Chris Iott, of MLive.com quoted Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski as saying:
“I’ve had a lot of clubs reach out to me to offer guys who can catch the ball, but we feel we have somebody that can catch the ball.
With this being the case, I don’t anticipate the Tigers will make a move before opening day to acquire a shortstop, but will rather ride it out with the guys they have within the organization.
Using ZiPS projections, I have charted the expected offensive output of Jose Iglesias and his potential internal replacements. Like Dave Dombrowski said, there’s a lot of guys available that can pick it outside the organization that might be available, but not many that will offer a much better stick.
ZiPS projections are defined as follows at Fan Graphs.com:
The work of Dan Szymborski over at Baseball Think Factory, the ZiPS projections uses weighted averages of four years of data (three if a player is very old or very young), regresses pitchers based on DIPS theory and BABIP rates, and adjusts for aging by looking at similar players and their aging trends. It’s an effective projection system, and is displayed at FanGraphs for off-season and in-season projections.
I thinks ZiPS is the best projection system out there and is the most often used projection by the baseball journalism and blogging community. Defensive projections are highly subjective, depending on if you value a low errors/low range guy, or a higher errors/higher range guy, so they won’t be included in this article. The data will include a ZiPS projection extended out to if they replacement player had 600 plate appearances, roughly what a full time player would get if he starts and completes 150 games.
It isn’t terribly important to be a major contributor offensively, since this team was built around not getting much out of the bat of the shortstop. I would have been extremely happy if Jose Iglesias would have hit .230 for this team and played gold glove defense. There are less than five guys league wide who can pick it at Jose’s level, so we will have to settle for less. The replacement will have to make it up slightly with the bat.
Minor leaguer and prospect Eugenio Suarez is the most desirable internal replacement according to the ZiPS projections, however he does also have the lowest ceiling and highest floor. He’s reportedly defensively ready, but isn’t graded out to be anything but an average fielder. If he doesn’t hit, which you shouldn’t expect him too, he shouldn’t be playing every day at the major league level. Keep him in the minors to continue to develop, and if he tears the cover off the ball in April and May bring him up if what you have is struggling.
Danny Worth has the most major league experience and defensive experience as a shortstop but also will likely struggle offensively. He might as well leave the bat on the bench against right handed pitching as he boasts a career .191 major league batting average against same handed pitching. However he hits lefties at a .297 clip. Worth is solid with the glove so he could be a very valuable platoon player, you’d just have to find him a counterpart. The batting average in the projection is so damn low because it is measure as if he were a full time player and not as part of a platoon solution at the position. If He faces primarily lefties I would guess you could add about 60 points to his batting average, OBP, and slugging.
Hernan Perez has played more big league games than Worth over the last two years, but has been mostly a second baseman coming up through the minors. He does have experience at short, but most scouts including those employed by the Tigers consider him to be a second baseman. I think the ZiPS projection for his offense is a little high but not impossible to achieve. He’ll strike out a ton and won’t be able to do much against top flight pitching but is still a better option than at first glance. I think his glove will be more than fine, but the arm isn’t stellar. Some speedsters will beat out soft ground balls hit to him, but not quite at the rate of Johnny Peralta.
I would bet that the Tigers will use both Perez and Worth at shortstop to start the season unless an unbelievable trade offer falls into their lap. I would argue that a Stephen Drew signing is totally out of the question, considering the money that would have to be spent and the loss of the draft pick.
Both the cash and the pick will become incredibly important in the not so distant future since the Tigers have a ton of long-term contracts with veterans and the farm system has to get stronger. When you’re locked into long-term deals with veterans and they either falter, under perform or are lost to injury you have to restock with internal talent, since there is no available cash or prospect resources available to acquire pieces to fix the problem.
The draft pick is so much more important than the slight offensive improvement in the long-term. The Tigers may be two or three games worse using the in house options compared to signing Stephen Drew this year, but they are still more than two or three games better than the competition in the American League Central Division. If they aren’t it won’t be because they used an internal replacement at shortstop, it will likely be the fault of pitching, or a major injury to Miguel Cabrera.