Tigers SS Options: Perez? Romine? Friedman?
A look at the Detroit Tigers shortstop situation for the 2014 season
If you missed my position battles round-up articles this past weekend, well then shame on you for not being a diligent fantasy owner, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were trapped in a Chilean coal mine or something. You can click here for the American League and here for the National League. For today, though, we’re going to dive into the Detroit Tigers shortstop situation. It wasn’t covered in the round-up because things were still up in the air, but with what’s coming out of the Detroit camp in the last few days, that murky picture is becoming a bit more clear.
When Jose Iglesias first went down with what we thought were just shin splints, it looked as if the Tigers were still going to be fine. Maybe he would miss some spring training but we all seemed to gloss over it at first. But then those shin splints were more serious than first reported and he was slated to miss almost the entire first half of the 2014 season. Talk of free agent signings and trade rumors were abundant. But now, the reports say that Iglesias has stress fractures in both legs and he’s already out for the entire season. Sound the alarm? Calling all cars? Look out for the Four Horsemen? Maybe. But maybe not.
While many are clamoring for the Tigers to sign Stephen Drew or make a trade with either the Mariners for Nick Franklin or the Diamondbacks for Chris Owings (Didi Gregorious is not available, we’re told), the team is taking a more low-key approach. As every fantasy owner with a lick of sense can tell you that Iglesias was there for his glove, not his bat. So to assume that defense isn’t the utmost of priorities for the Tigers to fill this vacancy would be silly. Fantasy owners may not like it, but when was the last time you saw a real club give a damn about the fantasy impact?
The team seemed ready to fill the void in-house and go with little-known Hernan Perez as their starting shortstop, but with growing concerns that he is better suited for second base, the Tigers dealt left-handed reliever Jose Alvarez to the Angels for infielder Andrew Romine. Blockbuster, right? Ok, maybe not. But Romine is sound defensively and is a natural shortstop, though he played third base for the Halos last year after the Alberto Callaspo trade. He makes sense here and he isn’t costing the Tigers an irreplaceable prospect or a boatload of money.
Defensively, Romine should be a big help to filling the hole, but offensively there’s not much to tell. His plate discipline looked to be about average in the minors, but once he saw regular time in the majors, his walk rate dropped significantly and his strikeouts spiked. That’s to be expected, obviously, but there’s really nothing in his numbers to indicate much of an improvement coming. He has almost no power at all with a career-best of five home runs in a single season, but that was back in Rookie ball in 2007. He has none in 174 big-league plate appearances and even with the 17 pounds of muscle he supposedly added in the offseason, I’ll set the over/under at two.
He did show some speed potential down on the farm, but with horrible batted-ball numbers and weak on-base skills, it’s difficult to believe that he’ll have more than a dozen at the bottom of a Mike Scioscia lineup. The bottom line is that if he ends up on your fantasy roster this spring, you’re either a relative of his, in an insanely deep AL-only league or you totally botched your draft. No good is going to come from this move in the fantasy kingdom. None.
To get you fantasy owners even further away from the ridiculous notion of drafting him, keep in mind that the job will not be his alone. Word has it that Perez will log some time at shortstop, as will Danny Worth, against left-handed pitching. Apparently, as bad a hitter as Romine is in general, he’s even worse against southpaws. So not only does he lose value for his inability to hit, but he’ll remain a part-timer as well, it seems. It’s hard to say how starting against lefties will help Perez as he has no stick either, but Worth has 104 at-bats against big-league lefties and he’s hitting .298 against them. If you just said to yourself, “well that’s not much,” you’re right. It’s not. None of it is.
Shortstop for the Tigers this season is a fantasy black hole. Romine, Perez and Worth will all be vying for time yet none of them have anything positive to contribute on the fantasy level. Romine will likely get the bulk of the playing time, but he’s not even worth the thought of a waiver claim and the other two will probably sit with ownership percentages at zero all year long. If every other shortstop in the majors was already taken in your league, you’d probably still be better off leaving the position empty.