Tigers Positional Analysis: Shortstop
By John Verburg
Today I continue my positional looks with one of the more frustrating on the Tigers currently, shortstop. Jhonny Peralta has been the discussion of many Tigers fans, and it goes all the way back to when the Tigers traded for him. His reputation for inconsistency reared its ugly head in 2012, posting a pedestrian season offensively after a fantastic 2011. With Peralta’s lack of mobility at shortstop, he is going to have to produce at the plate to appease what can be a fickle group of Tigers fans.
Oct 28, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta reacts after flying out to end the sixth inning during game four of the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Despite Peralta’s struggles at the plate in 2012, the Tigers were quick to exercise his option for the upcoming 2013 season. No doubt this is the result of the Tigers lacking a truly viable option in the upper minors to replace him, and helped by the fact that Peralta isn’t all that expensive for what the Tigers are getting. He can have an above average season at the plate as we have all seen, and the balls he does get to at short, he turns into outs.
The Tigers do still have Ramon Santiago, but at this point, he isn’t much of an upgrade defensively over Peralta, if any at all. The best defensive upgrade would probably come from Danny Worth, however, Worth at the plate would remind us all of Adam Everett, and Tigers fans couldn’t wait to run him out of town. I would probably be okay with an all glove shortstop, but not sure most people would.
The concern about the position isn’t going to go away after this season. Peralta’s contract is going to be up, and the likelihood the Tigers have a viable replacement from within that is ready seems slim. So, knowing that Peralta might be gone after 2013, let’s take a look at what the Tigers have in the system at shortstop.
Machado is an all glove shortstop, but it’s one heck of a glove. The arm is plus, he has range, and can make the spectacular play. He can also make some mental errors, but those are lessening as he matures. The problem is that physically he is so weak that even his decent plate discipline can’t help him. He just doesn’t have the strength to drive the all with any authority. If the offense even becomes a level that is playable, Machado could have some value.
Suarez right now looks like the best bet from within to take over the shortstop position long term. At least from within the organization. Suarez combines baseball intellect with instinct and solid tools across the board. Scouts continually seem luke warm on Suarez, but he continues to produce. It will be interesting to see if he can continue his offensive success as he moves beyond low A ball this season.
Delgado was a guy that I put in the third base section because of his size, but he can still play short as of now. Has some power projection on him, and I consider him kind of a sleeper in the Tigers system.
Gonzalez is a good athlete, has good plate discipline at the dish, but needs to get a big stronger himself. Gonzalez is another guy that I would suggest people pay a little more attention to as he moves up the ladder. Played in the Gulf Coast League last year.
I have a feeling that Betancourt will be moving to second base at some point, but as for now he is a shortstop. He has a potential plus bat, but I think will be too limited athletically in the future to stick at shortstop.
I put Joseph in my top 50, and although that might be aggressive, I like the profile. He hasn’t performed stateside yet, but he is just 18 years old and showed a good idea with a bat in his hands and some pop. He also runs pretty well and projects to be a good defender at the position.
Zambrano is a good hitter already at age 18, however, his lack of size is going to make things difficult for him in the future. He is just 5’6″, but a pretty good athlete. He is going to have to get strong, but the number of guys that make it at his size are pretty small.
Sayers is a relative unknown by most, even me. Still, the Tigers seemed to be very high on the Australian youngster who is supposed to carry a potential plus bat. We shall see.
There is quite a few question marks surrounding this position, both in the present and in the future. Do the Tigers try and extend Peralta for another year in hopes that Suarez continues down his path? Or do they look to find someone in a deal somewhere? The truth is all of the guys that I listed above are extremely young, and are at least three to four years away with the exception of Machado and Suarez.
The Tigers have been putting more resources into the position, especially internationally in recent years. A lot of the Tigers six figure signings involve guys that are playing the shortstop position. Two more are going to get started in the summer leagues this season in Domingo Leyba and Willy Adames. While none of these guys looks to be premium, there could be some quality players in the group. It’s just a long way away, and I’m not sure the Tigers are in the waiting kind of mood.