves after their postseason loss to Dodgers.