Handicapping the Final Position Player Races

With the Tigers breaking camp in just a little over a week, it's getting very close to decision time for manager Jim Leyland and who will receive the final roster spots. How do the positions shake out, and who appears to have the inside track? TigsTown handicaps the races!

First off, let's start out with what IS decided. Amongst the position players, only the second base starting position is up for grabs. Going around the diamond, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera, Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Raburn, Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez all have their starting spot and a job locked up. In addition, barring a trade or injury, Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly also have roster spots locked up.

That leaves three spots being fought for; the starting second base job, the fourth outfielder spot, and a utility spot.

Second Baseman

5-to-2: Scott Sizemore
Sizemore might well have the inside track on the job, showing better defense than what he did in 2010 so far this spring, while also bringing the line drive power that has consistently made him a top prospect in the organization. While Leyland has said he feels good with where the Tigers' offense is right now, he likely also knows that he'd be feeling at least a bit better with Sizemore's bat in the lineup.

3-to-1: Danny Worth
Worth has again put his superior defensive skills on display, showing that he can perform at a high level at the keystone, as well as at shortstop and third base. The surprise might be his offensive game, with five doubles and four walks that have helped lead to an OPS approaching .900 this spring. Stats can't be taken too seriously in such small sample sizes, but showing that gap power raises his stock significantly.

5-to-1: Will Rhymes
Rhymes emerged as a Leyland favorite last summer, posting a strong average and hit for surprising power in his late season call-up. However, this spring he's produced more at a level typical of his past performance – a solid average with little power more characteristic of a slap hitter. Sizemore brings the power, Worth brings the glove, meanwhile Rhymes doesn't have a key skill to point to where he excels compared to the others, dropping him down the board.

Fourth Outfielder

2-to-1: Casper Wells
Wells entered spring training already in favorable positioning, given his excellent defensive ability and versatility, as well as the power bat that he showed in 2010 when he got the opportunity. Wells has done nothing to diminish his star, hitting for a solid average with excellent patience (10 walks in 34 at-bats) and strong power.

4-to-1: Clete Thomas
A consummate Leyland favorite, Thomas hasn't done anything wrong this spring. He's hit well, played good defense and done exactly what one would expect him to do. The problem is that what he does, Casper does too, and Wells hits for more power.

6-to-1: Brennan Boesch
Boesch has received the most at-bats of any Tigers player through Sunday's game, and he's rebounded from his horrible 2010 second half with a solid showing. Boesch has flashed his power including the occasional mammoth moon shot, and has taken walks and hit for a good average. However, Boesch's defense is not at the same caliber as Thomas or Wells, and Boesch also can't play center, leaving the lone backup there as Don Kelly.

10-to-1: Andy Dirks
Dirks quickly emerged this spring, building on a hot finish to 2010 and putting his name squarely in the conversation with his performance. However, his hot hitting has slowed over the past couple weeks, and it also reinforces the reality that he has just 93 at-bats in Triple-A and isn't on the 40 man roster, so to keep him, they'd need to clear someone else off.

Utility Spot

Of course, who wins the above two spots will partially dictate who is available to win the final utility spot, but if the projected odds-on favorites take the spot, expect the final slot to come down to Boesch and Worth. Worth's defensive ability and versatility plays well, and also provides a complementary option at second base, meanwhile Boesch brings a power left-handed bat off the bench that could help spell both Ordonez and Raburn. Based on that, it's a 50-50 pick ‘em between the two, with the spot breaking toward the way Leyland is feeling. If pressed for a leader, give the edge to Worth.


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