The Detroit Tigers have a number of players up for potential roster spots this spring. One area where there is competition is for the role of backup infielder.
The Detroit Tigers have a number of intriguing battles for roster spots as Spring Training continues to roll along. While Bryan Holaday and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are potentially fighting for one roster spot, and the battle for backup outfield places features a number of options, the real intrigue comes on the bench.
Given the talent already on the Tigers depth chart, manager Brad Ausmus already knows that Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Jose Iglesias and Nick Castellanos will be the regular starters around the infield. Those are knowns at this point. Another known is that Mike Aviles (who just signed with Detroit in the offseason) will make the team. The versatile 35-year-old can fill in at all three outfield positions, in addition to second base, third base and shortstop.
The unknowns are more in regards to the other infielders that will make the team. Andrew Romine has been on the team the last two years, but he’s a career .242 hitter, and hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire during Spring Training. Aviles is an offensive upgrade that is much more versatile where defense is concerned, making Romine that much more expendable.
As mentioned, Romine isn’t exactly Miguel Cabrera with the bat in his hands. He has hit .237 with a .566 OPS in two years with Detroit after playing sporadically with the Angels for parts of three seasons.
Coincidentally, during Spring Training, the utility player’s batting average is nearly identical to his batting average as a member of the Tigers. Romine is hitting .238 this spring with two runs, two RBI and a stolen base in 14 games.
Despite the underwhelming numbers from a contact standpoint, the 30-year-old has drawn seven walks in 12 games compared to only three strikeouts.
True to form as a utility ace, Romine has logged games at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and center field.
Dixon Machado would probably make the Detroit Tigers Opening Day roster if it weren’t for the presence of Jose Iglesias. You can repeat that same sentence with Ian Kinsler, Aviles and Romine’s names in place of Iglesias. Point is, Machado should be on the big league roster.
In fact, if it weren’t for Iglesias, Machado would probably be the starter at shortstop. The 24-year-old infielder hasn’t done himself any favors with a .136 batting average and a .310 OPS this spring, but he’s a stellar defender with a plus-plus arm and brings above average skills in all other aspects of defending.
Unlike the others on this list, Machado is a definite part of the Tigers future. He could take over as the long-term replacement for Kinsler. In a similar scenario, the rookie would take over at shortstop with Iglesias moving to second base.
Unlike Romine and Machado, McGehee didn’t start out as a middle infielder.
Primarily a corner infielder that is valued for his bat, McGehee has brought it in the offensive department. In 28 spring at-bats, the 33-year-old is hitting a stellar .321 with a .912 OPS.
Earlier in the spring, he didn’t exactly establish himself as Gold Glove favorite with his defense. However, if he can produce at anywhere near the level he did in 2014 (when he hit .287, drove 76 runs and posted a 1.1 WAR), he’ll provide the Tigers with significant value.
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