Jim Leyland loves versatile players, and he’s probably right to feel that way. Depending on how a team’s roster plays out, a Don Kelly-type player (someone that’s average or above at six or seven defensive positions) could save a club a roster spot, allowing them to carry an extra specialist on the big club (perhaps that’s a pinch hitter, a Rule 5 player, an extra reliever, or whatever).
But, as currently constructed, the Tigers roster doesn’t look that way. They’ll likely end up with reserves that field as well or better than Kelly and hit as well or better at every position. This fact is highlighted by the Tigers Official (and probably rather unreliable) depth chart. Donnie Ballgame is listed no higher than third at any position.Andy Dirks should prove to be a plus defender in the corner outfield, and he’ll outhit Kelly every day of the week. You could make the argument that Kelly plays a better center field than Dirks does, and I’d listen to you there, but Austin Jackson has missed only 20 games in two years (less than 1.5 games per month), so you don’t necessarily need a plus defender to fill his shoes, just someone good enough to get the job done. Between Jackson, Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, and Dirks, the Tigers have five outfield options that are superior to Kelly.
|Andy Oliver|| 3.0
Oliver's career as one of the top prospects in the Tigers' farm system has been plagued by control issues. His career walk rate in the minor leagues has been 4.2 BB/9. Oliver is a high strikeout guy, so he can get by with a walk rate that's a little bit elevated, but he probably won't see sustained success until he can get that rate into the low threes.
Again, it's way too early to declare Andy Oliver the frontrunner for the fifth starter spot or anything like that, but let's take this first outing for what it is. It was a small positive sign that, perhaps, Oliver will start putting it all together.
Obviously we will reserve full and final judgement until much later in the spring once we've seen him face actual MLB caliber hitters.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.no comments
Rick Porcello's Strikeout Numbers
Kid Rick made a small stride in this department in 2011 by bumping his strikeout rate up slightly from 4.65 K/9 in 2010 to 5.14 K/9 in 2012. That's not a huge jump, and 5.14 is still quite low, but it was nice to see him take a positive step after spending his first two season in the mid 4's in strikeouts per nine innings. Many argue -- and I'm one of them -- that Rick probably needs to see that rate jump up into at least the low-to-mid 6's if he's going to reach the type of ceiling that was once projected of him. Porcello is still just 23 years old, so he has 'plenty of time' left to develop, but 2012 will be his fourth year in the big leagues, and if we don't see vast improvement after this year, you'd have to seriously doubt we ever will.
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Tigers fans are already in midseason form when it come to nitpicking Jim Leyland’s lineups. The skipper released his lineup card for Friday’s exhibition game with the Florida Southern Mocs, and internet comment forms are already filled with “OMG what is he thinking?” type comments. Here’s the lineup:
But if the Tigers decide to go with one of the young prospects to fill the role, namely Jacob Turner or Drew Smyly, they probably won’t be able to count on them crossing the 180 inning mark. As I understand it, the general target for young pitchers is a 25 inning increase over the previous year. That would mean a 2012 total just shy of 170 innings for Turner and about 150 for Smyly.
I don’t know if the Tigers organization believes in strictly limiting a young pitchers innings -- they allowed Rick Porcello to jump 45 innings between his year in Lakeland and his rookie season in Detroit. But then again, Porcello hasn’t really progressed like everyone thought he would since then. Would they (or should they) handle Turner or Smyly differently? If so, they probably need to re-think the standard every fifth-game rotation.
We learned from the Detroit Free Press back on January 20 that Austin Jackson had been working with Lloyd McClendon on tweaking his swing. The goal of the sessions, quite obviously, were (are) to help reduce Austin’s ample strikeout totals (he struck out in 27.1% of his plate appearances in 2011). McClendon was quoted by the Free Press saying:
"The key is the ability to adjust and go to a two-strike approach… those are things he didn't do before."
How well will the new approach work? It’s impossible to say. A lot depends on Jackson’s ability to retain the new approach (and that’s assuming the new hitting style ‘works’ to begin with), but what we can do is look at past strikeout kings and see how much they’ve improved in one season.
To do this, I found every player who had a strikeout rate of 25% or more (in a season) between the years 2000 and 2010. There were 64 player-seasons that fit this criterion -- some players (like Adam Dunn, who made the list eight times) are represented more than once. Then, for each of the 64 seasons, I found the player’s strikeout rate the following year. Here’s the complete table: