The State Of The Tigers Infield

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

Continuing our series looking back and forward at various aspects of the Tigers roster, we’ll pick up today with the new Tigers infield. Earlier this month we covered the starting rotation and outfield. Since the infield is pretty much different at every spot, this one will take some time, which means the minor contributors like Santiago, Worth, Perez, Kelly, and Tuiasosopo are going to get a passing mention right here and then we’re going to forget that they exist. Same goes for Lombardozzi, but man is that a fun name to say out loud.

Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera had a pretty impressive 2013 season, all of which is chronicled in the five preceding links. The theme was pretty much “ridiculous hitter to the point where being hurt for two months and being a bad defender only limited him 7.6 WAR.” His 192 wRC+ led the league and he won his second straight MVP (even if he wasn’t exactly the best candidate). We don’t need to spend much time on Cabs. He’s an all-time great hitter and he’ll be sliding back to first base for 2014 which should take some of the pressure off and hide his less than stellar glove.

The major projection systems are all in agreement on Cabrera as something between 5 and 7 wins for 2014, which would fit right in with expectations. He’ll be a great hitter with a slightly below average glove at first. He’s not likely to have another 7.5 WAR season, but that’s only because 2013 was his peak. One more great year should lock him in for the Hall of Fame, too, so we have that to look forward too.

Jhonny Peralta

Oh, Jhonny. He turned in a fantastic 2013 (3.6 WAR in 107 games) season until he had to sit out 50 games for his 2012 connection to Biogenesis. His impressive offense from the shortstop position mixed nicely with his ability to handle the position better than many think and gave the Tigers a big boost during the middle part of the season. Unfortunately, players who are that talented start asking for lots of money and he’ll be spending the next four seasons in St. Louis.

Omar Infante

Infante was another one of the Tigers who turned a great season into a big deal, this one with the Royals. Infante’s 3.1 WAR in 118 games was a big boost for the team and a very nice resume builder that would have been even nicer if not for a very late slide in Toronto that kept him out of action for several weeks. The year and a half reunion was nice, but we’ll have to settle for seeing him 18 times a year rather than 162 going forward.

Prince Fielder

Fielder had a tough year on and off the field and it ended with him heading to Texas in a deal for soon to be analyzed Ian Kinsler. Fielder was a solid hitter, but he’s paid to be a great one which had people on his back especially during the postseason. He’s a prime candidate to bounce back offensively, but his serious lack of value on the bases and with the glove makes the cost of a down year pretty big.

Jose Iglesias

Iggy joined the Tigers at the trade deadline to fill in for Peralta and to take the reins once he left during the offseason, which he did. Iglesias is an elite defensive shortstop, which means to be a very good player he only needs to cross a minimum offensive threshold. He did that in 2013, so even with a slight regression in 2014 with the bat, he should be a very good player up the middle and should make the pitching staff swoon.

All three projection systems have him for 1-2 WAR, but they are all very conservative with their defensive estimations. If they correctly assessed his offense and we project him to be a top of the line defender, he’s more like a 2-3 win player. Plus, stuff like this.

iglesias

And this:

pic1

Ian Kinsler

Kinsler didn’t play for the Tigers in 2013, so who cares what his season was like, amirite? In all seriousness, Kinsler is a pretty good defender who runs the bases well and has a pretty good bat for second base. He’s getting older and some of those things are trending in the wrong direction, but he should be a nice contributor in 2014. All three projection systems tag him for about 3.5 wins for the Tigers, which would wipe away Infante’s departure without any problem.

Nick Castellanos

Nick is the big question mark for the Tigers infield going into the season. We’ve seen Cabrera for years and got to know Iglesias in 2013. Kinsler is a new Tiger, but his skill set is very well established. Castellanos is the unknown. A lot of people think his bat will be excellent at the big league level, but those things don’t always happen right away and his defense has never been a strength.

The projection systems range from 0.5 to 2.0 WAR for Nick based on a wide variety of offensive estimates. Based on what I’ve seen and heard on him, I’d call for something like .270/.320/.425, which is a little better than league average all the way around. Throw in some below average, but not terrible defense and you’ve probably got an average-ish player for 2014. That said, I think the bat will develop nicely and he could be a fringe all-star before all is said and done.

I wrote earlier this year that the newly minted infield should add about one to six wins on the defensive side of things over the 2013 version, but that will come at a cost on the offensive side of things. Cabrera should be a little worse, Kinsler should be a wash, Iglesias will be significantly worse than Peralta, and Castellanos should be worse than Fielder. The Cabrera regression was going to happen anyway, so that’s not really fair to consider, but all in all, I’d say the overall infield is a win or two worse in 2014 than they were in 2013. The Tigers still have a nice collection of players, but it isn’t quite what it was a year ago. Some of that is unavoidable, but some of it wasn’t. Hopefully, they’ll still be able to take the division without too much trouble.

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4 responses

  1. […] The ‘pen. Those guys at whom you scream constantly. We’ve gone through the rotation, infield, and outfield, and we’re left with relievers. Technically, we haven’t covered catching, […]

  2. […] looking forward to the 2014 version of the team. We’ve taken a look at the rotation, bullpen, infield, and outfield – and somehow Avila and Holaday ended up not finding a home within any of those […]

  3. […] the winter, we looked at the state of the infield, but now it’s time to take a look at the most important thing to watch for with respect to […]

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