When Justyn-Henry Malloy was acquired in a trade that sent Joe Jimenez to the Atlanta Braves last offseason, many Detroit Tigers fans were excited after seeing how much he gets on base. After a scorching hot start in Triple-A last season, fans were clamoring for him to be called up to the big leagues.
But then, he cooled off. He really struggled in the month of May, especially against left-handed pitchers, which was strange for a right-handed hitter. He would heat up back again over the course of the season, but questions still remain about his long-term viability as a quality big leaguer.
There's no question his plate discipline is going to translate. When you walk at an 18% clip, that alone will keep your head above water at the major league level. But can he hit the ball hard enough, and can he adjust to big league pitching? Those remain major question marks for him.
That's not to mention his defense. He has no defensive home at the moment. His arm isn't good enough for the outfield, or third base, for that matter. He might just have to become a DH barring at least a partial defensive transformation.
So where does JHM fit it in here? Does he even have a shot to make the Detroit Tigers' Opening Day roster in 2024?
Well, he played third base exclusively from Aug. 23 onward in Toledo last season. Perhaps he gets a shot to win the third base job. I don't know about the rest of you, but I would certainly rather see JHM be the starting third baseman than Matt Vierling. We know what Vierling is. At least JHM is unproven.
He could also theoretically be in the mix as a utlityman, but the Tigers already have Zach McKinstry and Andy Ibanez that can fill that role. Barring a trade, Akil Baddo seems like a good bet to be the fourth outfielder. All three of those players are much better defensively than Malloy.
Maybe they could try him at second base. After all, his lack of arm strength wouldn't be as much of a problem over there. Well, it seems like that will be Colt Keith's job to lose. We're starting to run out of spots here.
Like I always say, these things usually sort themselves out. Players will get hurt and/or underperform. Perhaps Malloy can win a spot that way. That's always possible. But right now, it kind of feels like he's on the outside looking in. His best shot is probably the third base job since the Tigers haven't added anyone this offseason to play over there. I think the bat is good enough for the majors, but his defense might keep him down in Triple-A a bit longer than anyone expected.