In addition to stepping into Candelario’s roster spot, Lugo will evidently also take over as the team’s regular third baseman. Manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter link), that the organization is “bringing [Lugo] up here to play, not to sit.”
The 24-year-old Lugo had a crack at the majors last year, but struggled to a .213/.267/.309 slash in 101 plate appearances. He also didn’t hit much at Triple-A last year, finishing the season with a marginal .269/.283/.350 batting line and just three long balls in 523 plate appearances.
That was a disappointing showing for a player who had finished the prior two campaigns with double-digit dinger tallies. The Tigers were obviously hoping for more when they acquired Lugo from the Diamondbacks as a significant part of the return for star slugger J.D. Martinez.
Lugo still opened the year rated as the 17th-best player on the Tigers’ farm. And he has ticked up quite a bit in the early going. Through 140 plate appearances at Triple-A Toledo, Lugo carries a .341/.393/.468 slash with a pair of long balls. He has walked at a 7.9% rate — hardly elite, but better than he has ever shown over a full season. Lugo is succeeding mostly by stinging the ball to the tune of a .402 batting average on balls in play. He won’t sustain that sort of level over a full season in the bigs. It’ll be interesting to see whether he can keep trending up in the walk department and make enough good contact to be a productive big-league hitter.