Detroit Tigers: Competition brewing for utility infielder role

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 20: Pete Kozma
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 20: Pete Kozma /
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KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 27: A baseball /

Kody Eaves

We profiled Kody Eaves as one of Detroit’s “under-the-radar” prospects heading into 2018.

In that post, we mentioned that Eaves could break camp with the team if he has a very strong spring. This was before the addition of Kozma. Eaves will have a tough time beating Rodriguez, Goodrum and Kozma for a utility role, but he has the tools to do it.

Eaves was acquired by the Tigers in 2015 from the Angels in exchange for Jefry Marte.

He spent 2016 at Double-A, hitting .222 with 11 home runs and six stolen bases.

2017 was a different story, as he slashed .272/.343/.472 with 13 home runs and nine stolen bases. He also posted a 124 wRC+, the highest mark of his career.

That earned him a call-up to Triple-A Toledo, where Eaves went 7-for-27 (.259) in eight games.

Defensively, Eaves has played third base and second base predominantly in the minors. While he was originally acquired to play second base, he has played nearly twice as much third since coming to Detroit.

With Jeimer Candelario entrenched at third base for the foreseeable future, Eaves’ best chance at making the big leagues is as a utility infielder.

Eaves lacks the versatility that the other candidates possess. He has never played first base or the outfield professionally. Additionally, he has only played three career games at shortstop, and none since 2015.

Still, Eaves has hit double digit home runs four seasons in a row and has topped 20 stolen bases in three seasons. His walk-rate, unlike Rodriguez’s, is sky-high and he has a chance to post league average offensive numbers in the show. That type of offensive production from a utility infielder would be great and would mitigate his defensive limitations.

At the moment, Kozma, Goodrum and Rodriguez are ahead of Eaves on the depth chart. For him to jump both of them and break camp with the Tigers is a long-shot, but it would not be at all surprising to see Eaves in the Old English D at some point during the 2018 season.

Next: Four under-the-radar prospects to keep an eye on

A rebuilding Detroit Tigers team will have a new utility infielder in 2017. After years of Ramon Santiago, followed by Andrew Romine, it may be time to give another youngster a chance. Regardless of whether Kozma or one of the rookies wins the job, you can bet they will fill a valuable role on a rebuilding team in 2018.