Although the winter weather in the northeast and midwest is relentless, the Detroit Tigers and the rest of baseball are ready to start spring training games on Monday.
Manager Brad Ausmus had already announced last week, according to Chris Iott of MLive.com, that Tim Melville would start the first game on March 2. On Sunday, Ausmus released his plans for the lineup:
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Obviously, it’s a tad early to be second guessing Ausmus for his lineup choices particularly when two of his everyday players, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, are still recovering from offseason surgery and a third everyday player, catcher Alex Avila, is dealing with tightness in his back.
But it’s still worth noting the placement of Cespedes in the clean up spot.
Cespedes is mostly known for his power displays in the last two home run derbies, but the 29-year-old can also steal bases and post a high on-base percentage.
Like Cespedes, Detroit’s lineup is known for its power, but after finishing last in the American League in steals, 35, during Jim Leyland‘s final season with the club in 2013, the Tigers ranked fourth in the AL last season with 106 steals.
Once Cabrera and Martinez make their way back into the lineup, it will be interesting to see if Cespedes moves to a position in the batting order to further transition the Tigers into a more aggressive team on the base paths. The other option would be to use Cespedes in the five or six hole as a protector for Cabrera and Martinez.
Cespedes typically hit third, fourth or fifth with Oakland and Boston last year, but in his first season in 2012, Cespedes showed he has the skills of a top of the lineup player. That season, Cespedes hit .292 with a .356 on-base percentage, 16 steals and 23 home runs. In the last two seasons, however, Cespedes has done very little on the bases, 14 steals in 2013 and 2014 combined, and has seen his on-base percentage drop over 50 points (.294 in 2013, .301 in 2014).
Spring training will not only be a good indication of whether Cespedes can return to those on-base and stolen bases numbers from three years ago, but also whether the Tigers want him to get on base and swipe a bag or just swing for the fences.