5 Detroit Tigers Who Could Play Third Base In 2014 If Nick Castellanos Is Not Ready
5 Internal Options For The Detroit Tigers At Third Base If Nick Castellanos Is Not Ready
The issue of whether or not Detroit Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos is ready to take over third base remains a hot topic among Tigers fans. Castellanos was up with the Tigers last September but was given a very small sampling as he hit .278 in 18 at-bats. He did not exactly post earth-shattering numbers for the Toledo Mud Hens last season either, but he did hit a solid .276/.343/.450 with 18 home runs, 37 doubles and 76 RBI.
Moreover, Castellanos has not played third base full time since 2011 as the organization moved him to the outfield after the Prince Fielder signing in January of 2012. So it's easy to understand why there is a feeling of uncertainty in Tiger Nation. Castellanos is without question the Tigers' third baseman of the future, but it is not a lock that he will be starting at the hot corner for the Tigers in 2014 -- although the job does appear to be his to lose.
The fact that the Tigers have limited options for third base if it does turn out that the soon to be 22-year-old Castellanos is not ready for showtime just creates even more anxiety for Tigers fans. Longtime utility man Ramon Santiago will not be returning, and the organization missed out on a prime opportunity to bring Eric Chavez to the Motor City earlier this offseason. The Tigers have not shown any interest in signing the veteran infielder Michael Young either, but they could still change their minds. The organization could also take a gamble on former Tiger Wilson Betemit, but it is hard to imagine what he would bring to the table that the Tigers internal options would not.
The Tigers do not appear to be interested in trading for San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley either.
Jose Iglesias has played 37 games at third base in his career, but moving him to third is not an option as the Tigers do not have a true backup at shortstop. Furthermore, shortstop is Iglesias' natural position and he is a magician over there. Asking Iglesias to play third base would be the equivalent of asking guitar legend Mark Knopfler to play the mandolin.
The Tigers do, however, have a few viable internal options for third base. Without further ado, here are five Tigers -- all of which are projected to be on the opening day roster -- who could conceivably man the hot corner for the Tigers next season in the event that Castellanos needs more seasoning in the minor leagues.
5. Alex Avila
Placing Alex Avila at third base would certainly be thinking outside of the box, but the idea is not nearly as outrageous as one might think. Avila played third in college and also played there for eight innings in an interleague game back in 2011, although he did make one error in just two chances. Avila has really taken a beating behind the plate over the past two seasons which has consequently had a negative impact on his offensive game, and moving him to a less taxing position might be exactly what it takes to get him to once again become the offensive force he was in 2011. Moving Avila to third would take a lot of work in Spring Training, but just imagine if the lefty popped 20 home runs and drove in 80 runs while playing there in 2014 while just playing mediocre defense.
4. Ian Kinsler
In eight seasons in the big leagues, third base is the only position Ian Kinsler has ever played besides second. However, he only played there for two innings in a game in September of 2012. Kinsler also played a little third base in the minor leagues and would likely be able to handle the hot corner if the Tigers needed him to, but there would almost certainly be questions about his arm strength. Moving Kinsler to third would also create a window for Tigers prospect Hernan Perez to shine at second.
3. Don Kelly
Don Kelly's name most likely won't generate much enthusiasm among Tigers fans, but he is still one of the best options to play third if Castellanos is not ready. Kelly has a .961 fielding percentage in 89 career games at third base, and if he played third base full time his batting average probably wouldn't be that much worse than Brandon Inge's was when he played third for the Tigers.
2. Steve Lombardozzi
Steve Lombardozzi is going to be a great addition to the Tigers even though few were excited when the Tigers first acquired him from the Washington Nationals. He is a switch-hitter with great bat control who handles the bat exceptionally well from both sides of the plate as evidenced by his .298 career batting average in the minor leagues. Lombardozzi could end up being the Tigers' savior if it is determined that Castellanos needs to spend more time in Triple-A Toledo.
1. Miguel Cabrera
Putting Miguel Cabrera back at third base would undoubtedly make more than a few fans nervous as the all-world slugger is coming off of surgery. However, if Cabrera is healthy and he can give the Tigers just one more year at the hot corner it would open up first base for prospect Jordan Lennerton. Lennerton has been on a hitting tear this winter, and he could give the Tigers another big bat in the middle of their lineup. The Tigers could also perhaps explore the possibility of signing Kendrys Morales to a one-year deal if Cabrera could play third.