Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez and Danny worth are the internal options to replace Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
Who should be the Tigers’ Opening Day shortstop?
President and general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday that they would "continue to look at internal candidates" now that they know for certain that Jose Iglesias will miss four to six months because of stress fractures in both legs.
While that doesn’t mean the Tigers won’t look outside the organization for a replacement, here’s an examination of the three top options from inside the organization, ranked in order.
Offensively, Worth has hit .242 with two home runs and 10 doubles in those games. His career on-base percentage is .307.
However, this is what Dombrowski told reporters when asked about replacing Iglesias:
"The part that we want to emphasize is the defensive aspect of it, so we’re going to look for somebody who can play solid defense who we feel comfortable with late in the game if there’s a ground ball hit to him in the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead that can make the play," Dombrowski said. "That’s more important to us than finding somebody who can give us more offense."
Defensively, Worth is the strongest candidate right now. In 27 major-league games at shortstop, he has not made an error in 106 total chances.
In the minors, Worth has also excelled at short, with just 46 errors in 229 games in 1,086 chances for a .958 fielding percentage.
Although it seems like Worth has been around forever, he’s still just 28 years old.
The only knock against this move is that Worth is a non-roster invitee this spring, meaning the Tigers would have to make a move to place him on the 40-man roster.
Offensively, Suarez has hit .277 with 25 home runs, 21 triples and 103 doubles in 459 minor-league games. His on-base percentage was .363. However, he has never played above Double-A.
Last year in 111 games with Double-A Erie, Suarez batted .253 with nine home runs, four triples and 24 doubles. His on-base percentage was .332.
Defensively, Suarez has played 352 games at short in the minors. He committed 87 errors in 1,754 total chances for a .950 fielding percentage.
Suarez, a native of Venezuela, is 22 years old.
If the Tigers decide Suarez is the answer, they will have to accept the fact that he will be overmatched offensively more often than not in the big leagues.
Perez played those same positions in the minors with 308 games at second, 289 at short and two at third base.
Offensively, Perez batted .197 with one triple in 34 games with the Tigers. In the minors, he hit .256 with 24 home runs, 16 triples and 101 doubles in 602 minor-league games.
Last year in 16 games with Triple-A Toledo, Perez batted .299 with three doubles. He had a .356 on-base percentage. In 87 games with Double-A Erie, Perez hit .301 with four home runs, two triples and 28 doubles with a .325 on-base percentage.
Defensively, Perez committed 78 errors in those 289 games at shortstop in the minors for a .943 fielding percentage. He had just 36 errors in his 308 games at second base for a .974 fielding percentage.
It’s difficult to compare the three defensively as advanced metrics are used more for major leaguers. But using baseball-reference.com’s range factor per game for all three at shortstop in the minors, Worth is at 4.54, Suarez at 4.74 and Perez at 4.44.
Suarez and Perez are on the 40-man roster.
If any of the three was a left-handed or switch hitter, that would likely swing the race in his favor as the Tigers have mostly right-handed hitters, particularly with Andy Dirks out.
Worth very nearly made the team out of spring training last season and former manager Jim Leyland said he deserved to. Now the Tigers should offer him another chance, especially since Suarez and Perez need some more seasoning before they’re truly ready for prime time.
If Worth doesn’t work out, the Tigers can always call up Suarez or Perez or pursue someone outside the organization, especially if that someone can hit left-handed.