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Detroit Tigers Spring Training Roundtable: Best Long Shot to Make Team

benrosener
Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday (50) smiles during practice at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday (50) smiles during practice at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Who is the best long shot to make the roster of the Detroit Tigers out of Spring Training? Motor City Bengals has you covered.

Thanks to veteran/star-laden roster, the Detroit Tigers roster is largely set in stone as Spring Training moves along.

You, me and the foul pole know that, in addition to the stars, players like Cameron Maybin, Nick Castellanos and Mike Aviles are making the roster. The same logic applies to pitchers like Daniel Norris and Alex Wilson.

In other words, there won’t be too many surprises. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any surprises. Even if it upsets the apple cart, sometimes surprises can be a good thing—just look at J.D. Martinez.

This year’s surprise, or long shot rather, to make the roster could be a number of different players. We here at Motor City Bengals have tried to give you some kind of an idea of which long shot will make the team. In this situation, a “long shot” is a non-roster invitee, or a prospect or player buried on the depth chart. Here are the picks.

Kristen Bentley

Bryan Holaday. The catcher is out of options if he doesn’t make the team and he has serious competition from veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He is a competitive player who can catch and he can hit, too. He has a positive attitude and he knows Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. His biggest issue is his lack of power and the fact that he is right handed. Saltalamacchia can switch hit, which fills the limited left-handed hitters. But, Salty has struggled in the last few seasons, which is why the Tigers were able to snap him up so cheaply. If Holaday can show that he deserves the back-up spot, the Tigers will gladly hand it to him. Holaday’s 2015 numbers were better than Salty’s. He hit .281 with the Tigers, hit 2 home runs, and 13 RBIs. The back-up spot is his to lose.

Ben Rosener 

Wynton Bernard. One of the Tigers’ best prospects, the former minor-league free agent was recently added to the team’s 40-man roster. The Detroit brass is clearly a fan of the speedy outfielder, who has hit .323 and .301 in two respective seasons in the Tigers’ minor-league system.
Bernard has made good on his excellent speed with 88 steals since the start of the 2014 season. He would provide a formidable pinch-running duo with Anthony Gose off the bench. The Kansas City Royals have achieved considerable success with pinch running, and this could be Detroit’s response to that. 

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What’s more, if Bernard plays well, he could eventually force Gose off the roster given the similarity in playing styles. In this scenario, Gose would become a trade chip that Detroit could use to improve the roster in other areas. Or, the team could simply function with Bernard, Gose and Cameron Maybin producing on the active roster.

Of course, this would probably mean that

Tyler Collins

won’t make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. While Collins could provide a valuable bench bat, the presence of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles can make up for the outfielder’s productivity.

Geoff Robinson

Maybe I’m interpreting this differently than the other writers. But when you ask me about the best, I tell you the best right here and right now, not the guy with the brightest future. The best long shot to make this roster is its third catcher, Bryan Holaday. With the offseason signing of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Tigers were upgrading the power they could get from a backup catcher (9 HRs in 2015), but I’m not so sure they were upgrading the position across the board. James McCann is young, so he’s not going to be taking a lot of days off. At some point, this team needs a little stability. And if you can get that from a guy that knows the pitching staff and hit .281 in limited plate appearances last season, I say give him a chance.

Tom Zahari 

Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Joe Jimenez (77) pitches in the bullpen at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Joe Jimenez (77) pitches in the bullpen at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Joe Jimenez. I am of the belief that most of the roster is set. All of the position player spots are filled with a few bullpen spots up for grabs. A player that could make the team, much like Angel Nesbitt did last year, is Joe Jimenez. Jimenez pitched last season in West Michigan where he posted a 1.47 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. It would be a big jump from Single-A to the Major Leagues, but he received a non-roster invite to Spring Training and was the Tigers’ lone representative at the 2015 Future’s Game. His fastball ranges from 94-98 on the gun. He features a slider and changeup that need work, but a guy who can throw 98 will always get a look.

Aaron Nusbaum

Bryan Holaday. He may not be much of a long shot since he has major league experience, but he is a backup catcher meaning he’ll be taking back seat to James McCann. Although the Tigers picked up Jarrod Saltalamacchia he isn’t that good of a hitter. Since 2009 he’s only hit over .250 once (2013) and he finished 2015 with a him-haw .225 average. Bryan Holaday, despite only playing part time, has only hit below .250 once in his career spanning back to 2012. He has proven year after year that despite not being a full time catcher he can put up a decent batting average when needed which should give him a spot on the roster.

Next: Justin Upton Player Preview

Your Opinion

Holaday seems to be a popular choice. Do you agree? If not Holaday, is it Bernard or Jimenez? Tell us what you think and join the conversation on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Also, check back in with Motor City Bengals each day this week for more roundtables on everything Spring Training for the Detroit Tigers.

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