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Detroit Tigers: Why Ryan Kreidler could’ve been the guy in years’ past

LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 01: Ryan Kreidler #60 of the Detroit Tigers bats during the Spring Training game against the New York Yankees at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 1, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. The Tigers defeated the Yankees 10-4. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 01: Ryan Kreidler #60 of the Detroit Tigers bats during the Spring Training game against the New York Yankees at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 1, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. The Tigers defeated the Yankees 10-4. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Next in our Contender November series, we examine the only true in-house shortstop solution: Detroit Tigers prospect, Ryan Kreidler

A certain segment of the fanbase has been clamoring for the Detroit Tigers to address the shortstop position internally, rather than putting all their chips in for a proven free agent commodity.

Welcome to our Contender November series, where we examine each option to propel the Detroit Tigers into contention. In this chapter, we’ll explore Ryan Kreidler and how his quick rise through the minor leagues plays into the Detroit Tigers’ decision in free agency this winter.

Who is Ryan Kreidler?

Kreidler is a California kid; a Davis, CA native who would get drafted in the 35th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs before opting to play at UCLA for college. The decision would ultimately pay off for Kreidler, who was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.

Kreidler spent 60 games in the New York Penn League that same year before losing out on the 2020 season with the pandemic. Kreidler returned for what many felt was an aggressive assignment to start the season: Double-A Erie. He’d exceed expectations there, especially with his power. After 15 home runs and 15 doubles across 88 games, he’d earn a promotion to Toledo with teammates Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. Kreidler would only get better there: a .304/.407/.519 line with 7 home runs across 41 games.

Kreidler didn’t just improve with the stick, though. His defense doesn’t always show up in the box score, but I was impressed with Kreidler’s improvements at shortstop just from the time I saw him in Spring to the end of the season in Toledo. At 6’4″, he isn’t the prototypical shortstop build, but players like Carlos Correa, who is 6’4″ himself, are changing the physical requisites for the position in today’s game.

What Ryan Kreidler could do for the Detroit Tigers

Kreidler could have been a perfect fill-in on past Detroit Tigers clubs. A guy that has performed and risen quickly through the minor leagues–those types of players got their chances in years past (see Christin Stewart and Willi Castro). Unfortunately, though, the Detroit Tigers are now in a phase of their rebuild where they cannot offer such wide-open opportunities to their prospects.

Couple the risks of handing such an important position to a rookie with the strong free-agent class of shortstops and it simply wouldn’t be a prudent move. Some feel the money might be better spent elsewhere–in which case they may prefer someone like Kreidler to man the position in 2022. My response would be, “How?”

Candelario, Schoop, Barnhart, and Cabrera have the infield otherwise set. Baddoo, Grossman, Hill, and Greene figure to have a role in the outfield. So, then, where is the additional offense? It might best be found by filling that shortstop position with a proven, MLB asset.

To be clear, this is no knock on Kreidler as a player. He has a shot to be an everyday shortstop in the major leagues and has shown the ability to play some third base too. But the club will need depth and it might make sense to allow Kreidler to ease his way into the big leagues for his development. The Freep’s Evan Petzold how Kreidler would react to the Tigers signing a shortstop this season; that response is found here ($).

The cost of Ryan Kreidler

It is no secret that Kreidler would present the most cost-effective option to fill the need at the position (although who knows with the upcoming CBA negotiations). The question is more revolved around performance. While Kreidler has certainly found his way at the plate, swing-and-miss is still a prevalent part of his game; 158 strikeouts in 129 games last year between his two levels.

Additionally, I’d think Kreidler would grade out fringe-average to average defensively, whereas Story is a plus defender and Correa is above-average bordering on plus with a double-plus arm. If the Detroit Tigers are trying to put themselves in the best position to win their next game, that goal is likely best accomplished by an upper-tier talent.

To have this type of talent creeping into conversation speaks to the success of the rebuild and regardless of what happens in free agency, Kreidler will likely make his MLB debut in 2022.

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