2014 TigsTools: Best Infield Defense

The Tigers usually preferred middle infielders with projectable defensive skill sets, and as a result the system has been littered with glove-first prospects. With a shift toward players with more offensive potential from the amateur ranks and the trades of guys like Devon Travis and Domingo Leyba, the depth of defenders around the infield is noticeably thin outside of top dog Dixon Machado.

Best Infield Defense
1. Dixon Machado (SS)
2. Hernan Perez (2B/SS)
3. Javier Betancourt (2B)
4. Isrrael De La Cruz (SS)
5. Jose Zambrano (3B)

Machado’s prospect stock had been fading for quite some time, that is until he exploded at Double-A Erie in 2014; making a name for himself all over again. The one constant in Machado’s profile has always been his ability with the glove, earning at least plus grades from nearly every scout that sees him, and with some scouts willing to push him closer to double-plus at times. Machado is an instinctual player that positions himself well, reads the ball well off the bat, has a quick first step, and sure hands. He can make every play needed at shortstop, with most of them looking suspiciously easy.

Perez has found his way to the big leagues over the last couple of seasons, and while he has yet to find his MLB niche, he still owns a very good glove at second base, and occasionally solid glove at shortstop. No matter what comes of his offensive abilities, Perez’s ability to handle the leather should lead to a solid career as a utility infielder.

Betancourt has long been lauded for his instinctual play and grinder approach to the game, two traits that allow him to maximize his modest raw tools. Betancourt has the potential to be an above-average defender at second base with good actions and solid hands.

Both De La Cruz and Zambrano have some polishing to do with their defensive games, but both players show flashes of impressive defensive tools. De La Cruz is the more gifted player with raw defensive tools that should keep him at shortstop, while Zambrano offers grit and effort that allow him to be a defensive asset at any infield position.

Honorable Mention
David Gonzalez (SS)

Gonzalez has been among the Tigers better defensive shortstops for quite some time, but his game is often reckless and he lacks the refinement you would expect from a player of his experience. Those traits keep him behind the other defenders on the list, even if he does posses the ability to make the spectacular play at times.

Projection Kings
Adrian Alfaro (SS)
Brandon Loy (2B/SS)
Jorge Ynirio (SS)

While the lower levels of the minor league system don’t have quite as many top flight defenders as in past years, there are still a couple of guys worth watching. Alfaro was signed a couple of years back as a quality defensive shortstop with some line drive potential at the plate. He still has the defensive tools, but has been slow to develop. Ynirio was signed last summer as a similar prospect, and he could start to make some noise next year. Loy is an experienced player that was drafted for his glove. While his career has been sidetracked by a horrific ankle injury, he still has quality defensive tools in the middle of the diamond, and if he can return to health, he could move back up this list.

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