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The Tigers should sign minor league outfielder Nick Plummer

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This MiLB free agent is one of the best in recent memory.

MiLB: AUG 17 Gulf Coast League - GCL Cardinals at GCL Nationals Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Minor League free agents might not grab headlines or be as exciting as the big contracts, and for good reason. For the most part they are journeymen or underperformers. Sometimes one of these players can work out. The Detroit Tigers know this in the form of Niko Goodrum. Every so often one of these players that reaches Minor League free agency can be a hot commodity. Enter former St. Louis Cardinal’s outfield prospect, Nick Plummer.

Plummer was recently informed by the Cardinals he wouldn’t make their 40-man roster and thus he elected to become a free agent. Any team can swoop in and sign him away. That team should be the Tigers. This is a low risk signing with high upside, even if his career numbers don’t show it. He wouldn’t have to be an immediate add to the 40-man for Detroit, but he likely could produce more than some on the currently there.

It probably seems silly to fixate on one player without MLB experience while the Tigers are gearing up to take a leap into relevance. This isn’t a flashy Carlos Correa or Marcus Stroman-type signing, but it’s one that could pay off handsomely at negligible cost.

Background

The Cardinals selected Plummer as a first rounder out of high school back in 2015. He’s an alumni of Brother Rice in Bloomfield Hills. That’s right, a Michigan native. He would fail to graduate the A-ball levels before the cancelled 2020 MiLB season. That does include an injury in 2016, but the picture is painted. He struggled mightily.

At the Rookie level in 2015, Plummer hit .228 and would never surpass that...until 2021. Across Double-A and Triple-A this past season Plummer slashed .280/.415/.479. He smacked 15 homeruns where his previous high was eight. Everything ticked up in a big way. It looked like he was on the fast track to debut in St. Louis at any minute, and now he’s on the open market.

Those improvements are nice, but what’s even better is that they didn’t come at a detriment to what he was always doing well. Through all the struggles, Plummer never had a walk rate under 13.2 percent. He made the pitcher work, almost to a fault sometimes. In the past his approach was pretty passive, he was waiting for something to come to him. He still walked a lot even when that approach changed and the rest of his numbers ticked up.

What Changed?

It’s easy to look at one big jump and be skeptical of what is different. Maybe he just had a good year and was seeing the ball better than he ever had. It’s not insane to think about. With Plummer, though, there are some legitimate changes he made to his swing to unlock more at the plate. More contact, more power, everything benefitted from the change.

It should not be lost on anyone that the injuries that marred Plummer early in his career were really hurting his development. It’s not the excuse for bad play, but it certainly plays a factor especially with prep players.

That’s where the COVID season comes into play. It seems that Plummer to every moment of that break and used it to his advantage. There seemed to be some changes to his physical appearance, which speaks to some of the power. However the focal point is the swing. Plummer’s always had pretty quick wrists, but he’s adjusted his swing to make the barrel more dangerous through the zone. Essentially, he shortened everything up and is letting his natural abilities play better. Observer this homerun off of a top pitcher from the 2020 draft, Max Meyer.

When a hitter looks to make changes, this is what they should be aiming to do. Finding ways to maximize their natural strengths. Plummer did a phenomenal job of that.

Another change comes noticed by Kyle Reis of Birds on the Black, who notes that Plummer’s approach has evolved too. He’s always drawn walks, but he made a jump from passive to aggressive and looking to make something happen. That’s been another big reason for the turnaround.

Why Is Plummer Interesting?

The bat is one thing, and I vehemently believe in the changes. He also gets nothing but high marks for his makeup. Plummer is a really good guy and hard worker. On top of all of that, he can handle any outfield position. I think he’s best suited for centerfield. Here’s a look courtesy of Kyle Reis.

Highlights are highlights, but the fact remains that Plummer is a solid defender with the arm to handle any of the outfield positions. That gives him flexibility. Think of how many outfielders played a role in the 2021 season. Plummer has a chance to be better than most of that group, in my mind.

There are a lot of outfielders on Detroit’s 40-man roster, which makes this a tough fit. This comes down to talent. Straight up, Nick Plummer is talented enough to help the Tigers take that step forward if everything works out. He can hit, hit with some power, and is solid defender.

The Tigers have a pair of depth outfielders in the form of Victor Reyes and Daz Cameron, while Derek Hill has the inside track to play a role on the 2022 Tigers. All three have options remaining, and neither Reyes nor Cameron has done much to lock up a spot on the 40-man roster either. The Tigers could take a shot at Plummer and give him a look this spring without forcing any tough decisions. This is a smart and cost-effective move to improve the roster and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t hurt them. It’s not the flashy big deal that catches the eye in free agency, but it could pay off substantially. The Detroit Tigers should be in on trying to sign Nick Plummer.