Moving on to the outfield from yesterday’s infield look, the Tigers have seen quite a transition with outfielders Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson, and backup Don Kelly gone this year.
Moving in to the outfield mix are new Tigers Yoenis Cespedes and Anthony Gose, both acquired in the off-season trade market. Let’s take a look…
Yoenis Cespedes – With the acquisition of Cespedes, J.D. Martinez moves over to Right Field and Yoenis anchors left with a very strong arm (16 assists in 2014) and solid range as he rated at 12 runs saved above average (Rdrs) last season. Besides very solid defense, Tigers fans will expect Cespedes to replaces Torii Hunter’s bat who will hit 6th. History shows that Cespedes will strike out 125+ times a season, however a career .780 OPS out of the 6-hole with 20+ homers sounds pretty nice to me. At age 29, and entering his fourth Major League season, I’m hoping other Latin American players Cabrera/VMart) will only help Yoenis grow as a hitter as he could be a Tiger for some time entering the last year of his contract and looking to renew
For more on Yoenis Cespedes, here’s an earlier entry I wrote focusing on him
Anthony Gose – Acquired in the off-season for prospect Devon Travis, Gose who will be entering his age 24 season and was a former prospect would be an upgrade defensively in center with great range, however the Tigers admit that he may be a work in progress as it is still undetermined if his bat will ever play at the Major League level. So far this spring, Gose is hitting well enough (.571) to get a look at the active roster when the team heads north, however there are still plenty of games to be played. We’ll dive in to Anthony Gose some more in a future entry, however I view him as a Jose Iglesias type player where he is defensive first and hope he can hit .250. Then again, the old theory for a winning baseball team is good pitching and strong defense up the middle…
Rajai Davis – Davis could really fit in this spot or as a 4th outfielder in general, however because Gose is an unknown, I’m assuming that he will either platoon with Rajai or Rajai could be the starter most days. Davis was brought in last season as a platoon player to split time with Andy Dirks, however when Dirks went down, Davis got a majority of the work and really surprised and held his own. Once Ajax was trader, Rajai was the likely guy to move over to Center even his defensive ratings were below average there in the past. Defensively, Davis rated as a -11 Rdrs last season and took some interesting routes to balls at times. Offensively, Rajai had his highest batting average (.282) since he hit .284 in 2010, stole 36 bases which was a big change for Detroit and even showed some pop. At the end of the season, it’s pretty safe to say that Davis and his .721 OPS was a pleasant surprise
J.D. Martinez – Amazing that Martinez was released by Houston last spring before Detroit signed him to a minor league contract and then what transpired in to what seemed like a Disney movie. J.D. went on to hit .315 with 23 homers and 76 RBI, stabilizing Detroit’s offense and giving the lineup a nice 1-2-3 (3-4-5) punch. A lot of fantasy baseball magazines as well as media outlets expect Martinez to come crashing down to his career number before last year (.251 avg, 8 HR, 42 RBI, .687 OPS), however with J.D. fashioning his revamped swing after one of the best in the game (Miguel Cabrera) and then playing on the same team with Cabrera, I’m not sure that he’ll get back to those prior numbers. I do expect a little regression however to more of a .290 average, but 20+ homers are likely to stay.
Others to keep an eye on this spring in the outfield are: Steven Moya, Tyler Collins, Daniel Fields, and Wynton Bernard
Losing Hunter hurts more in the clubhouse then on the field as his defense slipped and Cespedes will be able to replace the offense nicely. J.D. is expected to regress slightly, so it really boils down in my opinion on if Anthony Gose can hit enough to stay with the big club as his defense along with Cespedes would/will be a major upgrade.
Next up are the Tigers Starting Pitchers