Lack of prospects tops list of Tigers' problems
DETROIT — Tigers fans who weren't playing close
attention to Twitter in the last 18 hours might get a bit of shock when they
look at tonight's starting lineup.
Who is that catching? Bryan Holaday? Where did he come from?
The short answer is that he came from Dallas, through TCU, and was Detroit's
sixth-round pick in 2010. The long answer explains a big part of the reason
that the Tigers are 25-30 and closer to the last-place Twins than to the
first-place White Sox.
Holaday isn't a prospect. Yes, he's only 24, but his job this season was simply
to be Omir Santos' backup at Triple-A Toledo. Santos, of course, is also not a
prospect. He was just supposed to hold down the fort in Toledo until Rob
Brantly, an actual prospect, was ready to come up from Double-A Erie.
But now, with Alex Avila and Gerald Laird suffering from hamstring injuries and
Santos failing to prove he can hit in the majors, the Tigers are giving Holaday
a shot. How well is this likely to work? Holaday is a career .238 hitter in 175
minor league games. He doesn't hit for power (10 homers) and doesn't draw many walks
(59 in 696 plate appearances).
That's the story of the 2012 season. Dave Dombrowski built a team that looked
fantastic on paper, but had no margin of error. If anything went wrong — and a
lot has — there was no way to fix it.
The Tigers went into the season with four second basemen — Brandon Inge, Ryan
Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth. Inge and Raburn are gone, Santiago is
hitting .202, Worth is hitting .184 and Detroit struggles at turning the double
play. Looking through the stats at Erie
and Toledo, and it’s obvious there's no one in the minors that is going to help
Avila, who was placed on the 15-day DL Wednesday, and Laird looked like a solid
catching combination, but it’s the toughest position and the grind is more than
likely going to catch up with one or both of them. Now that it has, the Tigers
have exposed that weakness in the system. Santos hit .125, struggled terribly
behind the plate and has since been designated for assignment, leaving them to
Andy Dirks gets hurt? The Tigers have to bring up Matt Young, a 29-year-old who
got dumped in the offseason after seven years toiling in the Atlanta farm
Austin Jackson pulls an abdominal muscle? Welcome Quintin
Berry to the big leagues. He's only 27, but had already been given up on by the
Phillies, Padres, Mets and Reds.
The closest thing to a success story is Berry, and even he's cooling off after
a blazing start. His entire value is built around one tool — speed. Even his
spectacular defensive plays often come because he can recover from misjudging
fly balls and make a difficult catch on what should have been a simple play.
On offense, he's hitting .459 on balls in play, which means he's getting huge
amounts of luck. Even Ichiro Suzuki at his slap-hitting, speedy best couldn't
sustain an average like that.
Then there’s the Doug Fister. His two trips to the disabled list gave the
Tigers Adam Wilk and Casey Crosby in the starting rotation. Results? Four
starts, four losses and an ERA of 10.80.
The bullpen has needed help all season, and the system has produced Collin
Balester, Luke Putkonen, Thad Weber, Brayan Villarreal and Daniel Schlereth.
Villarreal has been very good. The rest were terrible. Next up? Jose Ortega,
who was called up Wednesday. He's walked 29 batters in 29 innings this season
for the Mud Hens. That's not promising.
Last season, Dombrowski's great balancing act paid off. The Tigers stayed
fairly healthy and received career years from Avila, Jhonny Peralta, Justin
Verlander, Jose Valverde and others. The result was a cruise through the AL
Central and into the ALCS.
This year, though, Dombrowski's barely staying on the tightrope. The players
having career years — Jackson and Dirks — have gotten hurt, along with
several of their teammates. The Tigers aren't having an abnormal number of
injuries — they just don't have the organizational depth to deal with an
This Tigers team was built to win with a powerful 25-man group, at the expense
of the short-term future. Unfortunately, as this season has lurched along, it
has become quite obvious that the short-term future was actually right now.