Detroit Tigers outfielder Justin Upton had a rollercoaster year in 2016. Slumping offensively for much of the season, Upton did get it turned around after the All-Star break. Trying to avoid a repeat of that performance, manager Brad Ausmus is getting out ahead of the issue during spring training.
Not that it was likely to happen, but Brad Ausmus confirms Justin Upton will not be a choice for the Tigers' black-hole No. 2 lineup spot.
— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) February 22, 2017
One explanation for the 2016 Upton slump could be mental. There is a lot of pressure hitting second on any team. Add to it that you have Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez right behind you, there could be even more pressure to get quality contact and get on base.
What are the other options for the second spot in 2017? Ausmus’ response may surprise you.
Justin Upton will not hit second in the Tigers lineup to start the season, Brad Ausmus said. Asked who could, he said, "Anybody else."
— Anthony Fenech (@anthonyfenech) February 22, 2017
This is an interesting response. It indicates that Ausmus is leaving his options open for the batting order. I think that’s a smart decision. Considering the talent Ausmus has to work with on the squad, he is in a position to get very creative here.
Ausmus could put Victor Martinez to the #2 spot. While Martinez is not the greatest baserunner, Baseball Reference tracked his On-Base Percentage at .351 in 2016. It would be interesting to see a left-handed bat at second in the order as well.
Jose Iglesias is also a candidate. His very low strikeout rate bodes well for a #2 hitter. Also, once on base, his speed is an important asset.
A compelling case could be made for moving Cabrera up to #2. It makes sense to have your best hitter in the second spot. With Cabrera batting second, that might make Upton feel more relaxed and do more damage a little further down the order.
Even with all of those options, I think it will be J.D. Martinez batting second at the beginning. He is a deadly hitter and would put pressure on pitchers from the opening frame.
Here is my projected lineup for Opening Day:
- Ian Kinsler
- J.D. Martinez
- Miguel Cabrera
- Victor Martinez
- Justin Upton
- Nick Castellanos
- Tyler Collins/Mikie Mahtook
- James McCann
- Jose Iglesias
What do you think, Nation? Who would you like to see batting second for the Tigers this year?