So far, only the corner outfield positions are locks. Mikie Mahtook will slide to left field, after having a good 2017 in right. Former third baseman Nicholas Castellanos will patrol right, after moving from third to accommodate for Jeimer Candelario.
Center field is still undecided. It’s safe to say newcomer Leonys Martin will make the team, but he’ll compete with JaCoby Jones and Rule 5 draft selection Victor Reyes for who makes the starting lineup.
It won’t be a surprise if Martin doesn’t start on Opening Day. He regressed sharply in 2017, only hitting .172, and reaching base just 23.2 percent of the time. While he’s a great fielder, his offensive production will hinder his chances.
Martin is also 30. Baseball players usually don’t improve greatly after hitting that age. While he may be defensively good, his bat likely won’t improve.
Martin’s competition are both younger. Jones has played in the majors before, has a good glove, and a questionable bat. He hit .170 in 141 at bats in the majors last season. Jones’ numbers in the minors, however, aren’t bad. He hit .245 in Triple-A Toledo last season, reached base 31.4 percent of the time, and had an OPS of .702. If he has a good spring, Jones should make the roster, and may even start on Opening Day.
The last competitor is Victor Reyes. The 2017 Rule 5 pick from Arizona had a good season at the plate in Double-A and fall ball, hitting .292/.332/.731, and .316/.333/.738, respectively. Defensively, Reyes was perfect in center, playing 404.1 innings of no-error baseball.
Reyes has a future in the majors. If Detroit likes him enough, he’ll have to spend the year in Detroit, or the Tigers will need to work out a deal with Arizona to retain him in the minors.
Here’s our full outfield preview.
Spring Training starts next week. There’s plenty to keep an eye on, and many battles to watch. It will be interesting to see what the Tigers look like.
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