Little Uncertainty About the Tigers Opening Day Roster, Two Spots Open

Jim Leyland said this week that 11 of the 13 spots on his roster for position players are all but locked up. Which, in turn, means that there are only two spots left for a number of candidates.

If we assume that the 11 spots belong to Avila, Pena, Martinez, Fielder, Infante, Peralta, Cabrera, Jackson, Hunter, Dirks, and Santiago then the remaining two spots will go to Brennan Boesch, Quintin Berry, Avi Garcia, Danny Worth, Don Kelly, or Jeff Kobernus. Of course someone else could have an insane spring and get into the conversation, but these six are the likely contenders.

So how should the Tigers allocate their remaining roster space?

I think it’s unlikely that Garcia makes the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder because the Tiger are committed to developing him and he’ll gain more from 600 minor league at bats than 250 big league ones.

From there, we should probably look to positional considerations. Worth and Kobernus can both play infield, but Worth is a better glove and based on his minor league numbers I don’t see Kobernus as offering anything extra at the plate. An important consideration, however, is that Kobernus can also play the outfield and was a rule five pick, which could push him into a Don Kelly 25th man type role from the right side of the plate. If the Tigers were going to do that, they might as well go with Kelly who is even more versatile.

The Boesch versus Berry decision depends on a number of factors. First, who is playing better? Both players have shown flashes of a skill set that can help in the majors and they both hit left handed, so whoever is swinging a hot bat will have a leg up. Boesch provides an element of power and Berry brings speed to the table but neither get on a base at a high rate and both are defensive liabilities.

If the Tigers are committed to keeping Garcia in the minors, then Boesch is the only one on this list who can bring any sort of power off the bench, but he’s also the least flexible player. He can only play corner outfield and doesn’t do it well. Berry can play center and Kobernus, Kelly, and Worth can all play three or more spots.

Given the strength of the Tigers starting group and relatively weak infield defense, I would argue on behalf of Danny Worth for spot number 12 on the roster. He plays good defense and runs well enough to pinch run late in games for Peralta, Avila, or Fielder if the time is right. He doesn’t have Berry’s game changing speed, but he runs the bases well and catches the baseball.

For spot 13, I would go with Boesch. His skill set is limited, but the Tigers won’t ask him to do more than start once a week or so. If he gets rolling, his offensive ceiling is the highest and he could provide some solid value. If he doesn’t do anything, then at least they tried and they can shift to Berry or Kelly or Kobernus who will give a move certain performance, but likely with a lower potential breakout.

I’m a big Kelly supporter because I like all of the things he can do and he’s one of the nicest people on Earth, but the Tigers need to see if they can get anything else out of Brennan Boesch before they decide to call it quits. If the Boesch experiment fails, Kelly can jump right in and play the role he’s had for the last couple seasons.

What we have to remember here is that neither of these last two players is going to see a lot of the field, so the impact of each choice is very small. Worth seems like a smart call for me because of his defensive skill and I’d go with Boesch because you might get a few weeks of greatness.

There is still plenty of camp left for this to sort itself out, but for now, I’d tell Jim Leyland to put Worth and Boesch on his list to head north and see how it goes.

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