As Garret Craig pointed out (and others have as well) Nick Castellanos has been hot through a week of spring training games. He’s the top prospect in an organization that has no problem whatsoever with rushing guys to the big leagues – he’s going to be given a real long look and if he continues to hit like this (which is a little bit implausible) he could, just could, find himself travelling north with the big-league club in April.
March 01, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Jeff Kobernus (46) is caught stealing as New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada (11) applies the tag in the spring training game at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
But… Castellanos isn’t the only guy fighting for a roster spot nor is he the only guy making most of seven games under the gaze of Dombrowski, Leyland and friends. I’d first note that, after Castellanos, the other top prospect for the Tigers that has been impressive has been Tyler Collins who has 4 extra base hits (and a .400 BA) under his belt already. Collins is actually older than Castellanos, but you’d have to say that unlike Castellanos he is not going to get any serious consideration for a job this spring training – after all he did hit .444 last spring training too. He may rake up until the first cut, but he’s still likely to be send promptly to minor league camp barring a rash of injuries. As for next spring training? Maybe he will get a look. Avisail Garcia is doing “fine” too – but for a guy that really has to make it hard for the team to not give him a starting job, doing “fine” (.250/.333/.500) probably isn’t enough. Personally I’m encouraged by the fact that Garcia has actually drawn two walks despite the pressure to hack to impress Jim Leyland.
The real action as far as spring training battles isn’t actually among “top prospects”, it’s among reserves and fringy AAAA type guys. The Tigers are going to have to make hard decisions in allocating the last 3 positional roster spots – again assuming we don’t have a rash of injuries. One of those will probably go to Ramon Santiago, unless they decide to simply eat his salary. Santiago hasn’t played in a game yet this spring training, so if somebody wanted to take his job… At any rate, the remaining two spots would have to go to somebody who could play in the outfield and somebody who could play in the infield and preferably to guys who could play both.
The guy who is going to get the longest and most serious look is Jeff Kobernus, not because he is necessarily the most talented, experienced or steadiest option but because he is a rule 5 pick and would otherwise be lost. The questions for him are: can he hit at all and can he handle himself in the outfield. So far I’d say he’s doing well on both counts, with a .771 spring training OPS. That puts pressure on the other guys who fill the same role – reserve infielder plus platoon partner for Andy Dirks – Kevin Russo and Danny Worth. Offensively, Russo has done much more thus far to make his case – with 6 hits (including two doubles and a homer) in 12 at-bats than has Worth.
The last category is the poor, downtrodden left-handed outfielders who have very little hope of making the team no matter how they hit. But… Dirks has been hurting and not hitting and that leaves the door open just a crack. Boesch has also been hurt (and not playing), Quentin Berry has been hurting and playing (badly) just a little so the primary face of this group has been Don Kelly – who is still fighting and fighting for that spot that just ain’t there. If it were, he’d have to be happy about that .943 OPS through 7 games.
Current stock watch: Dirks down, Berry down, Boesch down, Santiago down, Worth down. Kelly up, Castellanos up, Kobernus up, Russo up. Garcia no change.