While the utility infielder role has not been settled, the Tigers have a set backup catcher for next season in John Hicks.
Hicks, 28, was Detroit’s primary backup catcher last season after Alex Avila was traded. He also played quite a bit of first base, filling in for Miguel Cabrera while he was injured. Overall he posted a .266/.326/.439 line with six home runs, 22 RBI and a 102 wRC+.
Hicks has cushion in his role for now. He could eventually cede playing time to prospect Grayson Greiner, who had a solid season at Double-A Erie last year. Greiner, 25, will start at Triple-A in 2018. If he continues to hit well he could get a chance to play in the big leagues down the stretch.
Uber defensive prospect Jake Rogers is likely a 2019 call-up, but could get a chance if he really impresses with the bat this year. Regardless, Hicks’ role in Detroit likely won’t be a very lengthy one.
We talked at-large about the candidates for Detroit’s utility infielder role. While Kozma likely has the upper hand, any of them could realistically win the job out of camp. Expect to see 2-3 of these guys in the majors at some point next season.
Read our post about the competition (linked above) for more information, but here’s a quick look at each player:
Kody Eaves: Considered the dark horse candidate, Eaves was profiled as an under-the-radar prospect for the Tigers. He hit .272 with 13 home runs and nine steals at Double-A last year and has played extensively at second and third base in the minors.
Niko Goodrum: Goodrum went 1-for-17 in the big leagues with the Twins last year. However, 13 home runs and 11 steals in Triple-A is intriguing, and he does have positional versatility.
Pete Kozma: The odds-on favorite to win the role, Kozma has played in parts of six big league seasons, predominantly as a shortstop. His experience gives him a leg up, but his .111 average last season won’t fly in Detroit.
Ronny Rodriguez: The 25-year-old second baseman has spent seven seasons in Cleveland’s farm system. He posted a 17-15 season at Triple-A last year, but has a bad eye at the plate and doesn’t play particularly good defense.
The infield hosts two of the biggest storylines of Detroit’s 2018 season. Will Miguel Cabrera bounce back and be the player we all know he can be? Will Jeimer Candelario break out into the player we hope he can become?
In a season that may not result in many wins, there will be plenty to watch for in 2018.