And now for the sexiest aspect of any baseball team; the bench. The collection of players not good enough to start, but not so bad that you want to cut them loose. Some bench players are prospects doing the apprentice thing, some are veterans trying to hang on, and some are players with a certain set of skills that makes them useful in only certain situations. Since the Tigers are going to work a platoon in left, we’ve already covered outfielder number four, meaning that this is an entire post devoted to three likely members of the Tigers bench, and Alex Avila because otherwise no one would want to read this.
Avila’s key is always going to be his health. Can he stay on the field in a useful form? But that’s not interesting. Don’t get hurt is everyone’s first priority. For Avila, the key with respect to his performance is if he can maintain that short, left-centerfield gap swing. When he goes through rough stretches, his swing gets long, he gets pull happy, and everything seems to be a lazy fly ball to right field. So if he’s short to the ball and driving it up the alley, it’s going to be a good year.
A backup catcher is a backup catcher. You’re going to see them once a week and if you see them anymore you’re in trouble. Holaday is a solid defender with the ability to put the ball in play, but he’s nothing special. Maybe he has a future as a fringe MLB regular, but the key for him is to do anything at the plate. A couple extra base hits, a couple walks, and a non-terrible average. It’s all you ask.
It’s no secret that this is a pro-Kelly website. He’s a dandy utility man who can take a walk and can hit for a little power, while also being the nicest dude in the world. He doesn’t have to do much to handle his role, but the key, if you could call it that, will be to provide enough value with the bat that he can serve as a legitimate backup rather than as the 25th man. He was on it early in 2013 and faded a little. So look for decent compared to passable.
He’s basically another Don Kelly, but he’s going to be called upon to play shortstop despite almost no experience there. Can he handle the position? That’s the key. If he can’t, the team is going to have to rethink the roster. [Also, I am very excited to see how my mother pronounces his name.]