Center field has been a question mark for the Tigers since trading Cameron Maybin to the Angels on the first day of the offseason, and to this point, the most logical scenario has looked to be a platoon between the out-of-options Tyler Collins and trade pickup Mikie Mahtook. Anthony Gose was previously outrighted off the 40-man roster — though he remains in the organization — and although JaCoby Jones was a frequently mentioned candidate, he’s still rather inexperienced at the position after shifting there from shortstop. Nonetheless, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweeted today that Detroit manager Brad Ausmus offered high praise for Jones’ glovework thus far in camp and characterized him as a legitimate candidate to land the job. That said, Fenech also tweets that scouts have told him that the Tigers are continuing to monitor other teams in search of potential center field alternatives to their in-house candidates.
A bit more on the Tigers…
- Right fielder J.D. Martinez tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that he was “really bothered” by the precipitous drop-off in his defensive ratings from 2015 to 2016. Martinez went from a Gold Glove finalist with very sound grades from Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved (in 2015) to one of the worst defensive outfielders in all of Major League Baseball in the estimation of those same metrics just one year later. Beck points out, though, that Martinez’s outfield assist total plummeted from 15 to three, while his error total rose (despite tallying fewer innings). Martinez expressed frustration with the downturn and said he’s placed an increased emphasis on his defense in an attempt to rebuild his reputation in the outfield. While the slugger did acknowledge that defensive prowess is becoming an increasingly important factor in free agency — and Martinez will hit the open market next winter — he stressed that his focus on improving his defense is to help the Tigers’ 2017 performance.
- Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the Tigers are looking to add some more catching depth and wonders if their recent back-to-back pair of games with the Phillies could offer a potential solution. Salisbury notes that the Phillies have a number of catching options in camp, including veteran Ryan Hanigan, whom the Tigers saw quite a bit when he started consecutive games against them this week. Former Tiger Bryan Holaday is also vying to be the backup to Cameron Rupp in Philadelphia, as are younger options Andrew Knapp and Logan Moore (though Knapp isn’t considered a trade candidate). James McCann and Alex Avila are currently lined up to be the primary backstops for Detroit in 2017, with minor league veteran John Hicks also on the 40-man roster as a Triple-A depth option. Barring an injury to McCann or Avila, I’d imagine that any catching addition would be Triple-A bound himself, though certainly there’s value in accruing additional depth at a thin position.