It’s no secret watching the Detroit Tigers right now that they are struggling on offense. A large part of the struggles are strangely due to a lack of power in their offense. The Tigers are just 8th in the American League right now with 18 home runs so far this season, and are 11th in the A.L. in wOBA at .305. Even with the addition of Prince Fielder to the lineup, the Tigers have yet to put together a sustained offensive onslaught.
Part of that is due to Fielder himself only having two home runs this season, and he hit those in the same game. Part of it was a slump by Miguel Cabrera. A large part of the struggling offense however is the poor numbers the Tigers are getting from some of the “secondary” guys in the lineup. Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, Jhonny Peralta, and Alex Avila have to contribute as well.
I won’t even get into the guys who have been essentially automatic outs, we could beat those dead horses all day long.
What I did want to discuss is the absolute mashing that Tigers farmhand Brad Eldred has been doing in Toledo. Eldred homered again on Wednesday for the Mud Hens, giving him 5 in his last three games. In fact, in 20 games this season, Eldred has 13 home runs and 35 RBI, flashing the kind of power that makes us fans salivate. His OPS is 1.457 on the season so far. He has 31 hits in 80 at-bats, 23 of which are extra base hits, for a .388 batting average. Anywhere you see those kind of numbers they are eye popping, but don’t be fooled, and put your eyes back in, Eldred is no longer a prospect.
At 31 years old, Eldred has been in baseball for quite some time and has never been able to stick at the major league level for a significant period of time. At one time, Eldred was considered a top prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but has never really lived up to a top prospect’s billing when he has gotten the opportunity at the big league level. Ala Marcus Thames, Eldred has been filed away in the 4A category and is trying to work himself out. He looks too good for AAA pitching, but not quite good enough to play every day in the majors, or maybe even part time. His one tool, power, is impressive, but it also hasn’t been enough.
Eldred has had 260 major league at-bats over the span of three seasons for the Pirates and the Rockies. In those at-bats, Eldred has struck out 103 times, so there are some real holes in that mammoth 6’6″ frame of his. Eldred has always been a guy that will give you a lot of swing and miss, even in the minors, where he has done it 25% of the time regularly. But he has always been a guy that will give you a lot of power as well. In those 260 at-bats, he has also hit 15 home runs. Project that over a full season, and you have a guy that has legitimate 40 home run type power.
The problem? How many times have people done that with a guy like Marcus Thames? You can’t project small samples and be accurate. And Thames is a better hitter than Eldred. Eldred getting regular at-bats will get exploited much like the holes in his swing and 36.5% K rate in the majors would suggest. Eldred also doesn’t even have the defensive capabilities to do anything other than 1B or DH.
Still, the tremendous start Eldred is off to in Triple-A is impressive. If he keeps it up, he might even earn that fourth trip to a major league roster this summer. After all, it’s not like the Tigers aren’t carrying a couple of guys on their roster right now that struggle with the batting average. At least Eldred could run into one on occasion.
It will be interesting to see if he keeps it up, how long it will be before Eldred becomes the favorite for the fans to call upon to replace those guys of which I do not speak.
Or is that happening already?