In 2009, during his final season with the Detroit Tigers, Curtis Granderson batted .249 and belted 30 home runs. Since then, nary a Tigers outfielder has even reached the 20 plateau.
It should be noted, though, that Torii Hunter currently has nine home runs and is on pace to hit 24 homers according to ESPN, but only time will tell if he will actually get there. Hunter has not, however, been the .300 hitter this year that he was in each of the past two seasons. Many are beginning to raise concerns about his defense as well.
The Tigers’ other outfielders, Austin Jackson, Rajai Davis, J.D. Martinez and Don Kelly, have combined to hit just 10 home runs. Martinez, as a matter of fact, has hit as many long balls (3) in 70 at bats as Jackson has in 205 ABs.
Obviously, when a team has Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez there is an argument to be made that you do not necessarily need to have “thumpers” in the outfield, but many championship caliber teams are built around power on the corners. The Tigers really only have power on one corner: first base. However, it should be noted that Nick Castellanos has been swinging the bat much better at third base, but the team is simply not getting enough production from the outfield.
For a comparison, lets take a look at the AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays for instance. They have Edwin Encarnacion at first, Juan Francisco at third, Melky Cabrera in left and a member of the 50-home run club in Jose Bautista in right. Moreover, the Baltimore Orioles are another team with power on the corners as they have Chris Davis at first, Manny Machado at third, Nick Markakis in right and Nelson Cruz splitting time between left and DH. Not to mention the fact that they have Adam Jones in center.
The Tigers could really use another, preferably left-handed, power threat in the outfield. There were many who wondered if the Tigers might be interested in Chicago Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz prior to the start of the season as he hit 21 home runs in 2013, but it looks like they were smart to avoid him as he is merely batting .222 with two home runs in 2014. Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers appears to remain available, but he would be far too risky for the Tigers.
The Tigers have a few left-handed hitting outfield prospects on the farm, but none seem quite ready for MLB as of yet. Two of them, Tyler Collins and Daniel Fields, are currently playing for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. Collins, who cracked the Tigers’ 25-man roster out of Spring Training but was only given 14 at bats before being sent back down, is currently batting .236 with seven home runs while Fields is batting .234 with three home runs. Fields is also on the seven-day DL.
Steven Moya, the other notable left-handed hitting outfield prospect the Tigers have, is currently wearing a Double-A Erie SeaWolves jersey. He has serious power and he is having a great season, but most believe he is still too raw for the big leagues.
The Tigers need to find a way to insert another quality hitter into their outfield. They do hope to get Andy Dirks back at some point, but no one is going to expect him to hit 20 home runs.
The Tigers have been struggling all season long to find a consistent five-hole hitter who can bat behind (Victor) Martinez, and a power-hitting outfielder would fix that. The problem, however, is that the trade market is pretty thin and the prospects the Tigers currently have don’t appear to be ready. Even though he is right-handed, perhaps the Tigers should start (J.D.) Martinez.