5 Detroit Tigers Who Could Bat Fifth In 2014
5 Detroit Tigers Who Could Bat In The Five-Hole
After the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler on Nov. 20, one of the biggest questions on the minds of many Tigers fans was whether or not Victor Martinez will be able to protect Miguel Cabrera. The answer to that question should be an obvious yes. Martinez most likely will not hit as many home runs as Fielder did, but his swing is actually better suited for Comerica Park. Therefore, he may actually give Cabrera better protection.
Furthermore, history has already shown that Martinez can protect Cabrera. In 2011, Martinez batted fifth behind Cabrera who was batting cleanup back then, and Cabrera hit .344 to win his first batting title. Cabrera also had a slightly higher OPS in 2011 than he had in his subsequent Triple Crown season in 2012.
Martinez himself hit .330 in 2011 with 40 doubles and 103 RBIs. Based on what Martinez showed in the second half of the 2013 season, he appears to be primed to have another season like the one he had in 2011 in 2014. If he does manage to do so, then he will certainly provide plenty of protection for Cabrera.
The biggest and most important mystery, however, is the question of who will bat fifth for the Tigers in 2014.
For the most part, the Tigers' lineup is still up in the air, but manager Brad Ausmus has stated that there is probably a 95 percent chance that Martinez will be batting cleanup and Cabrera will be batting third. Hence, the Tigers will need a stellar bat in the five-hole to provide adequate protection for Martinez.
In addition to losing Fielder, the Tigers also bid farewell to Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta this offseason, and either of those players would have made a fine candidate to bat fifth this coming season. However, fans should rest assured that the Tigers still have at least five viable candidates who could bat in the five-hole.
Without further ado, here are five Tigers who could bat fifth and protect Martinez in 2014.
5. Alex Avila
Seeing Alex Avila's name on this list will undoubtedly make more than a few Tigers fans shake their heads. Avila may be a long shot to bat fifth, but he should not be ruled out completely. If Wally Joyner, the Tigers' new hitting coach, can straighten Avila out and help him hit like he did in 2011 again, he may actually fit perfectly into this spot. It should also be noted that Avila has a career .290 batting average in 31 at-bats in the five-hole.
4. Andy Dirks
The left-handed Andy Dirks most likely will not hit with the type of power that one typically associates with a five-hole hitter, but he has the ability to hit for a solid average. He may have only hit .256 in 2013, but he was battling a knee injury throughout the entire year. Dirks hit .322 as recently as 2012 and he also had a solid .289 career average in the minor leagues. If Dirks is healthy, he could potentially post numbers that resemble the ones Infante put up last season (Infante had a slash line of .318/.345/.450 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs in 2013.)
3. Nick Castellanos
The Tigers most likely will not put Nick Castellanos in the No. 5 spot at the beginning of the season, but it is not a wild stretch of the imagination to think that he could end up there. Castellanos hit 18 home runs for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens last season, meaning that he hit more home runs than any player returning to the Tigers hit besides Cabrera. The Tigers will probably put Castellanos the seventh or eighth spot in the lineup at the beginning of the season, but if he has a hot start and begins hitting a few homers he may end up being a great candidate to bat fifth.
2. Torii Hunter
Torii Hunter would be an excellent candidate to bat fifth, but there is an argument to be made that he should stay in the No. 2 spot as he has found a great deal of success batting second over the past two seasons. Hunter hit .306 in 588 at-bats in the two-hole for the Tigers last season, and .343 in 356 at-bats for the Los Angeles Angels in 2012. If one had to guess, Hunter will probably start the season batting second, but he could be moved to the five-hole if the need arises.
1. Austin Jackson
Austin Jackson has seen time in the five-hole in Spring Training, and the Tigers should have every reason to believe that he could perform well in that spot. Jackson has reached double-digits in the home run category in each of the past three seasons, and he even hit as many as 16 back in 2012 in just 137 games. If Jackson bats fifth, he will not have to worry about the strikeouts as much as he did when he was batting leadoff. Jackson would be able to let it all hang out in the No. 5 spot, and he may actually hit .270-.280 with 20 or more home runs to make a perfect five-hole hitter.