2013 TigsTools: Best Infield Defense

With the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and Prince Fielder, the Tigers infield defense obviously wasn't its strong suit. But, the organization is making strides to upgrade that among the players coming up in the farm, especially via the international route. What do the top infielder defenders look like?

Best Infield Defense
1. Dixon Machado (SS)
2. Eugenio Suarez (SS)
3. Hernan Perez (2B)
4. Devon Travis (2B)
5. David Gonzalez (SS)

Despite missing nearly the entire 2013 season, Machado still easily tops this list. As a legitimate plus defender that shows flashes of attaining a plus-plus level, Machado is a true left-side glove that can impact a game on the defensive side. He combines very good instincts with good first-step quickness to show excellent range, and his soft hands and cannon arm complete the package.

Eugenio Suarez has flashed a plus glove in the past but it wasn't on display when I scouted him in 2013. His actions are still solid and his range is acceptable for shortstop, but he lacked the consistency and flash he had previously displayed. Most scouts now project Suarez as a solid-average glove. Similarly, Hernan Perez has shown plus ability in the past, though more recently at second base, and his glove came back to earth a little as well in 2013.

With some of the best hands of any infielder in the Tigers system, Devon Travis ranks well on this list. He is a hard-nosed player that takes a grinder approach to defense. He has average range and the sure hands to make all the plays on balls he reaches at second base.

Though more projection than reality at this time, David Gonzalez deserves mention on this list. A lightning quick first step gives him very good range. He has a flair for the dramatic and can make exceptional plays at times, but he lacks consistency and takes too many plays off mentally. If Gonzalez can grasp the mental side of the game and slow things down, he could become an above-average glove.

Honorable Mention
Javier Betancourt (SS)
Jordan Lennerton (1B)
Jose Zambrano (2B)

Betancourt is another instinctual defender in the Tigers system, though the combination of his instincts and tools should play better at second base than shortstop long term. Lennerton has long been lauded for his defense at first base and he is considered an asset around the bag with his ability to stretch and pick low throws. The Tigers love Jose Zambrano's glove and believe he could develop into one of the better defenders in the system with more consistency and maturity.

Projection Kings
Israel De La Cruz (IF) Domingo Leyba (2B)

A recent signing during the 2013 international signing period, De La Cruz has true shortstop tools but will require time to translate those tools to game action. Leyba isn't the toolsiest shortstop in the system, but he makes plays and shows an innate feel for the position.

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