Detroit Tigers: Who wins the battle of second base?

The Detroit Tigers have a majority of their roster set with very few position battles happening, but second base is still up for grabs, and some players are making it challenging for AJ Hinch to make a decision.
Detroit Tigers second baseman Colt Keith bats against the Yankees.
Detroit Tigers second baseman Colt Keith bats against the Yankees. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Tigers entered Spring Training with a few questions to answer in their lineup. These consisted of left field, third base, and second base. Third base was figured out relatively quickly after the signing of Gio Urshela. Left field is still up in the air, but Riley Greene and Parker Meadows have solidified spots in the outfield, leaving Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter, and Mark Canha to round out the outfield. Carpenter would most likely start at designated hitter, and with Baddoo getting a lot of playing time in the spring, he seems to have won that battle. That leaves one glaring hole at second base. There are a couple of options there and plenty of implications for both.

Firstly, there is the man who played second base most of last season, Andy Ibanez. Ibanez had a decent season last year, slashing .264/.312/.433 with 23 doubles and 11 home runs. This is a good year for someone who is a big-time late bloomer at the age of 30 already. There were very few expectations for Ibanez last season. Despite being very streaky throughout the season, he was one of the Tigers' better hitters overall. Posting a .984 fielding percentage while playing second base last year shows he can also handle the position well. Looking at Ibanez, it may be worth giving him another shot at the second base job to start the season and track his progression from the offseason.

The Tigers' other option is their newest golden child. This is their top prospect, Colt Keith. Keith dominated in the minor leagues last season, slashing .306/.380/.552 between Erie and Toledo. That performance earned Mr. Keith a hefty contract extension before ever stepping foot in the MLB. Keith has outstanding minor league numbers, with his success slowing slightly in Spring Training, where he is currently hitting .250 with an OPS of .666. Granted, it is Spring Training, and this is time for players to ramp back up and get into live-action speed again, but this might be costing Colt his spot on the Opening Day roster.

It is time for the Detroit Tigers to buy in on the youth movement and give Colt Keith the starting second base job on Opening Day.

AJ Hinch noted that after Keith's extension, he would still have to play his way onto the starting roster, which is a good thing. Players should never be given a specific role strictly because of how much money they are being paid (yes...that means you, too, Javy). If the Tigers are honest about wanting to win with their youth and create a winning culture with their youth, there is no reason to give a decent 30-year-old another chance when you could have a star 22-year-old.

This does not have to mean leaving Ibanez entirely off the roster. He played games at first, second, third, and left field last year, along with designated hitter. He would serve as a good backup plan if Keith struggles and ends up back in Toledo. Ibanez is a fine bench player, but Keith needs to be the starting second baseman if the Tigers want to prove they are buying into the next generation of talent.

The Detroit Tigers are not making a long playoff run this season, and Keith has already excelled at every level he has been at, so it is time for him to step into the MLB and bring some excitement to Comerica Park.