The Detroit Tigers have not always been a team that have used platoons, but 2015 will be different. Entering 2014, the Tigers believed they were going to use a platoon of Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis in left field, but the platoon quickly disintegrated once Dirks was injured. The platoon was going to move to center field after Austin Jackson was traded with Davis and Ezequiel Carrera, but Davis dominated the playing time.
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This season, the Tigers should look to use at least two platoons to maximize their efficiency.
The main platoon the Tigers will use is in center field with Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose. Davis will start against all left handed pitching after his .356/.382/.557 split against lefties in 2014. Gose will play against right handed pitching with his .241/.316/.350 split compared to his .208/.246/.267 split against lefties.
Both of these players will most likely see at least 100 games this season in one form or another, especially with their speed as pinch runners. Both Gose and Davis can steal a base or two, which is very valuable in close late game situations.
The second platoon is at catcher. Alex Avila should only start against right handed pitching or if a starting pitcher specifically needs Avila as his personal catcher. I’ve already written multiple times that I believe Avila should hit 2nd against right handed pitching and you can see all the numbers as to why there.
Avila is awful against left handed pitching though, which will allow James McCann to become acclimated to the Major Leagues against lefties. He had a .336/.396/.469 split in the minors last season against lefties and those numbers should translate well to the Majors.
I said at least two platoons earlier in the article, and the last platoon depends on injuries for the Tigers entering 2015. I don’t believe that Miguel Cabrera will be ready for Opening Day because of the wording of his latest injury report of being ready “around Opening Day.” Victor Martinez should be ready for Opening Day, but he will serve as a full time DH instead of playing some first base, especially off of knee surgery.
The question then becomes who will fill in for Cabrera for the first (couple? few?) series. Martinez and Cabrera are the only two players on the Tigers roster who have seen significant time at first base. Without either of those two playing first, the Tigers will most likely need to turn to a utility man to play first in Cabrera’s absence. Without Don Kelly, those players will most likely be Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine.
If that doesn’t show why it is incredibly important as to why the Tigers need to get Martinez and Cabrera healthy, I don’t know what will. If the Tigers want to use someone who is currently on the 40 man roster, they could pick from Stephen Moya, Tyler Collins, James McCann, or Bryan Holaday as a fill-in first baseman.
The Tigers have also invited Jordan Lennerton and Aaron Westlake as non-roster invitees to Spring Training. If Cabrera is going to miss any significant time, I could easily see Lennerton getting a call up to try to buy Cabrera time to get healthy. Lennerton could get some reps, or the Tigers could try to go with a Perez/Romine platoon.