Saturday, January 29, 2011
Infield Outlook for 2011
Continuing with my position outlook for the 2011 Detroit Tigers
1st Base- Miguel Cabrera-
Cabrera is the foundation of Detroit’s present and future. The soon to be 28-year old is already a 5-time All-Star. Since becoming full-time major leaguer at the age of 21, in 2004, Cabrera has averaged 100 runs, 40 doubles, 34 Home Runs, with 117 RBI, and a .317 batting average. Last season, Cabrera almost became the first AL Triple Crown winner since Ted Williams in 1967, by finishing 2nd in Batting Average, 3rd in Home Runs, and 1st in RBI. Cabrera was the centerpiece of the December 2007 trade with the Florida Marlins, and can not test the Free Agent waters until 2016 at the earliest.
2nd Base- Scott Sizemore, Will Rhymes, or Carlos Guillen Sizemore, Rhymes, Guillen will compete for time as the team’s primary 2nd baseman. Here’s what we know; starting with Carlos Guillen. Guillen is coming off microfracture surgery on his left knee, injured last season, and the Tigers are cautiously optimistic he will be ready for game action in Mid-March. We know that Baseball America has projected Scott Sizemore as the Tigers 2nd baseman of the Future, in its prospect handbook issues from 2009 and 2010. That being said, we know that Will Rhymes spent the most time at second base for Detroit in 2010, of all the players on the spring training roster.
In a perfect world Guillen returns healthy and resumes the form that made him a 3-time All-star. Reality says that won’t end up happening as Guillen has had a consistent decline of AB’s per year since 2007, and has missed an average of 49 games a year over the past 5 seasons. According to GM Dave Dombrowski, the doctors supervising Guillen’s rehab say he should be able to start playing in games around the middle of March, which means Guillen would already be a month behind, at the start of the season.
So the Tigers go into the year with their biggest question mark on the roster, with who will play 2nd base for the team. If Sizemore is going to make the position “his” this is probably his last year to do so. Sizemore has a .296 batting average, with a .382 career On-base %, in 5 seasons in the Tigers minor league system, so the potential is there. Rhymes has similar statistics over his minor league career, but is a bit older, with less power. Rhymes, also bats left-handed and brings a bit more speed to the position. Regardless of who ends up garnering the most AB’s out of spring training, 2nd base will end up being the weakest position in the Tigers 2011 infield.
Shortstop - Jhonny Peralta He started 2010 as the Cleveland Indians starting 3B, but in June Peralta was traded to the Tigers for minor league pitcher Giovanni Soto, and cash. In coming to Detroit, Peralta moved from 3B, where he played in 91 of his 100 games with the Tribe, to Shortstop for the Tigers. Peralta and Brandon Inge give the Tigers a pretty solid left-side of the infield, but questions persist regarding Peralta’s range at short. What Peralta does do is bring a potent bat for his position, averaging 564 AB’s, 33 doubles, 2 triples, 18 HR’s and 78 RBI a season since 2005. The cost of that power is that he also strikes out 132 times a season, with a .266 batting average.
3rd Base- Brandon Inge After starting his Tigers career as a Catcher, the former Virginia Commonwealth University shortstop, moved out from behind the plate starting in 2004, and settled in as the Tigers “super-sub” playing 3b, C and OF in ’04 and ’05, and parts of 2008, but as the Tigers primary 3B in 2006, ’07, ’09 and ’10 seasons. From 2001-2003 catching took its toll on Inge at the plate as he hit only .198 and averaged 5 HR’s and 74 K’s per year. Since moving out from behind the plate, Inge has brought his batting average up to a decent .246, while increasing his power to 23 doubles, 4 triples, 17 HR’s and 71 RBI per year, the added power has also upped his strike-out total to 127 per year as well. Concern remains for the Tigers that with Peralta’s somewhat limited range at short that Inge will have to make more plays defensively, and risk injury or struggle at the plate as a result.
Infield: If the left-side of the infield, (Inge and Peralta) can stay solid defensively, and Sizemore can handle being the team’s second baseman for the now and “of the future”, the Tigers 2011 Infield has a chance to be very solid all the way around, and in the case of Cabrera- Spectacular. The offensive potential is there for the Tigers to help improve on their runs scored this season, and if the defense is solid, the 2011 infield could lead the way for Detroit to be playoff bound.