Brad Ausmus has very few vacancies left in his clubhouse for Opening Day. However, the players he eventually selects to fill those roster spots could play pivotal roles in the fate of the 2015 Detroit Tigers.
Here are five Detroit Tigers who should break camp with the major league club on April 6th, against the Minnesota Twins:
1. James McCann
What little competition there was between McCann and Bryan Holaday is now settled. Barring an injury, the young backstop, McCann, should be Alex Avila’s back-up, in 2015. In 25 at-bats, McCann is hitting .480 with a .500 OBP, and a 1.060 OPS while Holaday is hitting .143 and only has three hits all spring.
Says the Tigers’ skipper, of McCann, “He is very alert. His head is into the game at all times. He understands that his value is greater on the defensive side of the game than it is when he is standing in the batter’s box.”
It is likely that McCann was Ausmus’ odds-on favorite from the outset, but he has surely set himself apart in camp.
Collins made the Opening Day roster in 2014, but failed to impress early on, and did not make it back on to the major league club until later in the year. However, when he did finally re-join the Tigers, Collins had some impressive at-bats, including a go-ahead single against James Shields in Kansas City, and an eye-opening first career homer in Cleveland.
What is equally impressive is the way he has brought that positive momentum into 2015. In Spring Training, Collins is hitting .281 with 7 RBIs, and he has outperformed fellow prospect Steven Moya. Daniel Fields is another candidate for this fourth outfielder spot, after hitting .345 with 2 homeruns this spring, but Collins is the more polished player, and the job should be his.
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Despite posting a 1.48 ERA and striking out 72 batters in 66 2/3 innings between Single-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, Nesbitt would have been a surprise pick to make the 2015 major league roster, before Spring Training began. Now, for a team that has been plagued by poor bullpen performance for several years, he is hard to ignore.
The 6-1 right-hander has been impressive. Really impressive. In 6 games this spring, Nesbitt has an ERA of 1.50 and has struck out 5 while only allowing 3 hits. Nesbitt should be in the Tigers’ bullpen at the start of the regular season, but if does not earn the spot, it will not be long before Detroit realizes their mistake.
4. Hernan Perez
In the Motor City Bengals Spring Training Roundtable, I stated that I believed the utility infielder on this team should be Hernan Perez, not Andrew Romine. Perez has confirmed that notion in Spring Training. In 15 games, the 24 year-old infielder has .314, tallied 3 RBIs, stolen one base, and walked 3 times.
Romine, meanwhile is hitting .172 and he has almost twice as many strikeouts (9) as hits (5). Recently, Ausmus has suggested that both players may make the roster, but if it comes down to one, or the other, Hernan Perez should certainly lock down this role.
5. Ian Krol
Of anyone on this list, Krol is the least deserving, but he is the lesser of some clear evils. While Krol has posted a disappointing 5.40 ERA, that is, somehow, leaps and bounds superior to his left-handed counterpart Tom Gorzelanny.
Gorzelanny, who the Tigers signed in the offseason, has been atrocious in his first few outings with the Tigers, and has only been rivaled in futility by Joba Chamberlain. In six outings, Gorzelanny is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA, and more walks than strikeouts.
Krol should be on the roster as insurance against lefties. Beyond that, if he can re-capture the form that allowed him to post a 2.05 ERA in his first 31 appearances of 2014, he can be just as important as any other player on this list.