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Tigers Roster Battles: Position Players

The battle for position players to make the initial 26-man roster out of spring training has really come down to third base and the utility spots. Parker Meadows has done enough this spring, along with his 37-game cameo in 2023 to lock down the starting center field job. Meadows’s glove plays exceptionally well and has moved Riley Greene to a corner along with newcomer Mark Canha. This creates a cascade where Kerry Carpenter who played a lot of corner outfield in 2023 and is one of the more consistent bats in the Tigers lineup is now being pushed to a time share and DH at bats.

Third base is still technically in ongoing battle between newly signed Gio Urshela, Zach McKinstry, and Andy Ibanez. Matt Vierling, who was expected to be in a timeshare with McKinstry at the hot corner has been told he will be playing more of a utility role to start the season. Somewhat quietly, Ibanez put together a really solid 2023 at the plate, however his primary position is likely to be filled by rookie Colt Keith, who signed a six-year $28.6 million extension in the offseason and has looked capable of handling the defensive side of second base. This places Ibanez into the competition for third base. Both Urshela and Ibanez bat right-handed, helping bring balance to the Tigers offense.

The trickle down of the third base battle will impact who AJ Hinch decides to take north when camp ends in a couple of weeks. The Tigers are likely to carry 13 position players. The early indication is the outfield will be Greene, Meadows and Canha from right to left. The infield will be Urshela, Javier Baez, Keith, and Spencer Torkelson, from third to first. With Jake Rogers and Carson Kelly splitting the catching, and Kerry Carpenter playing the majority of the DH at bats. This leaves three spots left.

The expectation right now is those three will ultimately be Vierling, McKinstry, and Ibanez. Vierling has played every position expect shortstop and catcher defensively. He’s been about a league average hitter and has played well defensively, the biggest challenge for Vierling is putting together a consistent 2024. McKinstry has played every position expect catcher and has played above average defense wherever he has lined up. He hit well in April and May, but saw that offensive efficiency decline into an ice-cold June, and never fully rebounded. McKinstry came to camp with a new approach and swing, hopefully to have better control of the strike zone and a swing that would be less likely to lead to prolonged slumps. The last spot will most likely go to Ibanez who has played the corners and second base defensively while bringing some right-handed power off the bench.

This leaves three deserving players on the outside looking in, Ryan Kreidler, Akil Baddoo, and Justyn-Henry Malloy. Some may have forgotten, but Kreidler won a roster spot coming out of spring training in 2023. Kreidler brings a high level of defense but needs to be healthy and more consistent with his at bats, he still has minor league options and will be an early call up if there is an injury to Baez. Baddoo, played in 112 games last year playing all three outfield positions with improved defensive ability. Offensively, Baddoo brings a power speed combo from the left side of the plate. Baddoo still has minor league options remaining and with his defensive versatility and speed will be looked to fill in when the inevitable injury hits the outfield. Lastly, when spring training opened it looked like JHM had a really good chance to make the roster as a DH/corner OF, however the signing of Urshela and Keith’s advanced bat, have pushed more versatile players (Vierling and Ibanez) back into the outfield mix. He will be back in AAA to start the season, where he will need to show the glove is as ready as his bat appears to be.

Joe Underhill
Joe Underhillhttps://mlbreport.com/
Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for www.mlbreport.com and HTP Newsletter. You can follow Joe on Twitter @TransplantedDet and @transplanteddet.bsky.social


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