The Detroit Tigers have found themselves in an interesting predicament. They have many players capable of playing in the outfield, but only three spots for them to share. As it stands now, Detroit has Riley Greene, Victor Reyes, Willi Castro, Robbie Grossman, and Akil Baddoo (who was just called up last night) on the Major League roster, all of whom have played regularly in the outfield.
Austin Meadows was expected to be included in the mix, but yesterday's news has cast some doubt on his ability to return to the lineup anytime soon. Another name to keep an eye on is prospect Kerry Carpenter. We'll introduce Carpenter into the conversation a little bit later.
Of course, not everybody who plays in the outfield is capable of competently playing center field. It takes a unique blend of talents to hold it down in center field. Plus, Riley Greene has exclusively played center field since his emergence in the big leagues, and it doesn't seem likely that the team will move him away from center. That leaves Reyes, Grossman, Castro, Baddoo, and possibly Carpenter competing for the corner spots.
Detroit Tigers outfielders have played pretty solid defense this year. Robbie Grossman has played defensively in 66 games this year, 36 in right and 30 in left. He's committed just one error, which broke his 440-game errorless streak. Willi Castro has played in the outfield in 49 games this year; 27 in left, 12 in right, and 12 in center.
He has only committed two errors in those 49 games, suitable for a .980 fielding percentage. Victor Reyes has seen time at each spot in the outfield in his 29 games played this season, but he has primarily played in right field. For the season, he's only committed a single error.
Akil Baddoo has played defensively in 17 games with the Tigers this season, 15 in center and two in right, with just one error. He also played two games in the field with the A+ West Michigan Whitecaps in center field and 29 games with Toledo. 18 games in left, 10 in center, and just one in right. He has not committed an error in the minors this season.
Prospect Kerry Carpenter has an interesting and possibly unexpected story. Currently, he is not ranked in the team's top 30 prospects, but that hasn't stopped his meteoric rise. He started the season with Double-A Erie, where he played defensively in 55 games. 29 of those games were in right, and 26 in left. He was then promoted to Triple-A Toledo, where he's played 11 games so far. Eight of those games have been in left and three in right. He committed just three errors, all of which came in Erie.
Now, Let's Talk Offense
The offense has been a problem for the Detroit Tigers this season. Riley Greene has enjoyed an excellent introduction to the big leagues. He's currently batting .256 through 22 games with Detroit, with three doubles, a triple, and a home run. He has eight RBIs to go with 13 walks and 20 strikeouts. Baddoo batted just .140 with Detroit before his demotion. He hit just a single home run, had two RBIs, and 15 strikeouts over 55 at-bats. His excursion in Toledo was much more fruitful, where he batted .300 with three home runs, 15 RBIs, and 26 strikeouts in 131 at-bats.
Willi Castro is batting .261 in 209 at-bats with the Tigers, with two home runs. He's contributed 15 RBIs, paired with seven walks and just 38 strikeouts. As for Grossman, it hasn't been a very successful season offensively. His average checks in at .210, with just two home runs. His strikeout rate is relatively high, at 34.7%. A plus is that he has drawn 31 walks, but his offensive production has not justified regular playing time.
Victor Reyes has enjoyed quite the nice offensive season so far. He is currently batting at a .295 clip. Not really known for his power, he has chipped in a home run to go with 11 RBIs. Strikeouts are not really an issue for him, with just 19 in 105 at-bats, but he has only drawn four walks as well.
Kerry Carpenter, the Detroit Tigers Wild Card
Now, let's talk about the offensive emergence of Kerry Carpenter. After 63 games of destroying the baseball with Double-A Erie, which came at the tune of a .304 average, 22 home runs, and 48 RBIs, he found himself promoted to Triple-A Toledo. He has undoubtedly continued to impress at the next level.
His first 13 games with the Mud Hens have seen him hit .390 with a home run and nine RBIs. Combining those stat lines, see him at .317 with 23 home runs and 57 RBIs. He does strike out a bit, with 77 in 281 ABs (27.4%), but an elevated strikeout rate is likely expected with those power numbers. He has also drawn a total of 22 walks and has a total of 45 extra-base hits.
Though these numbers are incredible overall, it's hard to say that he's completely ready to be a regular contributor at the highest level. We'll keep him on the short list of players who are close to a big-league call-up for now.
What Does an Ideal Detroit Tigers Outfield Rotation Look Like?
Taking Carpenter out of the equation at this point, our options remaining are Greene, Grossman, Castro, Baddoo, and Reyes. With Greene locking down center field (hopefully for the next few seasons at least), we'll draw his name in pen in the center field position.
Reyes' production has made it hard to look past him as well, given that he has played so well this season. We'll slot him in the starting right field position. Grossman has played himself out of contention for a regular spot in the lineup. His lack of offensive production cannot be ignored. In theory, we'll leave him on the bench for now.
An offensive spark plug, Baddoo was a true catalyst last season in Detroit when he was on. Now that he is back in Detroit, we'll slot him into left field regularly. Castro has been a pleasant surprise. Considering he just started playing in the outfield last season, he has proven to be a viable corner outfield option.
While defensive dependability is important, so is offensive production. Castro is far from an offensive liability, but there isn't enough flash for me to say that he is a deserving everyday option at this point. He is a great bench option, though, so we'll slot him in there in this “ideal scenario.”
All this to say that my regular everyday outfield for the Detroit Tigers would consist of Riley Greene in center field, Akil Baddoo in left field, and Victor Reyes in left field. There are two wild cards to include, though.
The first is Austin Meadows. When/if he can stay on the field regularly, he is an automatic starter. The second is Kerry Carpenter. If he continues to dazzle at Triple-A, it will be just a matter of time before he needs to be considered for a spot in the show.