Best Infield Defense
1. Dixon Machado (SS)
2. Dominic Ficociello (1B/UTIL)
3. A.J. Simcox (SS)
4. Isrrael De La Cruz (SS)
5. Jared Reaves (SS)
Machado has headlined this list since 2011, and while his body has changed and his offensive profile has evolved over the last six years, his defense still remains stellar. He’s a plus defender at shortstop with solid range to both sides, soft hands, and a double-plus cannon of an arm. He has slowed down a step over the years and is now just an average runner, but he’s an instinctive defender who can still be an asset at shortstop, second base, or third.
Ficociello is athletic enough to capably handle other positions on the field, but first base is where his defense really shines. His quick reactions help him stab liners and pick low throws, he can range to the stands to grab looping fly balls, his 6’4 frame provides a big target for his fellow infielders, and he has strong, accurate arm.
Simcox doesn’t wow with athleticism, but he is the son of a coach and he shows an advanced understanding of how to play shortstop. He’s an average runner but he exhibits good footwork, owns soft hands, takes proper angles, and he has an above-average arm.
De La Cruz has made this list before thanks to raw tools that give him a chance to be a plus defender, and his skills started to materialize last year. He’s reminiscent of a young Machado, showing plus speed, excellent reactions, range to both sides, good hands, and a strong arm.
A 25th round pick in 2012, Reaves won’t make any prospect lists, but he has remained in the organization because he’s a steady, solid defender with decent range and average arm strength at shortstop.
Jose Zambrano (INF)
Anthony Pereira (SS/2B)
Daniel Pinero (SS)
Zambrano is a glue guy who doesn’t necessarily wow on defense, but he’s an asset to the organization because he can capably man second and third base, and he can fill in at shortstop.
In three years of pro ball, Pereira has played 35 games at second base, 57 games at third base, and 83 games at shortstop. He shows the athleticism, actions, and arm to man each spot, now he just needs to find a permanent home.
At 6’5, Pinero is unusually large for a shortstop, but the Tigers liked his defense enough to draft him in 2015 and again in 2016. He has the hands to man short, and he has enough arm for the position, but he may eventually move to second or third.
Ildemaro Escalona (SS)
Wenceel Perez (SS)
Hector Martinez (2B)
Escalona is a premium athlete with tantalizing raw tools. He needs a lot of polish, but he shows the reactions, foot speed, and arm strength to one day be a plus defender.
Perez is a wiry athlete who was a priority signing for the Tigers in the 2016 international signing period thanks to his plus foot speed, natural actions, and plus arm strength at shortstop.
Hector Martinez played some shortstop when he first signed with the Tigers, but he has strictly manned second base the last two seasons, and he looks the part of a solid defender at the keystone.