Spring training. It's pointless, right? Oh, but on the contrary.
The baseball preseason serves many purposes. Among those is for the fringe major league players needing to make a big statement to the organization, in hopes of just staying on the big league roster come Opening Day.
There's a bevy of those on every team this spring, the Detroit Tigers are no exception. But for four players in particular, it may be now or never… or with another team down the road. For infielder Dixon Machado, and outfielders Tyler Collins, Anthony Gose and Steven Moya, time is running out.
What does this quartet have in common? They are all “out of options” for the 2017. Any player who has less than five years of major league service and is on the 40-man roster can be freely optioned to the minors at any point during the season, with no limit on the number of times. Said players are limited to three ‘option' years in their career. For one of the three to count, the player has to be optioned for at least 20 days.
This will be the fourth season that Collins, Gose, Machado and Moya have been on the major league 40-man roster (includes Gose's time with TOR). However, they do not have the same luxury they did the previous three seasons — the luxury of being optioned without threat.
The threat? Their tenure as a Tiger coming to an end.
Before we delve into each player, let's look at how each player has done in their major league career thus far:
|POSITIONS||LF (50), CF (30), RF (20)||LF (41), CF (288), RF (40)||SS (24)||LF (10), RF (28)|
[Player stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference]
You can learn a lot about each of these players just from looking at this table, some with bigger sample sizes than others. Nevertheless, the constant between the four players is that their time donning the olde English D is in jeopardy.
Here is our breakdown on the strengths and weakness of each player. We will also predict whether or not they will be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day.
STRENGTHS: Tyler's versatility in the outfield is where his biggest value is, and the defense has improved over the last two seasons (2015 – .955 FLD% in 80 chances | 2016 – .988 FLD% in 82 chances). It's only a season's worth of games under his belt but at the dish, he puts up the numbers of (at best) a role player in the lineup, capable of starting if need be.
WEAKNESSES: We're hoping that the minor mishap with the fans is in everyone's rear view mirror, but it would still raise a red flag or two regarding his character, despite him being very remorseful following the incident. As far as his skill set, the lefty Collins has not mastered hitting lefty pitchers. Collins is a career .174 hitter (46 AB) vs. southpaws.
VERDICT: Collins is not doing much at the plate this spring, hitting just .206 in 36 ABs. But what he ultimately provides the Tigers is a fourth outfielder, starter or reserve, and a quality enough bat from the left side, something the Detroit lineup desperately needs.
In theory, he makes for a great utility outfielder at worst. Here's an added wrinkle to Collins' situation. Detroit has a versatile veteran outfielder in camp in Alex Presley, who also hits lefty and is hitting significantly better than Collins so far in spring. Presley was signed mid-season last year and re-upped with Detroit on a minor league deal. If anything, Detroit could keep Collins, stash Presley in the minors, should they fear losing the former to the waiver wire.
STRENGTHS: Anthony Gose has the makings to be a prototypical leadoff man in baseball, a guy that can get on base and jump-start an offense, utilizing his speed to wreak havoc on the base paths. He's still fairly young too, as he turns 27 this August. Though predominantly a center fielder, he does have the capability of playing all over at a very high level.
WEAKNESSES: Unfortunately, Gose has largely not lived up to the promise quite yet. He's played in parts of the last five seasons, only one year (2015) was he the everyday center fielder. And not only is he not getting on base enough like the standard leadoff man should, but he strikes out far too often to hold that spot. Him not being on base has hindered his chances to pile up the steals. And like Collins, questions of character are raised after his spat in the minors a season ago.
VERDICT: Gose entered spring with just as much of a chance as anyone to earn (and re-claim, in his case) the starting center field gig. He's hitting a modest .267 this spring but is fanning 40 percent of the time. The Tigers will definitely be in a bind what to do with him. However, it seems Detroit has a plan to make JaCoby Jones or Mikie Mahtook a staple in CF for years to come, leaving Gose to be tested on the waiver wire.
After all, Gose has already been designated for assignment by Detroit, following the team's acquisition of Mahtook from Tampa in late January, subsequently putting Mahtook on the 40-man in place of Gose.
STRENGTHS: Machado has always been heralded for his glove, a la Jose Iglesias if you will. Dixon has been one of those slow and steady climbers in the organization for quite some time now, going back to playing in the system's foreign rookie league as a 17-year-old back in 2009. He's always been a disciplined hitter as well, only striking out 15.7 percent of the time in over 2,900 minor league at-bats.
WEAKNESSES: Unfortunately for Dixon, he has had not many chances to showcase his potential at the big league level. The small sample size is arguably more concerning than his light hitting skills thus far. The jury is still out on whether or not Machado can hit enough to be a staple for a big league club.
VERDICT: Machado does not seem to fit into the immediate plans for the Tigers, at least not at shortstop. The team has played him at second and third base this spring in hopes of adding to his value by being a utility infielder of sorts. However, Detroit has Nick Castellanos anchored at third for the foreseeable future.
One option to consider is bringing Machado along as the 25th man of sorts and be groomed to be the next second baseman for the Tigers. They have All-Star Ian Kinsler under for contract for one, maybe two seasons. Whenever the team reaches a point of rebuilding, perhaps Machado is in the picture. Otherwise, they risk losing him to another club.
STRENGTHS: Power, and lots of it. There is no denying that Moya is an imposing figure for opposing pitchers when he steps in the box. At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, some basketball coaches would love to have him posting up in the paint. And like Machado, he too has been in the system since a teenager, once upon a time a “can't miss” prospect for Detroit.
WEAKNESSES: That's the problem… once upon a time, he was that guy. The Tigers have desperately tried to get him some quality time at the big league level, most notably last year when he got 31 games under his belt and 100 plate appearances. And again like Machado, the minor league promise just hasn't quite translated to the big league level in his limited opportunities. Oh, and he's a defensive liability… and that's putting it lightly.
VERDICT: Being severely limited defensively already does not help Moya's case at all. He has more of the making of being an everyday first baseman or designated hitter in the show. Hypothetically, he could be the DH in Detroit once Victor Martinez's contract expires and he hangs them up.
But that's not for two more years. Does Detroit sacrifice some defense in order to carry some added pop off the bench, while also spelling an aging and injury-prone Martinez? Or do they risk putting him on the waiver wire for other teams to snatch up?