Tigers have some tough decisions to make with incoming roster crunch

The Tigers will be getting a couple players back from the IL soon, but who will be the odd players out when they do?
Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay Rays
Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay Rays / Mike Carlson/GettyImages

The Tigers have a decision to make. After hitting the injured list on April 8 with a strained left hamstring, Andy Ibáñez has spent the last few days on a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, including starts at both second and third base.

Ibáñez has gone 3-for-9 with two doubles for the Mud Hens so far. Over the weekend, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch suggested to reporters Ibáñez could rejoin the team as soon as the Cardinals series, which begins tonight.

Third baseman Gio Urshela may not be too far behind, either. He left the game April 19 with right hamstring tightness and was placed on the injured list April 20. He took fielding practice for the Tigers over the weekend but has not made any rehab appearances yet.

Making the impending decisions more complicated: Wenceel Pérez, who replaced Ibáñez on the Tigers roster, has made a pretty strong argument for remaining, including hitting his first major league home runs Sunday in the Tigers' 4-1 victory over the Royals.

Perez has gone 6-for-29 with the Tigers, with a .359 OBP with .873 OPS. He's scored five runs, driven in four, and stolen two bases across 13 games.

Who stays and who goes when Tigers Andy Ibáñez and Gio Urshela return from injuries?

Buddy Kennedy

Infielder Buddy Kennedy, who joined the Tigers following Urshela's injury, may make for an easier first choice. Last man up, first man out. Even then, Kennedy did his best to make a case for staying.

In six games, he has an .808 OPS and home run along with a stolen base. Just as nice, his highlight-reel barehanded play at third base against the Rays was beautiful. Still, it's the easiest move to make.

But we have several good names to choose from for the other move.

Colt Keith

The Tigers signed Keith to a team-friendly deal before he even played his first major league game. While he looked the role well at second base, he's not lived up to expectations at second base and may need a trip to the minors to get back on track. After 25 games and 95 plate appearances, he's hitting .161 with .232 OPS and .404 OPS (good for an OPS+ of 18) and hasn't really shown any signs of breaking out of it. It's hard to see this going on much longer with a tunraround.

His batting average on balls in play is just .200, and his expected batting average of .245 (from Baseball Savant, based on velocity of location of his batted balls) is a bit higher. While he would still be below-average if the hits were falling in, the picture is a bit better.

Parker Meadows

After a great start to his career last fall, Meadows has not continued it this spring. He has the second lowest OPS+ (22) among regular starters. He's hitting .091 with .200 OBP and a .428 OPS. He plays fine in the outfield, but this could be another case of being sent down to get things put back together.

Meadows more advanced stats are worrisome. His expected batting average is just .109 and his expected weighed On Base Average is .218. Those are easily the lowest on the team.

Wenceel Pérez

The more you look at it, the harder it is to see the Tigers sending Pérez back to the minors at that point. The time may come in the future, but right now it doesn't seem to make as much sense.

Possible roster scenario for Tigers

It might actually make more sense to ride Buddy Kennedy and Wenceel Pérez's early success for now and send both Keith and Meadows down. That probably won't happen, but the Tigers have the flexibility to make it work if they want to get those needed rookies back on track for the longer haul.

More likely, you could see an easy 1-for-1 swap of Urshela and Buddy Kennedy, while Pérez sticks around for awhile longer. Sending Meadows down might make the most sense for now.