Other than first base, Detroit Tigers minor leaguer Jordan Lennerton has never played any other position during the six seasons he has spent down on the farm. Lennerton’s lack of versatility is unfortunate as Andy Dirks‘ injury has created a large void in left field that is just waiting to be filled by a formidable left-handed bat such as his.
The 28-year-old Lennerton is a former 33rd-round draft pick of the Tigers who has patiently been waiting for his chance to make it to the big leagues for more than half a decade now. If he has a strong spring, he could still prove that good things come to those who wait. He is currently hitting .250 (4-for-16) in Spring Training games, and he had a very impressive winter as he batted .340/.414/.539 with five home runs, 13 doubles and 21 RBIs for Leones de Ponce. He also had a solid season for the Triple-A Toledo Toledo Mud Hens in 2013.
Lennerton’s problem, however, is that the Tigers currently have the best hitter on the planet in Miguel Cabrera at first base in addition to one of the best designated hitters in the league in Victor Martinez. However, one may be tempted to ponder the question, “what could the Tigers possibly lose by allowing Lennerton to take a few fly balls in the outfield this spring?”
The answer is absolutely nothing. It may sound outrageous, but the Tigers gave the same opportunity to career infielder Jhonny Peralta just last fall. Moreover, the Tigers stuck Peralta in left field for the final weekend of the season after he returned from his 50-game suspension, and Peralta went on to log time in the outfield during the 2013 postseason.
Spring Training is obviously a much better time to experiment than the playoffs, and the Tigers would have everything to gain by giving Lennerton a chance to play the outfield.
It would also be possible for the Tigers to allow Lennerton play first base, and then move Cabrera back to third base and have Nick Castellanos return to the outfield, but such a scenario seems highly unlikely. Cabrera will probably see action at third in interleague games, but the Tigers are most likely going to want to limit Cabrera’s time at the hot corner in order to ensure that he does not re-aggravate his injuries from last season.
Lennerton is said to have below average speed, but if he was to play left, he would have the luxury of having Austin Jackson playing right beside him. Jackson would be able to make up for a lot of the ground that Lennerton would not be able to cover. It has also been said that Lennerton has a strong throwing arm for a first baseman, which would certainly work to his advantage in the outfield.
Some will obviously ask about some of the Tigers’ other options who are in camp such as Ezequiel Carrera and Trevor Crowe, or prospects Daniel Fields and Tyler Collins. Crowe and Carrera simply have not hit well in the limited time they have spent in the big leagues, and there is no question that Collins and Fields both have a chance to be future stars with the Tigers, but they appear to be a little raw for the big leagues at the moment.
Although it is still very early, Fields is hitting just .222 and Collins is hitting .167. It would probably be wise of the Tigers to have each of them begin the season in triple-A where they will be given more time to develop. Fields and Collins both have promising futures, and there is no need to rush them.
There are still three weeks left until Opening Day, and it would make all of the sense in the world to give Lennerton a chance to plod around the outfield in the coming days. Hopefully the Tigers’ organization feels the same way.