WezMailBlog: Whitecaps, Iglesias, 2015 Lineup

Welcome to the first edition of the WezMailBlog – you’ve got questions, and I might have answers! In this week’s mailbag, I tackle questions on the 2015 West Michigan roster, the health of Jose Iglesias and potential internal shortstop alternatives, and how will Brad Ausmus organize his lineup.

1. The 2015 West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps usually have a roster that is primarily comprised of players that spent the year prior in either Connecticut or the GCL, and ensuring that many of the top draft selections from the prior year’s draft start in full season ball. In case you need a refresher on who the Tigers drafted last year, you can find the list here: 2014 MLB Draft Tigers Draft Central.

Experienced college pitchers like Spencer Turnbull and Adam Ravenelle are very likely to start the season in West Michigan as are other top ten round picks like Grayson Greiner, Ross Kivett and Joey Pankake. Greiner and Ravenelle both spent time in 2014 in West Michigan, so they should be at least a bit familiar.

Among non-draftees, one name to watch will be Steven Fuentes. He led the CT-Tigers last year with an .831 OPS, and has plenty of raw tools, checking in at #47 in the TigsTown Top 50. And while neither are likely to find themselves in the rotation, the Whitecaps are likely to go with a pair of hard throwing young righties at the back of the bullpen; Johan Belisario and Joe Jimenez. Belisario allowed just three earned runs in all of 2014 for Connectiut (0.79 ERA), while Jimenez posted a sub-three ERA and has been especially impressive this winter in Puerto Rico. Jimenez is ranked 17th in the organization.

There is a possibility that the Tigers top selection in the 2014 draft, and the top-ranked prospect in the organization, outfielder Derek Hill, joins the Whitecaps. It’d be an aggressive assignment for a 19-year old less than a year removed from high school, but he has the talent. His placement will likely come down to how advanced he looks in the spring and if the coaches think he can handle full season ball.

2. Iglesias’s Health and Shortstop Alternatives

The health of Jose Iglesias is an important component of the Tigers 2015 success. They badly missed him last year; his defense is simply irreplaceable, and even the alternatives couldn’t produce what Iglesias would have offensively.

According to the Freep’s Anthony Fenech, Iglesias is running at about 80% and fielding and hitting and was going to be re-evaluated a few days ago. That’s a mostly encouraging prognosis that would seem to lead many to believe that with another month, he’ll be close to 100% for spring training to start. I have every reason to be optimistic.

But, this isn’t an injury baseball players and trainers are used to dealing with. For as serious as it was 10-20 years ago, Tommy John surgery has become relatively commonplace, with trainers very adept at forecasting recovery and return to action. This is not that, and it’s why the Tigers have been relying extensively on a specialist, Dr. Thomas Clanton, in Colorado.

As a shortstop that relies heavily on the use of his legs, this should be something that is monitored very closely. And that’s because to answer the second part of your question, the Tigers do not have anyone on the roster capable of filling in for Iglesias at shortstop on a full-time basis. Andrew Romine is a reasonable utility infielder, but not a starter, and Hernan Perez, while improved defensively at short, probably isn’t a starter, either. Of those reasonably close to contributing at the big league level, the name to watch might truly be Dixon Machado. He had a bit of a breakout second half of 2014 offensively in Erie, and is easily the best defensive shortstop in the system. If he’s able to maintain some of that productivity at the plate, and the Tigers need a long-term replacement for Iglesias, they could look to Machado, before potentially searching outside the organization.

Hopefully this what-if scenario never has to play out, though.

3. The 2015 Lineup

When taking a look at the lineup, let’s go ahead and assume that Iglesias and Miguel Cabrera are healthy, Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose will platoon in center field, and there are no other surprises between now and Opening Day.

From the beginning, we know that Cabrera will hit third and Victor Martinez will hit fourth. Given the desire to have a sound hitter at the top of the lineup, it also seems likely that Ian Kinsler will be penciled in as the leadoff man. While Gose or Davis have the speed the Tigers would love to have there, it’s hard to see either being used in such a key spot offensively, likely meaning their spot in the batting order rotates at #9.

The real question becomes of the Tigers would be willing to break up the heart of the order they had last year, or if they’d potentially even want to try newly acquired power-hitter Yoenis Cespedes near the top of the lineup.

There’s a very good argument to be made that someone like Iglesias or Alex Avila should be slotted for the two spot, but since both of those seem unlikely, the logical move would be to slide J.D. Martinez up in the order, put Cespedes behind Victor Martinez, and then have a mix of power and speed over the last four spots. The case for J.D. at two over Cespedes is rather simple; even outside of his outstanding 2014, JDM walks more than 6% of the time, on top of a respectable average in the .270 range. Cespedes meanwhile has an average ten points lower than JDM’s for their careers, and his walk rate has steadily been dropping over each of those three seasons, falling to 5% in 2014.

Given that, here’s how I *think* the lineup will shape up:

1: Kinsler (2B)
2: J.D. Martinez (RF)
3: Miguel Cabrera (1B)
4: Victor Martinez (DH)
5: Yoenis Cespedes (LF)
6: Alex Avila (C )
7: Nick Castellanos (3B)
8: Jose Iglesias (SS)
9: Gose/Davis (CF)

Paul Wezner is the publisher and Executive Editor of TigsTown. If you didn’t see your question this week, fear not, there will be a new mailbag coming out each Sunday. If you’d like to ask a question, fire it to Paul either via email at Paul@TigsTown.com or on Twitter @TigsTown.


Tigs Town Top Stories

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The West Michigan Whitecaps usually have a roster that is primarily comprised of players that spent the year prior in either Connecticut or the GCL, and ensuring that many of the top draft selections from the prior year’s draft start in full season ball. In case you need a refresher on who the Tigers drafted last year, you can find the list here: 2014 MLB Draft Tigers Draft Central.

\r\n\r\n

Experienced college pitchers like Spencer Turnbull and Adam Ravenelle are very likely to start the season in West Michigan as are other top ten round picks like Grayson Greiner, Ross Kivett and Joey Pankake. Greiner and Ravenelle both spent time in 2014 in West Michigan, so they should be at least a bit familiar.

\r\n\r\n

Among non-draftees, one name to watch will be Steven Fuentes. He led the CT-Tigers last year with an .831 OPS, and has plenty of raw tools, checking in at #47 in the TigsTown Top 50. And while neither are likely to find themselves in the rotation, the Whitecaps are likely to go with a pair of hard throwing young righties at the back of the bullpen; Johan Belisario and Joe Jimenez. Belisario allowed just three earned runs in all of 2014 for Connectiut (0.79 ERA), while Jimenez posted a sub-three ERA and has been especially impressive this winter in Puerto Rico. Jimenez is ranked 17th in the organization.

\r\n\r\n

There is a possibility that the Tigers top selection in the 2014 draft, and the top-ranked prospect in the organization, outfielder Derek Hill, joins the Whitecaps. It’d be an aggressive assignment for a 19-year old less than a year removed from high school, but he has the talent. His placement will likely come down to how advanced he looks in the spring and if the coaches think he can handle full season ball.

\r\n\r\n

2. Iglesias’s Health and Shortstop Alternatives

\r\n\r\n

@TigsTown ok how about- do you think iglesias is really going to be healthy? and if not, can perez be everyday ss? machado? romine? anyone?

— c (@atlantatiger74) January 18, 2015
\r\n\r\n\r\n

The health of Jose Iglesias is an important component of the Tigers 2015 success. They badly missed him last year; his defense is simply irreplaceable, and even the alternatives couldn’t produce what Iglesias would have offensively.

\r\n\r\n

According to the Freep’s Anthony Fenech, Iglesias is running at about 80% and fielding and hitting and was going to be re-evaluated a few days ago. That’s a mostly encouraging prognosis that would seem to lead many to believe that with another month, he’ll be close to 100% for spring training to start. I have every reason to be optimistic.

\r\n\r\n

But, this isn’t an injury baseball players and trainers are used to dealing with. For as serious as it was 10-20 years ago, Tommy John surgery has become relatively commonplace, with trainers very adept at forecasting recovery and return to action. This is not that, and it’s why the Tigers have been relying extensively on a specialist, Dr. Thomas Clanton, in Colorado.

\r\n\r\n

As a shortstop that relies heavily on the use of his legs, this should be something that is monitored very closely. And that’s because to answer the second part of your question, the Tigers do not have anyone on the roster capable of filling in for Iglesias at shortstop on a full-time basis. Andrew Romine is a reasonable utility infielder, but not a starter, and Hernan Perez, while improved defensively at short, probably isn’t a starter, either. Of those reasonably close to contributing at the big league level, the name to watch might truly be Dixon Machado. He had a bit of a breakout second half of 2014 offensively in Erie, and is easily the best defensive shortstop in the system. If he’s able to maintain some of that productivity at the plate, and the Tigers need a long-term replacement for Iglesias, they could look to Machado, before potentially searching outside the organization.

\r\n\r\n

Hopefully this what-if scenario never has to play out, though.

\r\n\r\n

3. The 2015 Lineup

\r\n\r\n

@TigsTown I'm behind on Tigers news but I'd like to know if there's an update on the planned lineup

— Dan Hogan (@DanHogan95) January 18, 2015
\r\n\r\n\r\n

When taking a look at the lineup, let’s go ahead and assume that Iglesias and Miguel Cabrera are healthy, Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose will platoon in center field, and there are no other surprises between now and Opening Day.

\r\n\r\n

From the beginning, we know that Cabrera will hit third and Victor Martinez will hit fourth. Given the desire to have a sound hitter at the top of the lineup, it also seems likely that Ian Kinsler will be penciled in as the leadoff man. While Gose or Davis have the speed the Tigers would love to have there, it’s hard to see either being used in such a key spot offensively, likely meaning their spot in the batting order rotates at #9.

\r\n\r\n

The real question becomes of the Tigers would be willing to break up the heart of the order they had last year, or if they’d potentially even want to try newly acquired power-hitter Yoenis Cespedes near the top of the lineup.

\r\n\r\n

There’s a very good argument to be made that someone like Iglesias or Alex Avila should be slotted for the two spot, but since both of those seem unlikely, the logical move would be to slide J.D. Martinez up in the order, put Cespedes behind Victor Martinez, and then have a mix of power and speed over the last four spots. The case for J.D. at two over Cespedes is rather simple; even outside of his outstanding 2014, JDM walks more than 6% of the time, on top of a respectable average in the .270 range. Cespedes meanwhile has an average ten points lower than JDM’s for their careers, and his walk rate has steadily been dropping over each of those three seasons, falling to 5% in 2014.

\r\n\r\n

Given that, here’s how I *think* the lineup will shape up:

\r\n\r\n

1: Kinsler (2B)
\r\n2: J.D. Martinez (RF)
\r\n3: Miguel Cabrera (1B)
\r\n4: Victor Martinez (DH)
\r\n5: Yoenis Cespedes (LF)
\r\n6: Alex Avila (C )
\r\n7: Nick Castellanos (3B)
\r\n8: Jose Iglesias (SS)
\r\n9: Gose/Davis (CF)

\r\n\r\n

Paul Wezner is the publisher and Executive Editor of TigsTown. If you didn’t see your question this week, fear not, there will be a new mailbag coming out each Sunday. If you’d like to ask a question, fire it to Paul either via email at Paul@TigsTown.com or on Twitter @TigsTown.

\r\n","mobileBody":"

@TigsTown ok, who will be playing at West Michigan next yr, and who should we be looking forward to seeing

— David Malamut (@davidmalamut) January 18, 2015

The West Michigan Whitecaps usually have a roster that is primarily comprised of players that spent the year prior in either Connecticut or the GCL, and ensuring that many of the top draft selections from the prior year’s draft start in full season ball. In case you need a refresher on who the Tigers drafted last year, you can find the list here: 2014 MLB Draft Tigers Draft Central.

Experienced college pitchers like Spencer Turnbull and Adam Ravenelle are very likely to start the season in West Michigan as are other top ten round picks like Grayson Greiner, Ross Kivett and Joey Pankake. Greiner and Ravenelle both spent time in 2014 in West Michigan, so they should be at least a bit familiar.

Among non-draftees, one name to watch will be Steven Fuentes. He led the CT-Tigers last year with an .831 OPS, and has plenty of raw tools, checking in at #47 in the TigsTown Top 50. And while neither are likely to find themselves in the rotation, the Whitecaps are likely to go with a pair of hard throwing young righties at the back of the bullpen; Johan Belisario and Joe Jimenez. Belisario allowed just three earned runs in all of 2014 for Connectiut (0.79 ERA), while Jimenez posted a sub-three ERA and has been especially impressive this winter in Puerto Rico. Jimenez is ranked 17th in the organization.

There is a possibility that the Tigers top selection in the 2014 draft, and the top-ranked prospect in the organization, outfielder Derek Hill, joins the Whitecaps. It’d be an aggressive assignment for a 19-year old less than a year removed from high school, but he has the talent. His placement will likely come down to how advanced he looks in the spring and if the coaches think he can handle full season ball.

@TigsTown ok how about- do you think iglesias is really going to be healthy? and if not, can perez be everyday ss? machado? romine? anyone?

— c (@atlantatiger74) January 18, 2015

The health of Jose Iglesias is an important component of the Tigers 2015 success. They badly missed him last year; his defense is simply irreplaceable, and even the alternatives couldn’t produce what Iglesias would have offensively.

According to the Freep’s Anthony Fenech, Iglesias is running at about 80% and fielding and hitting and was going to be re-evaluated a few days ago. That’s a mostly encouraging prognosis that would seem to lead many to believe that with another month, he’ll be close to 100% for spring training to start. I have every reason to be optimistic.

But, this isn’t an injury baseball players and trainers are used to dealing with. For as serious as it was 10-20 years ago, Tommy John surgery has become relatively commonplace, with trainers very adept at forecasting recovery and return to action. This is not that, and it’s why the Tigers have been relying extensively on a specialist, Dr. Thomas Clanton, in Colorado.

As a shortstop that relies heavily on the use of his legs, this should be something that is monitored very closely. And that’s because to answer the second part of your question, the Tigers do not have anyone on the roster capable of filling in for Iglesias at shortstop on a full-time basis. Andrew Romine is a reasonable utility infielder, but not a starter, and Hernan Perez, while improved defensively at short, probably isn’t a starter, either. Of those reasonably close to contributing at the big league level, the name to watch might truly be Dixon Machado. He had a bit of a breakout second half of 2014 offensively in Erie, and is easily the best defensive shortstop in the system. If he’s able to maintain some of that productivity at the plate, and the Tigers need a long-term replacement for Iglesias, they could look to Machado, before potentially searching outside the organization.

Hopefully this what-if scenario never has to play out, though.

@TigsTown I'm behind on Tigers news but I'd like to know if there's an update on the planned lineup

— Dan Hogan (@DanHogan95) January 18, 2015

When taking a look at the lineup, let’s go ahead and assume that Iglesias and Miguel Cabrera are healthy, Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose will platoon in center field, and there are no other surprises between now and Opening Day.

From the beginning, we know that Cabrera will hit third and Victor Martinez will hit fourth. Given the desire to have a sound hitter at the top of the lineup, it also seems likely that Ian Kinsler will be penciled in as the leadoff man. While Gose or Davis have the speed the Tigers would love to have there, it’s hard to see either being used in such a key spot offensively, likely meaning their spot in the batting order rotates at #9.

The real question becomes of the Tigers would be willing to break up the heart of the order they had last year, or if they’d potentially even want to try newly acquired power-hitter Yoenis Cespedes near the top of the lineup.

There’s a very good argument to be made that someone like Iglesias or Alex Avila should be slotted for the two spot, but since both of those seem unlikely, the logical move would be to slide J.D. Martinez up in the order, put Cespedes behind Victor Martinez, and then have a mix of power and speed over the last four spots. The case for J.D. at two over Cespedes is rather simple; even outside of his outstanding 2014, JDM walks more than 6% of the time, on top of a respectable average in the .270 range. Cespedes meanwhile has an average ten points lower than JDM’s for their careers, and his walk rate has steadily been dropping over each of those three seasons, falling to 5% in 2014.

Given that, here’s how I *think* the lineup will shape up:

1: Kinsler (2B)
2: J.D. Martinez (RF)
3: Miguel Cabrera (1B)
4: Victor Martinez (DH)
5: Yoenis Cespedes (LF)
6: Alex Avila (C )
7: Nick Castellanos (3B)
8: Jose Iglesias (SS)
9: Gose/Davis (CF)

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