Detroit Tigers: Examining the infield following the return of Jordy Mercer
The Detroit Tigers infield landscape has drastically changed in the last week.
With the return of third baseman Jeimer Candelario from Triple-A Toledo and shortstop Jordy Mercer from the IL, the Detroit Tigers infield is looking a bit different. Mercer was placed on the IL on May 9th with a right quad strain, an injury he also suffered earlier in the season.
Mercer’s return comes after being sent on a rehab assignment to the Mud Hens on Jun. 5. Infielder Ronny Rodríguez was optioned to Toledo in a corresponding move.
Before his injury, Mercer was batting .206 with one home run and three RBIs, starting 19 games at shortstop and collecting 63 at-bats for the Tigers. Considering Josh Harrison’s status on the 60-day IL, the Tigers infield personnel seems to be set for the foreseeable future.
Candelario has slotted back in at his traditional position at third base since his recall, ending Dawel Lugo’s extended run of playing time at that position and taking his spot on the roster. His robust stretch of 8-for-18 (.444 avg) at the plate and everyday appearances in the lineup indicate Candelario is here to stay as the starter at the hot corner.
After becoming one of the Tigers top offseason signings this winter, Mercer will surely retake his starting shortstop position upon his return to action. Despite subpar results at the plate before his injury, Mercer’s career track record and ability to bring stability to the Tigers lineup and defense up the middle indicate he will maintain his role as a starter.
Not much has changed over at first base, and all signs point to Brandon Dixon still seeing the majority of appearances at first base as he’s thrived playing every day and hitting in the five slot in the lineup on a consistent basis. His emergence has been key to the Tigers maintaining a solid level of stability in the infield. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll continue to be the starting first baseman with Miguel Cabrera now the permanent designated hitter.
Second base is where things begin to get interesting. After seeing the majority of his reps at shortstop during Mercer’s absence, Niko Goodrum should get most of his at-bats now sliding over to second base.
Some of those appearances should also go to 25-year-old Harold Castro, who’s been effective in limited at-bats, mostly at second base. Castro is hitting .272 with one home run and five RBIs in 81 at-bats so far in 2019, and it speaks volumes that the Tigers kept him on the roster instead of Rodriguez when Mercer was activated.
The Detroit Tigers didn’t keep Castro in the majors for him to ride the bench, so expect him to see regular at-bats, mostly at second base. He can also make spot starts at other positions, seeing time this year at shortstop and third base, along with all three outfield spots.
When also considering Ron Gardenhire’s liking of Gordon Beckham, the appearances at second base could be split between a variety of players. Expect Niko Goodrum to receive the majority of starts at second base, with Castro seeing the next most. Goodrum could also see some action at first base in search of at-bats.
Gardenhire has liked to mix and match his position players in 2019, so while the Tigers have three players who start consistently at infield spots, it’s certain Tigers fans will see a variety of infield combinations down the stretch.