Detroit Tigers infield situation could get "complicated" before Opening Day
Detroit Tigers infield situation could get complicated.
Opening Day for the Detroit Tigers continues to inch closer and closer. The team continues its ramp-up to 100% and puts players in different spots, hoping to see which players they want to bring north for the 2023 season.
The Detroit Tigers infield is a spot of intrigue as the positional battles continue to rage on throughout the Spring. Things are going to get complicated when it comes to roster construction and the way the infield is going to shape up ahead of the season.
Let's not beat around the bush, the Tigers do not have the most exciting team in the world, but they have some new faces, and those new faces are still competing to earn time in the Tigers infield in 2023. Here's a snapshot of each position going around the infield.
The easiest position to nail down is shortstop. The Tigers shelled out big money last off-season to bring in Javier Báez on a six-year, $140 million contract to join the Tigers as they tried to put an end to the rebuild. Báez did not have the best debut season with the Tigers and is looking to turn things around. He'll handle shortstop barring any injury, and that's the name you can etch in as a sure bet for the Tigers infield.
At first base, it's a consistent group of names who are likely to play but still could see some variety. Former first-overall draft pick Spencer Torkelson is looking to bounce back and seems primed for a big breakout season in 2023. He'll handle the majority of the time at first base.
But there's a chance that Tyler Nevin competes for at-bats and tries to earn a few looks after being acquired this off-season, looking to get his performance on track. He sustained an injury in spring ball and missed some time, so he is likely no threat to take time from Torkelson early, but could step in if Torkelson sputters out of the gate. Plus, Miguel Cabrera is on his farewell tour and will get a few chances to play first over the course of the season.
Over at second base, there's reason to believe that the Tigers will rely on Jonathan Schoop once again to be the primary option. However, after a putrid 2022 season where Schoop struggled to hit water if he fell out of a boat, there's a lot of reason for him to prove himself.
The Tigers also have Cesár Hernandez, who is trying to earn some time in the infield in 2023. He was brought in on a non-roster invite contract and will end up in the minors unless he is added to the teams' roster. Schoop's struggles in 2022 are problematic, and Hernandez is a better option for the team to trot out their at second. He very well could earn time if Schoop's offseason improvements do not work out.
The biggest question mark remains third base. This off-season, the Tigers brought in a few possible players to be the solution, and it seems Nick Maton is emerging as the first man up to get time at the hot corner as he's settled in nicely with his new organization.
But Maton will battle for time with Nevin, who will also try to log time at third. But Ryan Kreidler is fighting for chances once again after he made his big league debut in 2022. Things did not go great for him but do not rule out him getting another chance either.
Justyn-Henry Malloy is an exciting prospect that the Tigers brought in this off-season and could very well earn some big-league time in 2023. He's unlikely to start the year in Detroit but is another name that makes the hot corner position battle interesting.
A.J. Hinch has stressed versatility over and over again, and it's starting to breed some competition across the team's infield positions. Competition is good, but it could complicate things, as players continue getting sent to minor league camp and the players heading north, are finalized.
The wildcards that I did not mention are Kerry Carpenter, who may find time in the infield and play first base if the team needs him in the lineup. Eric Haase could come out from behind the plate and play some first base or outfield as needed.
Matt Vierling, who was acquired this off-season, is also someone who could end up vying for time in the infield. He's primarily an outfielder, but again, versatility, versatility, versatility. Beyond that, the Tigers still have Zack Short on the 40-man roster for some reason, so it may lead to him ending up in the lineup, but let's be real; no one wants that.
It will be interesting to see how things shape up for the Tigers infield in 2023. There are plenty of players looking to earn chances, and the Tigers will have to make some decisions.