It’s sometimes easy to pick out guys who have a lot of talent as guys to “watch” for an upcoming season. We have covered a bunch of those guys in our MCB Top 50, and in 2012, at some point we are probably going to see guys like Jacob Turner and Drew Smyly. Probably Andy Oliver and Casey Crosby as well. These are the best Tigers prospects that are currently making their way through the upper minors.
But these likely aren’t the only guys from Toledo and Erie that are going to make their way to Detroit at some point. Injuries happen, and they don’t always happen in spots where you have a major league ready prospect ready to go at the spot. So inevitably, there are some surprises. Last season, I think Tigers fans may have been aware of Andy Dirks, but he made a name for himself in spring training, and really put himself to the forefront of Tigers’ fans minds. Luis Marte resurrected his baseball career and made it to the Tigers’ as well. Point is, these guys weren’t really on the radar as being options at this point of the year.
I would like to explore three players in the mold of these guys that could see time on the big league team in the right circumstances for 2012. Or, the wrong circumstances, depending on how you look at it.
Looking at the weak spots on the Tigers roster, obviously 2nd base and 3rd base jump out right away. If an injury occurs to guys at either of those spots, the Tigers might be able to use someone on the roster to fill in, like Don Kelly, but they don’t have a long term solution there. Second base is easy. If Santiago got hurt for instance, Danny Worth would be the likely replacement, and we have seen him already, so I decided against him. 3rd base is a different story. If Brandon Inge gets hurt, or just plain stinks, the Tigers don’t have an option besides Kelly really. And that is where my first guy comes from. Again, not saying he is a top prospect, just a guy we could see.
Pounds’ name probably isn’t completely out of the blue for Tigers fans. Anyone that delves into following minor league baseball a little bit probably latched onto his name last season while Inge was struggling mightily. If Inge was to get hurt and the Tigers felt they needed a guy for Kelly to platoon with, Pounds could be that guy. He simply could be the benefactor of playing a position
where the Tigers are thin. The interesting thing is we can kind of compare his numbers to Inge, as both guys got a similar amount of at-bats in AAA Toledo last year. Both guys hit .287, however Inge showed more power, but Pounds wasn’t bad. Pounds had an OPS of .792. He also struck out just slightly more than Inge at Toledo and didn’t get on base as much. Despite probably being a guy who would struggle in the majors, Pounds would have a shot at a call up in an injury situation if he starts his 2012 off well enough.
Relief pitching is another area we could see some movement on the Tigers roster in 2012. I don’t think the Tigers are in bad shape here, but I don’t think they are in great shape either. Adding Octavio Dotel helps, but relief pitching is easily one of the more volatile positions on a baseball field. Performance can vary from year to year. It also seems like injuries strike this department harshly as well. Mainly cause its a bunch of guys putting a lot of stress on their arms in short stints. For those reasons, we could possibly see these two somewhat “off the radar” guys wearing a Tigers uniform next season.
Wood makes this list of three guys in large part because he is a lefty reliever. The Tigers do have some guys that might be on the pecking order first in Fu-Te-Ni and Matt Hoffman, but I think with a strong start, Wood can easily get in the mix. The Tigers appear to be going into 2012 with 2 short inning left-handed relievers in Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke. While Coke doesn’t seem like an injury risk in particular, and probably won’t be demoted for performance, the same can’t be said for Schlereth. Schlereth has already done a little back and forth with the Tigers, and it isn’t out the question with his sometimes command issues that it could happen again. If that happens, Wood could be there to pounce on the opportunity. Last season in AA Erie, Wood had a strong season posting an ERA of 3.16, and struck out close to a batter per inning. If things fall right for Wood, he might get his first taste of big league action in 2012.
While Wood is on our MCB Top 5o prospects list at 21, Gayhart is a right-handed reliever that didn’t make the cut. That doesn’t mean he is out of the question as having some potential to make the big league roster at some point though. Gayhart had a strong season last year, finishing with an ERA of 3.38. There might even still be some upside yet with Gayhart as well. He hasn’t really started pitching full time until he was drafted in 2008. Given the injury to Al Alburquerque, the age of Octavio Dotel, the ineffectiveness with the Tigers of David Pauley, and the unfamiliarity with Colin Balester, I can’t say that there won’t be an opportunity for some right-handed relievers at some point. Gayhart might not be at the top of that list, but with a strong showing early in 2012, he could put himself in that conversation.
So, there you have it. Three guys to watch in 2012, that might not be at the forefront of Tigers fans minds. There are sure to be some surprises. There always is.