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Detroit Tigers Rule 5 Draft Options: Corner Infielder

Aug 7, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario (46) throws to first base to record an out against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning at PNC Park. Detroit won 17-13 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 7, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario (46) throws to first base to record an out against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning at PNC Park. Detroit won 17-13 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Detroit Tigers need to add a corner infielder this offseason. Can they find one in the Rule 5 Draft?

It’s possible the Detroit Tigers begin the 2021 season without a new corner infielder, choosing instead to run with some combination of Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, Niko Goodrum, and Isaac Paredes. Who knows, perhaps Sergio Alcántara, Harold Castro, or Zack Short will impress A.J. Hinch and head north with the club?

But our guess is they add at least one first baseman or third baseman this offseason. Most likely that will come in the form of a one-year free agent signing, but maybe they feel good about their current corner infield options and simply want to add some depth. If that’s the case, this year’s Rule 5 Draft offers some interesting options.

As always, we remind you the Rule 5 Draft rarely results in quality big leaguers. But our job is to keep you informed and consider every possible option. As such, we’ve already written Rule 5 profiles of Alex Speas, Catchers, Dan Hasty’s top five choices, and a whole mess of other players.

This year’s Rule 5 corner infielder crop offers a little bit of everything, and we’ve selected five players with differing strengths and weaknesses.

Drew Ellis

Age on Opening Day: 25.3

Bats: Right

Highest Level: Double-A

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GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 21: Drew Ellis #81 of the Arizona Diamondbacks poses for a portrait during MLB media day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2020 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 21: Drew Ellis #81 of the Arizona Diamondbacks poses for a portrait during MLB media day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2020 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Drew Ellis in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Louisville, where he earned All-American honors as a redshirt sophomore after hitting .355 with 20 home runs. He lasted until the 44th pick because scouts had concerns about his pitch recognition and ultimate defensive home. Thus far in his pro career the recognition issues have manifested more as missed hits rather than swings-and-misses. He’s a career .238 hitter in the minors, with a decent .178 Isolated Power, but his walk (12.0%) and strikeout (21.7%) rates have been solid. He’s got enough arm to stick at third base, but he lacks the agility and athleticism to be an asset on defense, and he may fit best at first base.

Jose Miranda

Age on Opening Day: 22.8

Bats: Right

Highest Level: Double-A

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Jose Miranda runs for a ground ball at practice for the Fort Myers Miracle on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.Fnp 0402 Miraclepreview Ai 003 /

The Minnesota Twins drafted Jose Miranda in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of the Leadership Christian Academy in Puerto Rico. Miranda was lauded for his advanced contact and burgeoning power, and thus far in pro ball he has lived up to his amateur scouting reports. He spent two summers in rookie ball before earning a full-season assignment in 2018, and the then 20-year-old hit .264 with 16 home runs and 27 doubles between the pitcher friendly Midwest and Florida State Leagues. He returned to the FSL in 2019, batting .248 with 8 home runs and 25 doubles before earning a one-game trip to Double-A. Miranda is an aggressive hitter who makes easy contact — his career walk and strikeout rates are 6.0% and 11.8% — and as he continues to fill out his 6’2, 210lb. frame some of his doubles should turn into home runs. He’s split his time on defense between second base and third base, and while he’s adequate at both positions, he likely fits best as a corner infielder.

Chris Gittens

Age on Opening Day: 27.2

Bats: Right

Highest Level: Double-A

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corner infielder
Mar 9, 2019; Sarasota, FL, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Chris Gittens (96) catches a throw for the out on Baltimore Orioles shortstop Richie Martin (not pictured) during the sixth inning at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

If it’s power the Tigers are after, then Chris Gittens is probably the best option regardless of position. He’s a huge man (6’4, 250) who once weighed over 300 lbs. and served as a two-way player for Grayson College. The Yankees selected him in the 12th round in 2014 and he has been slowly and steadily bombing his way through their system. In 2019 he hit .281 with 23 home runs, 71 walks, and 139 strikeouts in 115 games for Double-A Trenton. His power comes from strength rather than bat speed, and he’s a first baseman only, but Gittens regularly puts pitches out to the opposite field, and he has enough feel to hit that he might be able to do a decent Luke Voit impression in the big leagues.

Eguy Rosario

Age on Opening Day: 21.6

Bats: Right

Highest Level: Double-A

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corner infielder
BARRANQUILLA, COLOMBIA – OCTOBER 25: Eguy Rosario of Dominican Republic reacts during a match between Chinese Taipei and Dominican Republic as part of WBSC U-23 World Cup Super Round at Edgar Renteria Baseball Stadium on October 25, 2018 in Barranquilla, Colombia. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Gittens is the largest and oldest player on this list, and we follow him with Eguy Rosario, the smallest and youngest player on the list. The Padres signed Rosario for $300K as an international free agent in 2015, and they’ve pushed him aggressively though their system. He’s still listed at 5’9, 150 lbs., but he’s added a good amount of mass in pro ball and now looks quite stout.  He’s remained remarkably nimble and athletic, though, with a quick bat, above-average speed, and the defensive chops to handle second or third base. In 2018 he hit .239 with 9 home runs as an 18-year-old in High-A, and he even made a three-game cameo at Double-A. The Padres returned him to High-A in 2019 and he showed improvement across the board, batting .278/.331/.412 with 21 steals. Rosario probably fits best as a utility man, but with his suite of average tools it’s not out of the question for him to develop into solid everyday corner infielder in the mold of Juan Uribe.

Tristan Gray

Age on Opening Day: 25.0

Bats: Left

Highest Level: Double-A

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Mar 25, 2018; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Tristan Gray (81) hits a home run during the fifth inning against the New York Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The only lefty on our list, Tristan Gray offers an interesting mix of power, patience, and versatility. Gray spent three years at Rice (all as a teammate of current Tigers farmhand Dane Myers), and he played all over the field for the Owls. The Pirates drafted him in the 13th round, but then shipped him off to Tampa the following year for Corey Dickerson. He scuffled in the Florida State League in 2018, hitting .238 with 13 home runs, 39 walks, and 119 strikeouts in 118 games, but he altered his approach a bit in Double-A for 2019. He still hit just .225, but he cleared the fence 17 times, and his strikeout rate dropped 4% while his walk rate rose by the same amount. He spent at least ten games at every infield position in 2019, though he probably fits best as a corner infielder, or perhaps a shift-aided second baseman in the mold of Mike Moustakas or Max Muncy.

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