The dog days of August are over, and the Detroit Tigers look to turn a new leaf heading into the final 30 days of an up-and-down 2014 season for new manager Brad Ausmus.
The Tigers brought their win total up to 75 and currently sit a half-game back (in the loss column) of the Kansas City Royals, a team who has cooled off from their hot streak since the non-waiver trade deadline. Detroit recently called up a handful of minor leaguers as September call-ups. Some are eligible for the playoff roster, but some are up for their first cup of coffee in the big leagues.
Many players that the Tigers depend on need to step up down the stretch of the Tigers want to clinch the mediocre American League Central or compete for the second wild card birth in the AL (thanks for the addition, Bud Selig). Miguel Cabrera is one of those core players who is nursing a sore ankle, but played extremely well on Labor Day against Tigers division rival, the Cleveland Indians.
In the ninth inning of that game, four of the recent call-ups entered the game. Hernan Perez led off the top of the inning with a single followed by Steven Moya‘s first career major league hit that he muscled through the right side. Tyler Collins then ripped a bomb over the right-centerfield wall to increase the Tigers lead to 11. Catcher James McCann also entered in the bottom half of the ninth inning, relieving Alex Avila of his duties for the day.
The young guys made an impact during their first action of the year (except for Collins), so what can these guys bring to the table for the Tigers as they begin their push back to the top of the AL Central? Here is a quick look at what each position player recently called up will bring to the table:
Steven Moya OF
I wrote about Moya in depth back in spring training, when he was lighting up expanded major league rosters. He earned a spot on the Erie Seawolves (Double-A) and kept the hot bat going. Moya finished the season as the Eastern League MVP, a Futures All-Star Game member and the second Seawolve to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI in team history.
Moya’s one problem as a hitter is his plate discipline. His walk rate of 4.2% is extremely low, and he still strikes out a lot despite facing minor league pitching (29.3% K rate, his highest since 2011). The six-foot-six outfielder finally was healthy in 2014, so his power was on display for the entire Eastern League.
Moya just turned 23 on August 9th, so he still holds a lot of promise as he will more than likely begin 2015 in Toledo (Triple-A). But, he can bring some bench power to the Tigers, something the team has lacked all season. In his only at-bat thus far, the free-swinging Moya swung at a couple pitches way out of the strike zone, Javier Baez style. His single through the right side was on a pitch way down and in, but his strength powered the ball past Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis.
He will strike out a lot and walk very little, but I’m sure he will lay into a couple with some of those big-time hits coming late in the game for the Tigers, who need to come to play every game down the stretch.
Hernan Perez 2B/SS
Perez played all year in AAA as both a second baseman and shortstop. The six-foot-one infielder has some major league experience, so expecting him to be the leader among the young guys isn’t inexplicable. Perez looks like a future utility infielder with a little pop in his bat. Right now, I believe he can bring more to the table than what Andrew Romine has thus far since being traded for Jose Alvarez earlier in the season.
There was always the Eugenio Suarez/Perez debate on who has the better future. I was always in the Suarez camp, but that is no indictment on Perez. He can field his position at an average major league level and could provide a spark with the very limited playing time he will see. He doesn’t strike out a lot and had solid splits in 2014 of .287/.331/.404. Along with Moya, Perez isn’t eligible for the playoff roster, but could steal some playing time from Romine over the final month.
Tyler Collins OF
Collins made the Tigers out of spring training after Andy Dirks went down with a back injury. He was up for part of the first month then spent the rest of the rest of the season in Toledo, where he belted 18 home runs and drove in 62 while swiping 12 bags. Collins struck out a lot at Triple-A but was able to post a walk rate of 9.3%, nothing new for five-foot-eleven lefty.
He showed off his power with the homer against the Indians on Monday, which is something the Tigers saw from him back in the spring. He’s country strong and could provide some late-game base running as well.
James McCann C
McCann has been praised by many evaluators for his defensive skills with some saying they are already major league ready. The big question surrounding the former second round pick was if his bat could become consistent. Well, McCann proved that in Toledo this season.
The starting catcher for the MudHens had very impressive splits of .295/.343/.427, batting in the middle of the order. He is the third catcher for the Tigers behind Avila and Bryan Holaday. A platoon with Avila looks to be in the near future, but for now, it looks as if McCann is their for the experience, while he maintains the job as the emergency catcher.
The Tigers have used the three pitchers who were recalled (Kyle Lobstein, Robbie Ray and Kyle Ryan) this season both out of the bullpen and as spot starters. Lobstein is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Indians. Him, Ray and Ryan could be competing for the final rotation spot during the final month as Anibal Sanchez looks to be done for the regular season.
The young guys won’t be everyday players this season, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one or two of them won a couple of crucial games for the Tigers down the stretch.