Detroit Tigers defense will improve as season progresses

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BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 04: Mikie Mahtook #15 of the Detroit Tigers catches a fly ball hit by Jonathan Schoop #6 of the Baltimore Orioles (not pictured) in the eighth inning during a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 4, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 04: Mikie Mahtook #15 of the Detroit Tigers catches a fly ball hit by Jonathan Schoop #6 of the Baltimore Orioles (not pictured) in the eighth inning during a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 4, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers players have turned in some solid defensive metrics in 2017, but some have also struggled. On the whole, Detroit’s defense should improve down the stretch.

Detroit Tigers fans haven’t always seen the best defensive performances this season.

There are plenty of quality fielders on Detroit’s roster, Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias are two of the better defenders at their respective positions, but the team hasn’t posted the strongest defensive metrics.

The Tigers rank 21st in the league in collective DRS (defensive runs saved) with a -20 number. Just three Detroit regulars—Kinsler, Iglesias and Justin Upton—have individual DRS’ metrics above zero.

While Detroit’s 13th rank in UZR/150 isn’t awful, it isn’t anything to write home about either.

Much of the Tigers’ defensive struggles have come at a few positions in particular.

Nicholas Castellanos hasn’t had the easiest time at third base, while the rotation of right fielders in the wake of J.D. Martinez’ trade has failed to produce any defensive fixes.

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Third Base

Most importantly, Jeimer Candelario should step in and see more time at the hot corner by September, if not earlier.

Candelario’s defensive metrics at third this season (2.3 UZR/150, 0.2 UZR, 0 DRS) come with a grain of salt considering he’s only logged 68.1 innings at third base in 2017, and only 90.2 innings total at the position in the Majors.

That being said, he should provide a significant upgrade over Castellanos.

Detroit’s current third baseman could see time in right field down the stretch, moving him off a position where he has struggled.

Nicholas Castellanos has turned in a -13 DRS, -7.8 UZR/150 and a -6.6 UZR in 1009.1 defensive frames.

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The Outfield

It remains to be seen how Castellanos will fare defensively in right field. He certainly seems like he’s athletic enough to man the position, but time will tell.

On the days that the former first-round pick isn’t playing in right field, the Tigers could slide Mikie Mahtook to the position.

Metrics-wise, Mahtook has played passable defense in center field with a -5 DRS, a -1.8 UZR/150 and a -0.7 UZR. However, he passes the eye test when you see him play in terms of covering ground in spacious Comerica Park.

With the former Rays outfielder in right field, JaCoby Jones could be in line for more time in center field.

Jones was recently recalled from Toledo and should be with the team for the majority of the rest of the season with Detroit.

Had it not been for some immense struggles at the plate (45.8 strikeout percentage, 33 wRC+), Jones likely would have stayed in the Majors longer earlier in the campaign.

Had that been the case, we would have seen more of his defensive ability in center field.

Despite just 140.2 defensive innings in center field, Jones has been one of Detroit’s top defenders. On the season, he owns a 4.0 Def, a +5 DRS, a 1.1 ARM, a 29.2 UZR/150 and a 3.8 UZR.

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With more defensive innings from Jones and Candelario—not to mention some additional playing time for Dixon Machado—the Detroit Tigers should have a much better defensive unit to close the season and help build momentum toward 2018.

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