Detroit Tigers: Breaking Down Bench Candidates

Detroit Tigers

Sep 21, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13) receives congratulations from Andrew Romine (27) after he hits a home run in the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers fans haven’t seen many major moves this offseason. As such, the team will likely enter 2017 with a similar lineup. Here are the options off the bench.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has so far made just one trade this offseason.

Despite employing quality trade chips like Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez and Francisco Rodriguez, Avila largely stood pat.

Instead of dealing away quality players, the general manager has focused more on adding depth.

With players like Omar Infante, Brendan Ryan and A.J. Achter joining the organization, Detroit has done well to restock the team’s affiliates in the upper minors.

The only trade the Tigers have been involved in has been the deal involving Cameron Maybin. Maybin was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for intriguing pitching prospect Victor Alcantara.

Outside of losing the former first-round draft pick, the team also let veterans Casey McGehee, Erick Aybar and Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk in free agency.

While all of this adds up to the lineup looking extremely similar, the Tigers will have to retool the team’s bench.

Alex Avila, so far the only Major League free agent signed by Detroit, is likely to fill one slot as James McCann’s deputy. However, outside of the catcher, there is little certainty.

Here is a look at the Detroit Tigers bench options heading into the 2017 season.

Detroit Tigers

Aug 16, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


Alex Avila

Considering the cost-cutting Tigers signed Avila to a reported $2 million contract (according to a tweet from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman), it doesn’t seem like the team will move on from him so quickly.

That being said, the team does have a number of options who are potential fits as the team’s third catcher.

John Hicks

As of now, Hicks would likely be the top choice for the role of third-string catcher. While it is unlikely that Detroit—or any team—carries three backstops at once, Hicks would likely be a phone call away in Toledo.

Over 93 games split between Double-A and Triple-A, the former fourth-round pick hit .310 with an .838 OPS, 47 RBI, 46 runs scored, 23 doubles, 10 home runs, four stolen bases and a triple in 93 games.

Hicks also threw out 31% of would-be base-stealers at Erie, and 39% of runners at Toledo. At just 27, the Tigers may have found a long-term bench piece.

Miguel Gonzalez

A 26-year-old minor league veteran, Gonzalez appeared in five games with the White Sox in 2013. The backstop batted just .243 last season, but turned in a career-high 33 RBI in 66 games played.

Despite registering just 14 extra-base hits, the former Chicago player threw out 40% of base stealers for Toledo last season. He’ll likely provide extra depth heading into the regular season.

Grayson Greiner

Greiner was drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft and has made steady progress in advancing through Detroit’s minor league system.

The 24-year-old posted a .288 batting average and a .320 on-base percentage while throwing out 44% of potential base stealers for Toledo.

Additionally, the backstop added 30 RBI, 20 runs scored, nine doubles, seven home runs and three doubles in 59 games for Erie.

He made his Triple-A debut late in the season and could conceivably make his Major League debut in the next few years.

Detroit Tigers

Aug 16, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Dixon Machado (49) makes a throw to first to get Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (not pictured) out in the fifth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


Andrew Romine

As of now, Andrew Romine may be the Detroit Tigers top backup at each infield position. This makes him essentially a lock to make the team out of Spring Training.

Despite batting .236 with a 71 wRC+, the utility player still managed to turn in a 0.6 WAR that checked in ahead of Saltalamacchia, Aybar and Tyler Collins.

Dixon Machado

The 24-year-old could carve out a role as the backup to Jose Iglesias next season. Additionally, should Detroit’s starting shortstop end up being dealt before Opening Day, Machado would serve as a like-for-like replacement.

A slick-fielding defensive shortstop, the prospect has just as much defensive upside as Iglesias. He turned in a 0.2 WAR in just eight games (13 plate appearances) for the Tigers last season.

Omar Infante

Omar Infante hasn’t had the best time since leaving the Detroit Tigers—at least from an offensive standpoint.

In parts of three seasons with the division-rival Royals, the veteran never turned in a wRC+ higher than 75. What’s more, his WAR in his final year in Detroit (3.1) far out-weighted his collective WAR (-0.6) with Kansas City.

He’ll obviously need to hit at a higher rate to crack the Tigers roster, but there’s upside considering Infante has experience at second base, third base and shortstop, as well as in left field and right field.

Brendan Ryan

Similar to Iglesias and Machado, Brendan Ryan gives Detroit another defensive option at shortstop. The former Mariner has never hit much in his career, but he does bring value on the other side of the ball.

In limited playing time with the Halos last season, Ryan notched a 29.8 UZR/150. His career DRS total sits at 100.

Detroit Tigers

Aug 31, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones (40) runs the bases against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


JaCoby Jones

Much of the Detroit Tigers reserve outfield situation will depend on the starting center fielder. That could by any number of players, including JaCoby Jones.

The former Pirates farmhand certainly stands out from an upside standpoint given his rare blend of pop and speed. In just 99 games with Toledo, Jones logged 44 runs scored, 43 RBI, 34 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases.

Tyler Collins

A corner outfielder by trade, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Collins feature in center field come the 2017 season.

Collins didn’t exactly thrive defensively in center field last season (-4 DRS, -11.4 UZR/150), but his offensive potential could see him earn playing time.

The 26-year-old does shows the upside to hit 20 home runs per season given consistent playing time. That offensive upside could see him vault ahead of the unproven Jones and Anthony Gose.

Anthony Gose

Anthony Gose struggled with the Detroit Tigers in 2016.

After 30 games with the Major League club that saw the former Blue Jay bat just .209 with a .628 OPS, Gose also failed to make much contact in the minors.

Over the span of 379 plate appearances (90 games) split between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, the center fielder hit just .203, including a .185 number with the Mud Hens.

Gose’ speed would bring a different element to Detroit’s roster. However, should the Tigers contend, it is hard to see them routinely starting an outfielder who struggles to get on base.

Steven Moya

The rare Detroit Tigers outfielder who isn’t a center field candidate, Moya would bring intrigue to the bench as a pinch-hitting alternative.

With the ability to obliterate baseballs, Moya has all kinds of offensive upside. However, he is still striking out at a high rate.

In limited at-bats, the former top prospect could thrive off the bench given his tendency to hit the ball over the fence.

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