In the second installment of my series that I guess I have started, I wanted to look at the Tigers organizational outlook on first base. This has been a position in recent history that has been well accounted for. Since 2008, the Tigers have essentially had perennial All Star players at the position in Miguel Cabrera, and now Prince Fielder.
Before the season in 2012, Cabrera seemingly was going to be the Tigers first baseman for a long time. Surprise! The Tigers owner Mike Ilitch saw the opportunity to get Prince Fielder in the free agent market and took it, moving Cabrera back to 3rd base, a position he hadn’t played since the 2008 season when he came to Detroit.
The immediate outlook at the position is this. Prince Fielder is likely to be the Tigers first baseman for the next two years. He is terrible defensively, and really, Prince is just waiting Victor Martinez‘ contract out to move to the DH position. This will likely mean that 1B will likely be manned by Cabrera after that. Assuming of course the Tigers find a way to extend Miguel Cabrera into the next decade. Either way, the Tigers are well set at the major league level at the position.
There is absolutely no need for a first baseman to even be in the Tigers system for the most part. Unless the unimaginable happens, and neither Fielder or Cabrera are manning 1st base in three years.
I’ve committed to looking at the entire organization and the health of the position, so I am going to do that.
Lennerton is a pretty big time power guy. He is also a guy that has quite a bit of swing and miss in his game. While his numbers at the AA level have been intriguing, his swing and miss rate is only going to get worse when he hits the big leagues. There are significant holes in his swing that has significant power behind it. Defensively, Lennerton is quite good at 1st base, and one of the better ones in the system around the bag, if not the best.
Robbins is essentially a younger version of Lennerton. A lot of swing and miss in Robbins’ game, but he does have plenty of power projection in his bat. Around the bag defensively, he is pretty smooth and has a really good arm, but that doesn’t matter a ton at first.
Westlake is a guy that basically has to shine this year, otherwise I’m not sure he is ever going to be much more than organizational fodder. A solid defensive first baseman, Westlake isn’t producing with the bat like it was expected when the Tigers drafted him out of college. He is strong, and does use the whole field, but the bat speed isn’t premium and there are areas of the plate that big league pitchers would exploit.
Ustariz looks to have a quality bat. At least he shows a good idea of plate discipline at a young age. He isn’t athletic, so its doubtful that he sticks at third base where he currently plays most of the time. He might not, however, have enough power down the road to be a first baseman. Way too far off to call.
Not a first baseman defensively. He is likely a DH. I have to put him on here though because he has played first in the past.
When I set out to take a complete look at the positions, I knew this one would be a challenge. It’s simple to say that Prince Fielder is signed for eight more years so, there you have it. The likelihood the Tigers put up with Fielder’s D though will shrink within a couple of years. The obvious choice is to put Cabrera at 1st, but they will have to re-sign him. I think the Tigers will, so it looks like there should be no worries about this position for the next five to six years for sure. If the Tigers don’t extend Cabrera, and Fielder goes to DH, there could be some issue.