Jordan Lennerton is a very interesting player. The left-handed first baseman is a former 33rd round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers who has quietly been going about his business in the Tigers’ farm system for the past six seasons. He has also posted some rather solid numbers along the way.
There has been much speculation this offseason as to whether or not the 28-year-old Lennerton will be finally able to make the big league team this spring. Although the Prince Fielder trade appeared to open a window for him, it was seemingly slammed shut just as quickly when the Tigers announced that Miguel Cabrera will be moving back to first base and Nick Castellanos will be given a chance to win the third baseman’s job. The Tigers’ DH spot is currently being occupied by a consummate professional hitter in Victor Martinez as well.
Although the fact that Martinez is slated to catch a few games for the Tigers in 2014 could conceivably create a spot on the bench for Lennerton, it remains unclear how much Martinez will be catching this coming season as his knees are most certainly still a factor.
However, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus have made it abundantly clear that Castellanos still has to earn his place, so one should not count Lennerton out just yet. That said, the organization does seem quite optimistic that Castellanos will in fact get the job done this spring.
The Tigers banking on Castellanos winning the third base job feels eerily similar to the Tigers counting on Bruce Rondon to solidify the closer’s role just a year ago, and everyone knows how that story turned out. If Castellanos does not play well enough in Spring Training to head north with the club, the Tigers are going to be left with a large hole on the left side of the infield.
The Tigers do, however, have a few internal options for third base who could temporarily help plug the hole. The most attractive idea is moving Cabrera back to third base for just one more season if his body is up for the challenge. If Cabrera could play third, it would consequently open up first base for Lennerton.
Admittedly, the idea of moving Cabrera back to third base will make more than a few fans uneasy. The all-world slugger is coming off of surgery and will soon be celebrating his 31st birthday. Therefore, it would certainly make sense to keep him at first base where it would be easier for him to stay healthy as he now stands on the verge of entering into the back nine of his career.
However, the fact that Jose Iglesias will be at shortstop for the entire 2014 season should make playing third base much easier on Cabrera. Furthermore, Cabrera would not be playing third base every day either as he could shift back to first base when the Tigers are facing left-handed pitching.
The Tigers are also going to be carrying utility man Steve Lombardozzi, who is a switch-hitter, and he will be a perfect candidate to slide into third base against LHP. Lombardozzi actually performed better from the right side of the plate last season as he hit .273 vs. the .254 he hit left-handed.
For these reasons, if Castellanos fails to win the third base job in Spring Training, his roster spot should go to Lennerton. He and Cabrera can split time at first base while Cabrera and Lombardozzi can split time at third base.