The Tigers somewhat problematic 3rd base position took a weird, but substantial turn before the 2012 season began. As we all know, the Tigers went out and signed Prince Fielder, which in turn displaced Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera from his home at first, and pushed him to the other side of the diamond where he hadn’t played since 2008.
Oct 25, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24, left) and San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48, right) smile during the eighth inning of game two of the 2012 World Series at AT
The experience certainly had it’s ups and downs. Cabrera isn’t the most mobile of players over there, and coupled with Jhonny Peralta at SS, the Tigers left side of the infield is a bit immobile to say the least. Many speculated about the defensive troubles that Cabrera would have over at third, and they were right to a certain extent. But he also did better than expected in the errors department. Offensively, Cabrera is one of the best in the game, and that easily made up for his defensive shortcomings.
Going into 2013, there is no doubt that Cabrera will be playing 3rd base again for the Tigers, and probably will be in 2014 as well. The situation gets a bit murkier after that, and largely in part due to Victor Martinez‘ contract expiring. At that point, Prince Fielder will likely be moving to the DH spot, and Cabrera will probably go back to first. No doubt that at least defensively, that is the better spot for Cabrera at this stage of his career.
So what will the Tigers future look like at that position. Well, I contend, they will just move in the next guy in Nick Castellanos, and he likely will be at third for quite some time. Third base is clearly Castellanos’ best defensive position thus far where he is considered adequate. Two years though is a long time to wait for a guy that could be knocking on the big league door sometime this summer though. Since the Tigers haven’t displayed a ton of patience with their prospects in the past, Castellanos has been working out in the outfield, where LF is probably his best bet.
The Tigers could afford to be patient with Castellanos if they choose and continue to work him at third base in Erie if they should choose to do so. There isn’t a lot of other options down on the farm at the position, so it’s not like he would be blocking development of someone else.
Here is a look at some of the Tigers other third baseman in the minors.
Gaynor doesn’t play the position well, so it’s likely he is going to get opportunities elsewhere on the diamond, and at this point he is getting into borderline non prospect territory.Despite having some tools when drafted, Gaynor hasn’t really put together things consistently.
King is another guy that had some tools when drafted in 2011, but hasn’t done much in his time in the Tigers organization. A grinder type, some of his athleticism has been sapped by a couple of knee surgeries.
Delgado is a shortstop, and currently can play the position well enough to stick there. However, he is a bigger guy, and as he continues to get older, and hopefully bigger and stronger, Delgado could see a move to third base in his future. A long way off, Delgado is too much of a wild card right now.
Despite a lack of organizational depth at the position, the Tigers are set at third base for the long term. The only thing that I could see getting in the way is; one, they don’t extend Cabrera beyond their current contract, and two, Castellanos is dealt in the next couple of years. If Castellanos is traded, then this position becomes one in which the Tigers are going to have find someone in the trade or free agent market.
I think the Tigers hold onto Castellanos and the scenario plays out where Fielder heads to DH, Cabrera to first and Castellanos to third. If that happens, this position isn’t of much concern at all for the foreseeable future.