5 Offensive Difference Makers for 2015 Detroit Tigers
By Matt Pelc
Sep 23, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13) hits a single in the seventh inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
#5 The catcher position
The Tigers seem determined to carry dual catchers this season. While they have always carried multiple catchers, there was always a clear #1 (Alex Avila) and a clear #2. Last year’s #2 (Bryan Holaday) seems a long shot to make the club with the rise of James McCann.
It does not seem that Avila is in the Tigers’ plans long-term so this year could be an opportunity for Avila to take McCann under his wing, and split the work to prepare him for the full-time job in 2016.
It has become apparent with Alex what exactly you will get from him–defense first. After an off-year in 2013, Avila reestablished himself as one of the best defensive catchers but continued to get dinged up on freak injuries leading to worries about his future at the position. At the plate he has regressed each season since an All-Star 2011 campaign, bottoming out with a .218 average and .686 OPS last year.
This has opened the door for McCann, a player that posted decent stats in Toledo (.295 average, .770 POS) and was competent behind the plate. Many wanted him to come up last year and offer a hitting threat at the plate, something Avila and Holaday couldn’t.
The lefty-righty hitting combo of Avila and McCann will likely earn a split depending on the starter. Perhaps more rest will keep Alex fresh, prone to less injury and able to recapture some hitting prowess. McCann is a rookie and will likely hit like one too, but he has shown enough promise to put up numbers like last year’s rookie, Nick Castellanos (.259, 11 HR, .700 OPS).
If either or both of those happen, the Tigers will immediately upgrade the offensive contribution from that lineup slot.